Mamoulian, The Drunken Woman in the Other Room, and Laura Conducted by John Wilson

“You know I directed Laura.” said Mr. Mamoulian to me matter-of-factly.

See, here’s the thing. I had been under the impression, ever since I was a kid and actually read the listing in TV Guide, that the director of Laura was a guy named Otto Preminger. But here was The Old Man sitting knee to knee with me, announcing right out that he was—what’s the Variety word?the helmer of that glamorous but nutsy picture with Gene Tierney.

So what did I do?

I was twenty-three. I was on a job. I nodded.

(more later)

 

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John Wilson in Recording Session

Can I get an attribution for this absolutely bewitching photo?

John WIlson recording

Update 15 June 2018: A sympathetic correspondent tells me that “This photo appears on the John Wilson Orchestra website as one from a recording session at Abbey Road Studios in 2012.” Ta, Claire.

Sid Ramin and Red Ginzler’s Overture to Gypsy, Conducted by John Wilson

Shimmying commences at 4:00.

The indication “burlesque strip style” was actually written on the music right around this point. Both Ramin and Ginzler cut their teeth writing swing arrangements; lead trumpet in the original Gypsy pit was Dick Perry, late of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Solo trumpet Matt Lovatt here gets it down perfectly. Some people obviously know something about burlycue.

After my good luck in finding “The Trolley Song” 42 days ago I started combing the net for more great performances of show tunes to rip from the net for my personal library—and found this, the Overture to Gypsy. Watching it, at around the 4:00 mark I was struck by a lightning bolt.

Kinsman!

Comrade!

Broadway Baby!!!

Almost immediately I took out of a dusty drawer the libretto I’d written for a composer I’d loved (now dead of AIDS) years and years ago. Then I went out and bought Piston’s Harmony, Third Edition.

Composer Jule Styne, by the way, was pleased with this orchestration. Also, the sound of Broadway changed for good.

The Death Star and Dambusters, Conducted by John Wilson

A grand movie score by the prolific Eric Coates, very inspiring and very English. This is the kind of piece that cues you to proudly fly the Union Jack, which obviously some chap did, right in the middle of Royal Albert Hall. I’m guessing this is some sort of tradition. Normally I wouldn’t have chosen this clip, but the Proms included the famous climactic shots from The Dambusters—you know, the movie George Lucas ripped off when he did Star Wars. Not the Death Star down there, though, it’s the Eder Dam in the heart of Nazi Germany. (Starts at 6:00.)

Oklahoma at the Proms Conducted by John Wilson

How long ago has it been, only nine months? So I don’t think he’s totally forgotten about it yet. If I could actually sit down with John over a bo’le a’broon and be assured of some kind of honest answer, there are two questions I’d ask him:

1) How old were you when you first heard Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in its entirety and what were the circumstances?

2) What in the name of God possessed you to use the original, unchanged 1943 Robert Russell Bennett orchestration for a staged concert of Oklahoma in a venue seating over 5500 people???