If you can get over to Belgium, this’ll be almost as good as the The John Wilson Orchestra at the BBC Proms. Performing at the 5 year-old, acoustically perfect, 2000-seat Queen Elisabeth Hall in Antwerp, the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra under John’s baton will be offering a Saturday evening filled with old favorites:
A weekend doddle before I start the big book. The first day I went to work for Mamoulian, he asked me outright if I knew any of his movies. I told him yes, this one. Which all of you probably know like I do, from TV. (Now on Prime—catch it before they yank it.) Find his remarks in my memoir, Mamoulian In Mind, which should be finished and up on Amazon sometime next year.
After Kevin (whose family attended Mass at the same church in Wilmington as Joe Biden’s) took me to this Jules Feiffer-penned movie playing at a local Manhattan arthouse he had me re-enact it. We kind of looked like this. Oh, I got him there.
Louise: I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble tonight. Jonathan: You don’t? Louise: No, I don’t. Jonathan: Are you sure? Louise: You wanna bet? Jonathan: How much? Louise: A hundred? (he takes bill from pocket, gives to her; she puts it away) Jonathan: You sound pretty sure. Louise: You’re a kind of man…why shouldn’t I be sure? Jonathan: What kind of man am I? Louise: (slowly, seductively, kneeling between his legs) A real man. A kind man. I don’t mean weak kind the way so many men are. I mean the kindness that comes from an enormous strength… From an inner power so strong that every act, no matter what, is more proof of that power… That’s what all women resent. That’s why they try to cut you down. Because your knowledge of yourself and them is so right, so true, that it exposes the lie which they, every scheming one of them, live by. It takes a true woman to understand that the purest form of love is to love a man who denies himself to her. A man who inspires worship. Because he has no need for any woman. Because he has himself. And who is better, more beautiful, more powerful, more perfect… You’re getting hard. More strong, more masculine, more extraordinary, more robust… (smiling) It’s rising. More viral, dominating…more irresistible… (happy laugh) It’s up. In the air.
Carnal Knowledge (AVCO 1971, Mike Nichols director) is available on Prime.
When you dine at a fancy dinner party, a common practice is to “cleanse the palate” between courses with a simple satisfying sweet, like lemon sherbet. Well, that’s what the music of Bob Rafaelson’s creation, The Monkees, is to my sessions of listening+studying music at the table of my beloved English conductor John Wilson: lemon sherbet between John’s more complex courses of Tchaikovsky or Ravel. My personal jukebox:
NOTES: 1) Now isn’t this THE quintessential Laurel Canyon Sound? 2) Music and lyrics by Boyce & Hart (“Last Train to Clarksville”); Carole King & Gerry Goffin (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”); Neil Diamond (“A Little Bit Me”, “Love to Love”); Mann & Weil (“Shades of Gray”); Carole Bayer Sager & Neil Sedaka(!) (“When Love Comes Knocking”); Ben Gibbard (“Me and Magdalena”); Mickey Dolenz (“Randy Scouse Git”) and Mike Nesmith (“Circle Sky”). 3) “Circle Sky” is from Head, that trippy 1968 Monkees movie produced by Bob Rafaelson, written and directed by Jack Nicholson(!!!) and available on YT. 4) As you can read from the above titles, I never got over my special crushy (though surprisingly nonsexual) affection for Davy Jones (“A Little Bit Me”, Love to Love”, “When Love Comes Knocking”).
Which brings us to the Bob Rafaelson-Carole Eastman classic, Five Easy Pieces, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in September. If you want to talk about The Alienation of The Artist, this film is the perfect jumping-off place. Solid, solid script, one of the best to come out of 70s Hollywood. And then of course Jack Nicholson. A good geeky essay by filmmaker Kent Jones on Five Easy Pieces exists at Criterion.
Born Isaac Cozerbreit 8 May 1893 in London, died 7 September 1978, Findon Valley, Worthing, Charles Williams was one of Britain’s most prolific composers of light music, and was also responsible for numerous film scores. During his early career as a violinist he led for Sir Landon Ronald, Sir Thomas Beecham and Sir Edward Elgar. Like many of his contemporaries, he accompanied silent films, and became conductor of the New Gallery Cinema in London’s Regent Street. He worked on the first British all-sound film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Blackmail, from which followed many commissions as composer or conductor: The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), Kipps (1941), The Night Has Eyes (1942), The Young Mr Pitt (1942), The Way To The Stars (1945; assisting Nicholas Brodszky, who is reported to have written only four notes of the main theme, leaving the rest to Williams), The Noose (1946), While I Live (1947) from which came his famous “Dream of Olwen“, and the American movie The Apartment (1960) which used Williams’s “Jealous Lover” originally heard in the British film The Romantic Age) as the title theme, reaching #1 in the US charts.
