16 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Friday Minute
No. 76 | April 16, 2010

April Showers


Featured this week
 (
theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)
Tuesday         —   “The Rain in Spain” (1964)
Wednesday    —   “Purple Rain” (1984)
Thursday        —   “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (1969)

Our theme this week
“Rain”-y day songs from the movies

“Over the Rainbow”

the wizard of oz

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

Dorothy Gale sings the song in the sepia tones of Kansas, but after the tornado hits, she discovers a rainbow of colors in the land of Oz, a place where “the dreams that you dare to dream / Really do come true.”  That lyric is the key to the story of a girl and her dog, but it’s also as good an explanation as any of the appeal that movies held for audiences, especially in Hollywood’s golden age.  Few films, if any, were as appealing, as magical, as The Wizard of Oz.

“Over the Rainbow” is a timeless classic, the #1 pick on the AFI’s list of top hundred songs from American movies, and the #1 “Song of the Century” chosen in an education project by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the National Endowment for the Arts, and Scholastic Inc.  Over the years it’s been covered many times, a favorite for generations of singers.

None matches the young Judy Garland.  Still in her teens, she was already a seasoned pro, as talented as any singer who ever stepped before the camera.  She could act, dance, and do comedy too, and her career was one of the great careers of anyone in movies.

You may think “Over the Rainbow” was a sure thing.  After the first preview though, Louis B. Mayer had the song cut from the film.  He apparently thought it slowed down the picture.  Harold Arlen lobbied to get the song back in, and the rest is history.  As William Goldman was saying just yesterday:  nobody knows anything.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Victor Fleming, director
“Over the Rainbow”
E.Y. (Yip) Harburg, lyrics, Harold Arlen, music
Judy Garland

 


Quote of Note
“The rain on my car is a baptism—the new me, Ice Man, Power Lloyd.  My assault on the world begins now.”
—Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), Say Anything…  (1989)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 13 Apr 2010 @ 09:48 AM

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 15 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Thursday Minute
No. 75 | April 15, 2010

April Showers


Featured this week
 (
theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)
Tuesday         —   “The Rain in Spain” (1964)
Wednesday    —   “Purple Rain” (1984)

Our theme this week
“Rain”-y day songs from the movies

“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”

butch cassidy and the sundance kid

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turnin’ red
Cryin’s not for me
‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’
Because I’m free
Nothin’s worryin’ me

Years after William Goldman wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid he wrote a book called Adventures in the Screen Trade.  It made famous a three-word mantra describing the way Hollywood works:  “Nobody knows anything.”  (Another noted three-word phrase of Goldman’s is “Follow the money,” from his screenplay for All the President’s Men.)  Goldman’s point is that success or failure is entirely unpredictable.  His first example of the “nobody knows anything” principle was this:

B.J. Thomas’s people, after the first sneak peak of Butch, were upset about their client’s getting involved with the song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”  One of them was heard to say, more than once, “B.J. really hurt himself with this one.”

The song was a #1 hit for four weeks, won an Oscar for Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and ranked 23rd on the AFI’s all-time list of American movie songs in 2004.  You could have a great career hurting yourself like that.

Thomas’s “people” missed the boat, but they still may have had a point.  Thomas made more than one recording of the song.  In the movie he sings with a rasp, nearly losing his voice.  Another version got radio play.

The movie, raspy singing and all, was a huge hit at the box office, making even bigger stars of the duo playing the title leads, Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  Among other things, the film was a re-invention of the western.  Based loosely on the Hole in the Wall gang, the story follows the outlaws as they rob banks, blow up a train, and run from the law.  Butch and Sundance vie for the attention of Etta Place (the lovely Katharine Ross), and eventually head off to Bolivia, where their destiny awaits.

The musical interlude with the B.J. Thomas song is a definite change of pace.  It worked at the time, but it’s hardly what we think of as cutting edge when we think back to the ’60s.  Today it seems almost quaint.  (For a contrast, listen to “Born to Be Wild” in another movie from ’69, Easy Rider, and you get a taste for what movies were about to become.)

So you may wonder, on a beautiful sunny day, why is B.J. Thomas singing about raindrops falling on his head?

