“Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” by Frank Loesser from Christmas Holiday (Universal 1944)

Christmas Holiday, Deanna Durbin’s 14th film and the first with a script not written specifically for her, is a strange movie. Not only does it greatly veer from the actual plot of the drearily “world-weary” Somerset Maugham novel it’s based on, it has a melancholy all its own that has nothing to do with the Yuletide spirit. In it, Durbin plays against type as a New Orleans singer/prostitute, while none other than Gene Kelly plays her violent, emotionally troubled husband. And he doesn’t even dance! But my God, he is the handsomest, sexiest Mister Wrong you’re ever going to see in a quasi-film noir with music.

Deanna Durbin Gene Kelly.jpgDeanna Durbin and Gene Kelly in Christmas Holiday, 1944, available in its entirety here. Durbin sings “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” at 11:00.

Loesser, who taught himself to read music, was a master at turning out orchestrations of his own Broadway scores (like the prize-winning How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying) as well as simple, tuneful blues like this one. There are dozens of versions of this great standard on the ‘net, but this is the one I really want to share with you because I think it sounds the nicest. It comes from a “novelty” album from the mid-60s that was a tie-in to a popular US TV show:

“Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year”
Larry Hovis, vocalist
Hogan’s Heroes Sing The Best of WWII
Sunset Records, July 1966


A Great American Songbook Song for My Beloved John Wilson, Conductor: “Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise” by Romberg and Hammerstein, Sung by Helen Traubel in Deep In My Heart (MGM 1954)

From the 1928 operetta The New Moon and used again in the tune-filled MGM biopic of Sigmund Romberg.

Kim Criswell will be singing a rendition of this hot, sinuously HOT number in John’s 5 January concert in Stockholm. In fact I can’t believe he’s going to stand on the same stage when she sings this song and not get incinerated. But that’s just John I guess.

Softly As in a Morning Sunrise

Lyrics, like every Songbook song dedicated to my John, are from memory:

Softly, as in a morning sunrise
The light of love comes stealing
Into a newborn day
O, flaming with all the glow of sunrise
A burning kiss is sealing
The vow that all betray
For the passions that thrill love
And lift you high to heaven
Are the passions that kill love
And let you fall to hell
So ends each story
Softly, as in an evening sunset
The light that gave you glory
Will take it all away

Ex-Hollywood Director Cum Blogger Stephen Gyllenhaal and His Wacko Concept of “Greatness”, Part 1

I knew Stephen Gyllenhaal very well. Once upon a time, I think I knew him better than anyone else in the world besides his first wife. We used to be friends—genuine friends, I once briefly, foolishly believed several years ago—but, as was brought up last week in one of the trades, this is, after all, Hollywood. (“Why Nobody in Hollywood Has Any Friends“, The Hollywood Reporter). Stephen directed a handful of studio pictures in his career, the best coming from the late 80s-early 90s: A Dangerous Woman (1988), Losing Isaiah (1995), and the very lovely Waterland (1992) with Jeremy Irons, Sinead Cusack and a teenaged Lena Headey. In fact it might be successfully argued that Steve’s best years, his single grab at “greatness” if you will, was back there, 24 years ago, in that span of time when he did his last meaningful artistic work—work that could only have been accomplished with a team of literally hundreds of people surrounding and assisting him.

Stephen Shopworn

So imagine my bewilderment when I stumbled on Steve’s latest blog (he created a “political” one 10 years ago, abandoned it, then started this one only a few months ago):

The Art of Achieving Greatness


I respect the farmers in China who are content with so little, but I could never be like them. With my Western ways, I am obsessed with achieving greatness. I believe it is much better to sacrifice your life to the world by giving it something great only you can give it than to live out a menial existence of being content with little.

So here we begin with the first rule of achieving greatness. At all costs you must avoid the people, including your own family and friends, who do the following:

  • They tell you it’s pointless to become great.
  • They tell you to stop following your dream because you should spend more time with them.
  • They tell you you could never become great.
  • They tell you there are more important things in life than becoming great.
  • They say they themselves could never become great.
  • They believe they and the people around them will always stay mediocre.
  • They are content with doing nothing great for humankind with their lives.