London publishers Chappell established their recorded music library in 1942, using Williams as composer and conductor of the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra. These 78s made exclusively for radio, television, newsreel and film use, contain many pieces that were to become familiar as themes, such as “The Devil’s Galop” (signature tune of Dick Barton, Special Agent and here conducted in 2005 by my beloved John Wilson), “Girls In Grey” (BBC Television Newsreel), “High Adventure” (Friday Night Is Music Night) and “Majestic Fanfare” (Australian Television News). In his conducting capacity at Chappells he made the first recordings of works by several composers who were later to achieve fame in their own right, such as Robert Farnon, Sidney Torch, Clive Richardson and Peter Yorke.
Barbara Stanwyck was 32 and a box-office star when Paramount contract player William Holden, 21, was personally cast by director Rouben Mamoulian as the lead in his film based on Clifford Odets’s Broadway melodrama of art vs fleeting fame and riches, Golden Boy. Holden was nervous, awkward, and about to be replaced when something about the young player touched Stanwyck’s heart. She took him in hand, coached him personally and kept him from distractions (like studio publicity)…
Thity-nine years later, at the Oscars Holden had this to say to the world:
Above Holden and Stanwyck: There are only a few genuine moments in the history of the televised Academy Awards. This is one of them.
Dearest John Wilson, Conductor, it makes me happy to be in your audience and I don’t require you at all to be in mine—mostly because, as Mister Grumble just pointed out, my flicks would probably give you a heart attack. It also makes me happy that you’re going to be concentrating more on the Classic Repertoire this season, although it means leaving your faithful John Wilson Orchestra fans for a time—and only because when you’re not playing American film music, you’re not on the podium making the kind of quasi-witty comments that would make even me wince, and I used to be Arthur Godfrey’s gag man back in the fifties.
UPDATE: John, I’m afraid I really didn’t give this number a fair hearing the first time 2 years ago so I’m going to listen to it again. The truth is, I almost missed the fact that YOU wrote this arrangement [at app @1:12:00 in this full vid of “The Warner Bros Story” at the 2019 Proms] because the Mountview kids down on the floor were leading a rouser [at app @1:05:00 in “The Warner Bros Story”] and it was hard to hear that old dear chatting about you with Katie D. But I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it this time. Really, I’m sure. 14 minutes of sheer delight, with a hankie.
Now, Voyager (1942): Bette Davis as brave Charlotte Vale and Paul Henreid as her handsome weenie of a lover in this BBC2 Saturday Afternoon Movie I’ll bet John saw once upon a rainy day when he was a kid and couldn’t make head nor tail of, except for the music. Above: That’s Charles Gerhardt conducting the Max Steiner score, including the Warners Bros studio theme, which Steiner also wrote.
On that note, I just want to let all of you know that I realize it’s not hard to find me. Really. I’m in the IMDb. I don’t even have to fill you in on what my screen name is because IMDb seems to have switched pretty much every one of my credits back to my legal name anyway, so it would be kind of pointless… All right. It’s Simona Wing. My castmates in my first movie, Dork & Sindy aka Playthings, gave it to me, and I consider it quite a lagniappe. Mister Grumble used it for my character’s name in his first novel (Tales from the Last Resort, Brave New Books, 2002) and no one has been able to get better use out of it since.
I have pleasant memories of that shoot. For one thing, it was shot in Marin County. In Sausalito! In a house overlooking the Bay. Do you see in that pic (click Sausalito) those houses up in the hills? The white house above the red roof, that’s where we shot.
For another thing, Craft Services was fantastic. You could graze all day.
And it was a friendly, clean shoot. Does anyone here who saw the flick remember what I was wearing before the guy in sunglasses stripped me naked, threw me into the hot tub and started chewing on my behind? That white blouse, that long black skirt, those pumps? That was my secretarial outfit, the one I wore a few months earlier in Beverly Hills when I worked for Rouben Mamoulian. Practically every day, I was that poor (took Sunset bus to foot of Schuyler Road, got off, wearing sneakers climbed hill, at Mamoulian’s door removed sneakers, put on pumps which I carried in my handbag). I remember I had one line which has since been coming back to me regularly, because whenever I run into an occasional fan, he (and it’s always a he) tends to quote it to me:
Now, you have to be a real Saturday Night Live geek to recognize that line, and I’m not going to decipher it for you. But I suppose this showed people I could do voices, because I got a lot of work from this film, almost all of it involving fakey foreign-sounding accents. Like Fatima, woman of Borneo, in the hardcore version of Sadie Thompson aka Rain by Somerset Maugham. I’m not kidding.
Val: I love him anyway. I adore him! You can tell the whole world if you want to that I, Valerie Campbell Boyd, love and adore the great and beautiful and wonderful Henry Orient, world without end, amen. (to Marian Gilbert, shows album cover with Orient’s face) Isn’t he absolutely divine?
Marian: He really is cute…but I thought you said he needed practice.
Val: Oh Gilbert, have you no soul? Of course he needs practice. Especially on the scales. (moans) But this is LOVE, Gil! (sinks back on bed holding album) Oh, my dreamy dream of dreams! My beautiful, adorable, oriental Henry! How can I prove to you that I’m yours?
Novelist/screenwriter Nora Johnson had an intense teenage crush on Oscar Levant, hence the cute name for Valerie’s true love. From The World of Henry Orient (United Artists, 1964). The enormously inventive and amusing Elmer Bernstein score is represented here by the sweet Main Title above.
