“Wanting You” by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II from The New Moon, 1935, Sung by Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy

Another MGM musical, pre-Freed Unit. They were such a handsome couple and sang like angels, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. Who in their audience could have realized when watching such a mannered scene that they were in the middle of a chaotic on-again off-again love affair and that right after filming this number—that very night in fact when everyone had gone home—the two of them would be under that very tree having furious make-up sex?

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Thanks to fellow MacDonald-Eddy fan Sharon Rich (as related to her by Jeanette’s sister Blossom) for that lovely bit of info.

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Les Demoiselles de Rochefort par Jacques Demy, Michel Legrand et Alain Boublil, 2003

My favorite, favorite, favorite European musical, adapted from Jacques Demy’s 1967 film starring the bright sisters of my moviegoing youth, Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac. French-Armenian singer/songwriter/actor/music producer Essaï Altounian produced this at the humongous, deep-staged Palais des Congres de Paris (near Porte Maillot). This is, by the way, the show where that lovely “Chanson de Maxence” comes from.

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Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (2003, stage, en francais) is available in its entirety here.

Update: Merci mille fois to Jen Syka for posting the entire musical on YouTube on 25 November, 2018.

Obsession Directed by Brian De Palma, Scored by Bernard Herrmann

Saw this first run in New York in 1976 with my boyfriend, another huge Brian De Palma fan. The loopiest, nuttiest romance in all of moviedom. In fact I like this movie better than Vertigo, another nutzoid Bernard Herrmann-scored love story—this one’s much more sexually transgressive, always a sure-fire turn-on for me.

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Here’s the giddily overwrought ending. If you haven’t seen Obsession it’s not going to make any sense, so just close your eyes and listen to Herrmann’s ravishing score, the next-to-last one he ever wrote before his death at the age of 64.

“Donkey Serenade” Sung by Allan Jones in The Firefly, 1937

Another MGM musical, pre-Freed Unit. Music by Bob Wright, Chet Forrest and Herbert Stothart (adapted from “Chanson” by Rudolf Friml); lyrics by Bob Wright and Chet Forrest, who would go on to adapt the music of Rimsky-Korsakov for the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet.

Two years earlier Allan Jones made a big splash as Kitty Carlisle‘s tenor squeeze in the Marx Brothers romp A Night At the Opera. Here he is movie romancing a reluctant Jeanette MacDonald, who was smack in the middle of a fraught but passionate affair with a baritone with a thrilling voice and a black temper—Nelson Eddy, who, upon learning that Jones was putting the real-life moves on MacDonald, crashed the cast party of Firefly, collared Jones and beat him to a bloody pulp. Now that’s love.

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The Charm of Percy Grainger

“Country Gardens” is one of the few piano pieces I could play all the way through (clumsily, not like the fine player in this clip) so I have a special affection for Grainger’s arrangements and compositions, as well as an admiration for his drive to create a truly “English” school of music. (The drive, not the goal.) I also liked that he married his wife at the Hollywood Bowl after conducting a concert there in 1928.

But ever since music school I’ve also known about Grainger’s unusual sexual drive—his taste for Nordic blondes and being flagellated—plus the fact that in his twenties he was kept as a semi-willing love slave by a fortyish society dame (shades of Joan Crawford!)—and I can’t deny it: The fantasy of pleasuring, of possessing a boy like this, talented and handsome, is delicious.

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