The people that do these things, if they are frequently in your life, will not only slow you down but may also stop you from becoming great. Listening to these kinds of people and accepting their foolish advice is very, very dangerous. You must ignore them at all costs, no matter how hard it is. This is the first sacrifice you must make in achieving greatness.

Here is a story to capture the meaning of this first rule in a nutshell:

Although my disclaimer will tell you I have yet to become great, I still have much experience in pursuing greatness. In my quest to become great I have made many sacrifices falling in line with this first rule.

My example for you is my relationship with my roommates. I am a university student and having roommates means I have extra money to live comfortably while also paying hefty tuition fees every four months. This is a temporary sacrifice because comfort is important for the work I do. But at any rate, my roommates do many of the seven things listed above. They are content with little, and listening to the idle conversations they have almost makes me sick. They waste time drinking and chatting about trivial matters and never come to any new ideas or conclusions about things. They even sometimes repeat the same conversations they already had, as if all they want out of life is to know that they are normal.

I can’t spend time with these people for more than an hour. On the weekend I’ll sometimes partake in their idleness, but all the while I’m realizing how much time and thought-power I’m wasting talking about stupid things I really don’t care about like the weather. To some of you who have yet to learn many of the other rules for the Art of Becoming Great, these statements of mine might seem cruel. But the truth is these statements and the actions I am taking are necessary for achieving greatness. I will not risk my chances of becoming great by wasting several hours every day chatting about how good my roommate’s day at work was, especially when they work in a coffee shop. And I will never apologize for saying this!

I transcribed this verbatim from his blog as you can see, because there is no way for me to convey to you my astonishment and concern except that you, Sensible Reader, read it yourself and become as astonished and concerned as I now am.

There are a lot of points to cover, but right now I’ll settle on just a couple.

One: Why the deception about his identity? Steve’s no “comfortable university student with roommates” as he claims, he’s a 70 year-old TV/film director whose best work was, as I pointed out, 24 years ago, and whose last feature film in 2012, an indie financed by Michael Huffington, was such an offensive, irrational and inept disaster half the audience walked out of the exclusive LA screening.

Two: What does Stephen think “greatness” is? I’ve read his entire blog, every posting, and I still have no idea what he means. Moreover, pronouncements like,

  • “No person becomes great by going about doing great things. They go about doing great things by first becoming great!”; and
  • “To become great, people sacrifice fun, sacrifice family, sacrifice everything but the pursuit of greatness, and in the end it’s worth it!”

aren’t meant to be humorous or satirical. I know Steve and he’s not being satirical, he means it.

Which brings me back to my initial feelings of astonishment and dismay. Not for Stephen’s sake, as I think we can pretty much exclude Stephen from the arena of Rational Public Discourse. No, I’m thinking of that alienated shlub out there who might one day stumble onto Steve’s blog and take his words to heart. There are a lot of alienated shlubs out there. And too, too many of them already confuse their alienation with “greatness”. And too, too many of them have guns. Do I have to remind you all of a real “comfortable university student” with real roommates and a real arsenal, mass murderer Elliot Rodger?

There was never a right time for Steve to write what he’s writing. Only now, he might be putting bullets in someone’s automatic.

Part Two to come.

Suite from the Score of Truly Madly Deeply by Barrington Pheloung (1954 – 2019)

Truly Madly Deeply.jpg
Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman tug at our hearts in this calculated romance.

Mournful noodling distinguishes this piece. I remember the movie—adore the movie—but just don’t remember the music at all. Australian-born, Royal College of Music graduate Pheloung, who died last week at the age of 65, got some considerable write-ups for having been the composer of the popular Inspector Morse theme which, again, isn’t to my taste. I’m guessing the author of Waving, Not Drowning (which I reviewed on Amazon and below) borrowed the name for his fictional conductor, Barrington Orwell, from Pheloung. It’s a small world over there.

