Three years after Man of La Mancha was a major hit on Broadway, Belgian music legend Jacques Brel licensed the staging rights, adapted the book, translated the lyrics, directed the production, and starred as Don Quixote with the original Dulcinea herself, Joan Diener.
Telle est ma quête
Peu m’importent mes chances
Peu m’importe le temps
Reading about the revival of Man of La Mancha at the London Palladium next year brought back fond memories of the music, especially Joan Diener’s songs. Here’s my favorite one that just tears my heart out, courtesy of lyricist Joe Darion and Hindemith-trained composer Mitch Leigh:
“What Do You Want of Me?“
“Pourquoi Fait-il Toutes Ces Choses?“
San Francisco, open your Golden Gate
You’ll let no stranger wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one
Saying I’ll wander no more
The Castro Theatre was our neighborhood picture palace back in San Francisco. Went to dozens of movies there, sometimes with Mister Grumble (this is when he still could see), sometimes with the The Kid, sometimes with both: King Kong, Casablanca, The Garden of Allah, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, that movie Steve’s son was in called Brokeback Mountain, etc etc etc. But the organ was always the best part.
Here‘s David Hagerty between evening shows giving the best of The Mighty Wurlitzer and ending (starting at 8:17), as he always does at every performance, with an inspiring rendition of the official anthem of my spiritual birthplace, “San Francisco” (Bronislaw Kaper and Walter Jurmann, lyrics by Gus Kahn, 1936).
Castles were crumbling
And daydreams were tumbling
December was battling with June
But on this bright afternoon
Guess I’ll be changing my tune
We can thank composer/arranger Kay Swift, George Gershwin’s secret lover, for making sure this song found its perfect setting in this 1947 20th Century Fox musical after his untimely death ten years earlier.
John, if you were going to choose one song from the film The Shocking Miss Pilgrim for your Gershwin in Hollywood album, what made you choose that boring Dick Haymes-led duet “For You, for Me, for Evermore” rather than the much more melodic and clever “Changing My Tune”?
For their show at the 2011 BBC Proms, inconveniently titled Hooray for Hollywood, John and The JWO performed an overall satisfying medley of tunes from the pictures, tunes chosen and orchestrated by my self-satisfied darling himself. Starting with John’s cribbing from Ray Heinsdorf’s execrable arrangement (that hard downbeat!) of the Gershwin brothers’ 1919 “Swanee” (Jolson turning in his grave), it does get better: “Lullaby of Broadway” by Al Dubin and Harry Warren, very nifty and swingy; Rudy Friml and Herb Stothart’s 1924 “Indian Love Call”, a lot more lyrical and moving (he included the birds and the waterfall!) than you remember it (especially when leader Andrew Haveron takes the soulful melody); Jerry Kern and Yip Harburg’s glorious 1944 “Can’t Help Singing” (written for Deanna Durbin); Kern and Ira Gershwin’s 1944 “Long Ago and Far Away” (Howard McGill on tenor sax and Matthew Regan on piano—I’ve never heard it played any lovelier): Frank Loesser’s 1950 “Guys and Dolls” done in Big Swing style; then, in a weird leap, “Chim-Chim-Cheree” by the Sherman brothers 1963 (for which our John cribs 2 bars from Shostakovich’s Jazz Waltz No. 2); and ending with “Hooray for Hollywood” from 1937 by Richard Whiting (who wrote “On the Good Ship Lollipop”) and Johnny Mercer.
Hooray for Hollywood,
Where you’re terrific if you’re even good
Where anyone at all from Shirley Temple to Aimee Semple
Is equally understood
Go out and try your luck, you might be Donald Duck
Hooray for Hollywood
(Dates are of composition, not the date of the movie.)
Rating this clip, I’d say because it contains John’s own actually-pretty-good arrangement it’s one of the better clips of The JWO. Extra points for 7:40, where my self-satisfied darling shimmies like a brazen hussy yet again.
Je l’ai cherchée partout j’ai fait le tour du monde
De Venise à Java de Manille à Angkor
De Jeanne à Victoria de Vénus en Joconde
Je ne l’ai pas trouvée et je la cherche encore
Je ne connais rien de lui et pourtant je le vois
J’ai inventé son nom j’ai entendu sa voix
J’ai dessiné son corps et j’ai peint son visage
Son portrait et l’amour ne font plus qu’une image
Cleansing my aural memory of John Wilson’s recording of Legrand’s “Chanson de Maxence” (in English clumsily rendered as “You Must Believe in Spring” or some such) in his awful 2000 album, Orchestral Jazz, with Anne Sofie van Otter‘s version. Bonny John conducts his eponymous orchestra in an arrangement by Richard Rodney Bennett, who had absolutely no feel for this song. With such a strong melody (reminiscent of Fauré) and strong lyrics, all it needs is a strong emotive singer and a backup piano. I note with some distress that John himself did some other arrangements in this album, particularly for “Miss Otis Regrets”. With no lyrics! What the hell good is such a hilarious song without the words???
John and the JWO are okay, but just okay. I suppose when he was 28 my bonny’s loftiest ambition was to be the next Sidney Torch.
And right around the time in history James “Smiling Cobra” Aubrey was turning MGM’s historical music scores into LA landfill and baby John was home in Gateshead falling out of his high chair in excitement over the brand-new BBC news theme, forty-five years ago today—even down to the day of the week—I fled Minneapolis for New York (on the pretense of auditioning at Juilliard) and took a shared room at Sage House, a genteel women-only boarding house on 49 West 9th Street in Greenwich Village.
With 2 meals a day included it came out to $33 a week. You read that right. A place in Greenwich Village, breakfast and dinner, for thirty-three dollars a week. Try to imagine the mischief I got into with all the money I had left over from my weekly paycheck from my first job as a solfeggist at ASCAP, that it’s summer in NYC, it’s 1973, I’m eighteen, cute as a button and old enough to drink, and gorgeous men are everywhere. And imagine too that I’m singing a song (in my heart and sometimes while bounding down the street) that every American girl of my generation inspired by Julie Andrews sang:
I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have con-fi-dence in meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
I’m a pot of joy for a hungry boy,
Baby, I’m cookin’ with gas.
Oh, I’m a gumdrop,
A sweet lollipop,
A brook trout right out of the brook,
And what’s more, baby, I can cook!
The queen of Broadway Bernadette Peters entices conductor John Mauceri with her many, many assets, courtesy of Leonard Bernstein and the great lyric team of Adolph Green and Betty Comden. “I Can Cook, Too” from On the Town. Fun starts here at 4:45.