I must’ve seen this movie four, five times when it first came out, when matinees were cheap, and what kept calling me back—besides the lovely, lush, immersive experience of just sinking back into an engaging and sensually-satisfying film in an air-conditioned theater in the middle of smelly, sticky, hot Manhattan—was, of course, the music. I really, really dug the score, just like I really dug the score of Walton (mostly)’s Battle of Britain (@1:20), a few years earlier, and went back matinees to go hear it again and again. Which doesn’t mean I like all of Richard Rodney Bennett; I think I’ve gone to almost every other movie he did a score for and can’t remember the music to any of them.
But this one I could whistle for years, decades, afterwards, and the only thing that recently brought it back to mind was—yes! yes!—falling in love with my bonny conductor John Wilson. Because of his association with Bennett, you see. Oh, they owned a house together or some such relationship [download PDF of Feb 2020 issue of Gramophone here], but that’s not what I’m talking about. Back when John was 28, he and Bennett—and The John Wilson Orchestra!!!—got together to record, as I mentioned in an earlier posting, an abomination called Orchestral Jazz. So I’m figuring that anything my bonny lad knows about jazz has to’ve come from this guy, and the trouble is, I really can’t find anything that would lead me to believe Bennett knew anything at all about jazz, except that he once partnered with jazz singer Claire Martin, and she’s pretty genuine.
Directed by Sidney Lumet, whose first film was about another dozen people meting out justice, 12 Angry Men (United Artists, 1957). Above Jean-Pierre Cassel: “The Orient Express”, for which the composer heavily cribbed from Ravel’s “La valse”. Composer Richard Rodney Bennett on piano, Marcus Dods conducting the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, 1974.
But when it comes to purely orchestral music, Bennett shows that he knows a thing or two, Royal Academy graduate that he is. I’m glad, because his complete score for the film Murder on the Orient Express (Paramount, 1974) is probably the last example of a type of music they call over there English Light Music, which flourished on and off for about a hundred years since the 1870s, and is defined by easily accessible melodies and lush, decorative orchestration. In other words, music that’s delicious to hear and easy to digest. And while Murder has slightly campy touches, Bennett essentially knew who his audience was, and what they wanted.
John, I know you know this song because you arranged it for your 2011 BBC Proms “Hooray for Hollywood” Overture—the loveliest orchestral version of this tune I’ve ever heard, by the way. If I hadn’t been in love with you before, my love, this would’ve clinched it.
“Long Ago (and Far Away)” is a popular, Oscar-nominated song with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Ira Gershwin from the Technicolor film musical Cover Girl starring Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly (Columbia, 1944). Charting versions were recorded almost simultaneously by Dick Haymes and Helen Forrest, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Jo Stafford.
Above: The Jo Stafford recording was released by Capitol Records; the record first reached the Billboard magazine charts on 4 May, 1944 and lasted 12 weeks on the chart, peaking at #6.
According to composer Duning, Picnic director Joshua Logan insisted on using the old standard “Moonglow” (Hudson-Mills-DeLange, 1933) in a critical scene, as had been done in the Broadway play, but demanded that Duning’s love theme be added at a specific point. Columbia’s music director Stoloff and Duning complied, creating a unique arrangement of the song and the movie theme, and it became an iconic moment in 1950s cinema, a pairing of tunes that would thereafter seem inextricably intertwined. [Read more on George Duning from the Film Music Society here.]
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 honest appraisals, 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:
“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 that 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.
“The Man That Got Away” (from A Star is Born, 1954) / Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin [in an obvious 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?
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 I still have the clip of you conducting this at the 2012 Proms (the other one). This one is sooo much hotter.
“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.
“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 (YT) 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.
My bonny John was 30 when he recorded, with the orchestra that bears his name, this achingly tender theme.
I saw The Bad and the Beautiful (MGM, 1952) for the first time in New York when I was 20, at one of those great cinema art houses, the Little Carnegie I think. Anyone remember that fabulous nosh pit in the lobby of the Little Carnegie? It was set up to resemble an outdoor Parisian cafe, complete with wrought tables and chairs, painted scenery, etc… Here after the show my date treated me to a glass of cabernet and a flaky meat pasty, the leftovers of which the waiter wrapped up for me in a square of foil he molded into the shape of a swan.
What do you do when you’re a passionate actress still in love with a wounding bastard who’s a screen genius? You make the damn movie.
As for Bad+Beautiful: Cast headed by Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Gloria Grahame, Dick Powell, Barry Sullivan, Gilbert Roland, Walter Pigeon. Vincent Minnelli helmed. MGM, 1952 (trailer here). 5 Oscar wins. To feel the full effect, get your heart stomped on by a Hollywood louse before viewing.
“The Bad and the Beautiful”
Soft Lights and Sweet Music, album
Classic Angela Morley Arrangements
The John Wilson Orchestra
John Wilson, conductor
*Oscar-winning transsexual composer-arranger Angela Morley (1924-2009) has quite a story herself, which maybe I’ll get to in another posting. For now, here’s a 1977 article in the Independent that should whet your interest.