“Remember My Forgotten Man” by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, from Gold Diggers of 1933 (Warner Bros)

Remember My Forgotten Man” is performed by Joan Blondell, whose voice was dubbed by Etta Moten. Choreographer Busby Berkeley was inspired by German Expressionism and the War Veterans March on Washington, DC that occurred a few months earlier, in 1932. After watching the rushes for this number, Jack L Warner and Darryl F Zanuck, the studio production head, were so impressed that they ordered it moved to the end of the film.

My Forgotten Man

Remember my forgotten man
You put a rifle in his hand
You sent him far away
You shouted, “Hip hooray!”
But look at him today
Remember my forgotten man
You had him cultivate the land
He walked behind the plow
The sweat fell from his brow
But look at him right now
Once he used to love me
I was happy then
He used to take care of me
Won’t you bring him back again
‘Cause ever since the world began
A woman’s got to have a man
Forgetting him, you see
Means you’re forgetting me
Like my, my forgotten man
Remember my forgotten man

The Warner Bros Story: John Wilson and The John Wilson Orchestra Play the Royal Albert Hall One Last(?) Time, BBC Proms 9 August 2019

Well, John, this isn’t a Joan Crawford movie so there’s no gold cigarette case but as I’m still in love with you and want to give you nice things, I’ll give you my informed and reasoned observations, which is something I’ve been doing all along anyway (I hope you’ll agree) and not throwing myself into the Atlantic Ocean for your sake. So let’s do this organized, going down the numbers in the program one by one because, as you recall, I used to work at ASCAP:

JW-Prom-29 (1)

  • The Sea Hawk (overture; from the 1940 film) / Erich Korngold My favorite Korngold and a good rendition, but nowhere a “keeper” compared to my thrilling RCA recording conducted by Charles Gerhardt, your old Hollywood advisor and mentor.
  • “We’re In the Money” (from Gold Diggers of 1933) / Harry Warren, Al Dubin Count on you to include the lyrics in pig Latin.
  • “The Desert Song” (from the 1953 film) / Sigmund Romberg, Oscar Hammerstein II Meh. I think the only reason you worked this in is because Kim Criswell’s singing a Romberg song in your 5 January concert in Stockholm, “Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise”, which is a hot, HOT number. In fact I can’t believe you’re going to stand on the same stage when she sings this song and not get incinerated. But that’s just you I guess.
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (suite; from the 1948 film) / Max Steiner God, I forgot how repetitive Max Steiner can be when he’s not cribbing from Herman Hupfeld.
  • The Old Man and the Sea (suite, 1st movement; from the 1958 film) / Dmitri Tiomkin One movement, mercifully short.
  • Seventy-Six Trombones” (from The Music Man, 1962)  / Meredith Willson You shmendrick! I lost a bet to Mister Grumble that you would never, never, EVER do this number, ever. (Because, you know, it’s so freakin OBVIOUS.) But…yeah, it was okay. You’re no Andre Rieu though.
  • “Blues in the Night” (from Blues In the Night, 1941) / Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer A low-voiced woman should sing this. Preferably a woman who’s been there.
  • Auntie Mame (main title; from the 1958 film) / Bronislav Kaper You know, I’d forgotten how much I like this sweet waltz.
  • Gotta Have Me Go with You” (from A Star is Born, 1954) / Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin See below.
  • “The Man That Got Away” (from A Star is Born, 1954) / Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin [in a nod to the movie’s latest remake] Of all your singers, Louise Dearman is the only one who could’ve carried these two numbers in this room particularly, and whatever luck or good judgment (and I’m nuts about you dear, but I’m never completely confident about your judgment in these matters) brought her there I’m glad.
  • “Get Me to the Church On Time” (from My Fair Lady, 1962) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner A little harkening back to your 2012 Proms triumph, eh? Plus you still had the scores in your closet.
  • 25-MINUTE INTERVAL Proms Plus Talk: a discussion of some of the great film scores being played tonight [Hah! In a pig’s eye] with Matthew Sweet, David Benedict and Pamela Hutchinson
  • Gypsy (overture; from the 1962 film) / Jule Styne, arr Ramin and Ginzler Oh baby oh baby, seconds. I still have the clip of you conducting this at the 2012 Proms (the other one). Bet you didn’t shimmy like you did last time. Instead at the end I heard you toying with your audience the way the Grateful Dead used to do at Winterland. Mama approves.
  • Now, Voyager (suite; from the 1942 film) / Max Steiner Steiner, a vastly overrated but popular hack (I still adore Casablanca), does not translate well to the concert stage. Not great for you John, since you’ll be doing him several times next year.
  • “The Deadwood Stage” (from Calamity Jane, 1953) / Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster [a Doris Day tribute] O-kay! A FULL number from a musical, complete with chorus—this is the very thing that made your name. All is forgiven, dear.
  • “It’s Magic” (from Romance On the High Seas [correction, BBC: “On”, not “In”], 1948) / Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn [again, a Doris Day tribute] What in the name of heaven possessed whoever decided to include the worst song Jule Styne ever wrote? Redeemable only—only—if Bugs Bunny sings it.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (main title; from the 1951 film) / Alex North Oh, you’re going to have fun with this one when you have to give sexy program notes to the audience from the podium, like you did in Brighton.
  • If Ever I Would Leave You” (from Camelot, 1967) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner Sure. Okay. Ladies need swoony time.
  • “The Days of Wine and Roses” (from the 1962 film) Henry Mancini arr Nelson Riddle, Johnny Mercer Nelson Riddle!? You used the freakin Nelson Riddle arrangement?? What are you trying to do, send love signals to Seth MacFarlane?
  • “Tomorrow” (from The Constant Nymph) / Erich Wolfgang Korngold You had this and your Prince Charming, Kate Lindsey, up your sleeve! What a nice surprise.
  • ENCORE: “I Could Have Danced All Night” (from My Fair Lady, 1962) / Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner Every soprano in the world wants to hear this song done right. She passes.
  • ENCORE “Harry’s Wondrous World” (from the Harry Potter series of films, 2002-2012) It’s unavoidable, you’re going to do John Williams somewhere. And I know the BBCCO had the scores in their basement because you conducted this with them back in 2007.

