Carol Burnett in CBS-TV’s Broadcast of the Sammy Fain/Paul Francis Webster Musical Calamity Jane, November 1963

First on CBS (Carol’s network) 12 November 1963, now available in its entirety here. Saw this when I was eight—and note the date: This was 10 days before President Kennedy was assassinated. Some bleak Thanksgiving weekend was to follow.

Carol duos “Secret Love” with big handsome Art Lund starting at 1:22:30. Lund had a swoony hit a few years earlier with Leroy Anderson’s “Serenata” (which I heard in my bassinette and still adore); and people forget Carol Burnett started as a legit Broadway singer with an invigorating presence and great legs. A surprising amount of sexual energy makes it to the small screen here.

Carol Burnett Calamity Jane.jpg

Webster and Fain rearranged the music from the Doris Day MGM musical for this stage version and a new book was brought in so it sounds nothing like the film version which—of course, my bonny John Wilson being involved—gave the Proms its version.

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Captain Kangaroo’s Theme by Edward White, Conducted by John Wilson, 2008

At around the same time of life baby John was home in Gateshead falling out of his high chair in excitement over the brand-new BBC news theme, I was in my crib in the living room of the old one-bedroom apartment in South Minneapolis jumping up and down in excitement to the theme of Captain Kangaroo on TV.

I think I was always aware that this thing called music existed—my mother continually had the “light music” station tuned in on the tabletop radio, and I remember, before I could walk, hearing again and again orchestral standards like Leroy Anderson’s “Serenata”, Morton Gould’s “Pavanne”, Trevor Duncan’s “Lady in Love” etc etc, and my absolute favorite, the ubiquitous (because Minneapolis) “Swedish Rhapsody” by Hugo Alfen, jauntily rendered by Percy Faith.

But the Captain Kangaroo theme is the first piece of music I remember being able to grasp entirely, except for that stop-time somewhere in the middle, but then I was only 1 or 2, and I didn’t learn about stop-time until music school. Never even knew the piece had a name besides “The Captain Kangaroo Theme”. Then just last month I landed on this vid of an entire BBC2 program from 2008 dedicated to light music pieces used for BBC shows. Went there to rip the Dick Barton, Special Agent! theme, a Monty Python favorite, for my library—it’s called “The Devil’s Galop” by Charles Williams, by the way—and came away with “Barwick Green” from The Archers, “March from Little Suite” from Dr Finlay’s Casebook etc etc etc. And then like a bolt from the blue at 47:55 was “Puffin’ Billy” which, with a crazy thrill, I recognized from the first four notes, who wouldn’t? And there—and there!—at 36 looking 12—my darling lad on the podium.

John Wilson Friday.jpg

“Quand Tu Dors Près De Moi” from the Film Aimez-Vous Brahms? Sung by Tony Perkins

Straight, gay, sexually fucked-up by his mother, I still had a major crush on Anthony Perkins when I was a girl; no time more than when he was cast as the fumbling young lover of soignee Parisienne Ingrid Bergman.

Quand Tu Dors Près De Moi

“Quand Tu Dors…” is, of course, taken from the 3rd movement (at 26:58) of Johannes Brahms’s Third Symphony, and you’ll recognize it when you hear it. That’s Leonard Bernstein and the Wiener Philharmoniker.

 

“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.

Donkey Serenade