Mikaela Bennett, Louise Dearman, Kate Lindsey, Matt Ford, singers. Maida Vale Singers, chorus. Christopher Dee, choral director. Petroc Trelawny, presenter.

By the way, John, glad you shaved this year. Will catch up with you in Nottingham with Vaughan Williams

BBC Radio 2 visits the BBC Proms as the John Wilson Orchestra and special guests recall the musical history of the classic film studio, Warner Brothers. Available on streaming until 5 October 2019.

The True Heir to Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas: “Music and Emotion Through Time” A TED Talk (2012)

Excerpt: What happens when the music stops? Where does it go? What’s left? What sticks with people at the end of a performance? Is it a melody or a rhythm or a mood or an attitude? And how might that change their lives? To me this is the intimate, personal side of music. It’s the “passing on” part, the “why” part of it. And to me that’s the most essential of all…

Michael Tilson Thomas

Now that we have unlimited access to music, what does stick with us? Well, let me share with you a story of what I mean by really sticking with us. I was visiting a cousin of mine in an old-age home, and I spied a very shaky old man making his way across the room on a walker. He came over to a piano that was there, and he balanced himself and began playing something like this. [plays notes on piano] And he said something like, “Me…boy…symphony…Beethoven…” And I suddenly got it and I said, “Friend, by any chance are you trying to play this?” [plays Beethoven concerto] And then he said, [excitedly] “Yes, yes, I was a little boy. The symphony, Isaac Stern, the concerto, I heard it.” And I thought, My God, how much must this music mean to this man, that he would get himself out of bed, across the room, to recover the memory of this music! That after everything in his life is sloughing away, still means so much to him…

Well, that’s why I take every performance so seriously, why it matters to me so much. I never know who might be there, who might be absorbing it, and what will happen to it in their life.