Good question.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
George Roy Hill, director
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”
Hal David, lyrics, Burt Bacharach, music
B.J. Thomas, singer
Paul Newman, Katharine Ross


Quote of Note
Charlie Chan:  Man who places self in way of finger of suspicion must not be surprised if he receives poke in the eye.
Paul Arranto:  You suspect me?
Charlie Chan:  Suspicion like rain—fall upon just and unjust.  You protect yourself with umbrella of innocence, but at the moment I’m afraid your umbrella have big leak.
—Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler), Paul Arranto (George Lewis), Charlie Chan in the Secret Service (1944)

…58…59…60.

 14 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Wednesday Minute
No. 74 | April 14, 2010

April Showers


Featured this week
 (
theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)
Tuesday         —   “The Rain in Spain” (1964)

Our theme this week
“Rain”-y day songs from the movies

“Purple Rain”

purple rain
I never meant 2 cause u any sorrow
I never meant 2 cause u any pain
I only wanted 2 one time see u laughing
I only wanted 2 see u laughing in the purple rain

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain

I only wanted 2 see u bathing in the purple rain

Six years before he morphed into his unpronounceable Prince logo.svg identity, the artist then known as Prince starred in Purple Rain.  Some aptly named cast members played other roles.  Apollonia Kotero was Apollonia.  Morris Day was Morris.  Jerome Benton was Jerome.  So who was Prince?  No name:  he was just “The Kid.”  (Maybe he liked that Chaplin movie with Jackie Coogan.)

Names aside, there are more than a few parallels between Prince and the role he played.  Set in Minneapolis, the story follows a young and talented musician as he rises from life in a troubled family through the local scene on his way to stardom.  The music is more concert film than traditional musical, with the action building to a Prince performance at the legendary First Avenue nightclub, featuring among other numbers, the title song.

Prince was at the height of his popularity around the time of this film.  His movie was a hit and won an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song Score.   Even more impressive was the reception to the soundtrack.  It won two Grammys, featured two #1 singles (“When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”), and was the #1 album on the Billboard 200 chart for an incredible 24 weeks in a row.  (Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” had been #1, then—rather oddly—retook the top spot half a year later.)  It’s not much of a stretch to say, if you were living somewhere on the planet during 1984, you spent some of that time listening to Prince—maybe a lot.

Prince acted again in several films, including the black-and-white Under the Cherry Moon in 1986, and in a Purple Rain sequel called Graffiti Bridge (1990).  No doubt, though, he’ll be best remembered for his electrifying music.  The guy can play.

Purple Rain (1984)
Albert Magnoli, director
“Purple Rain”
Prince and the Revolution

 


Quote of Note
“You’d think the rain would’ve cooled things down.  All it did was make the heat wet.”
—Stella (Thelma Ritter), Rear Window (1954)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 14 Apr 2010 @ 06:39 AM

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 13 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Tuesday Minute
No. 73 | April 13, 2010

April Showers


Featured this week
 (
theme introduction)
Monday         —   “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952)

Our theme this week
“Rain”-y day songs from the movies

“The Rain in Spain”

my fair lady

The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain! 
By George, she’s got it!  By George, she’s got it!
Now, once again where does it rain?
On the plain!  On the plain!
And where’s that soggy plain?
In Spain!  In Spain!
The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!
The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain!

You can put away the umbrella.  They may be singing about the rain, but not in the rain.  This number is an indoor affair.

Hollywood was still making musicals in the ’60s, and this one was a big hit.  My Fair Lady was an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a story that has much older roots.  Earlier versions were done for the Victorian stage, including W.S. Gilbert’s Pygmalion and Galatea, a hit in the 1870s.  Pygmalion, under one name or another, appears in a variety of literary works going back to Ovid.

In Shaw, and in the movie, he’s Henry Higgins—or ‘Enry ‘Iggins, that is, if you’re Eliza Doolittle.  Eliza aspires to work in a flower shop, and for reasons perhaps Brits understand better than the rest of us, that Cockney accent of hers has to go.  It’s up to Professor Higgins to teach Eliza how to speak “properly.”  Elocution!  That’s what it’s all about.  (Not meteorology, if that’s what you were thinking.)

My Fair Lady won eight Oscars and was nominated for twelve.  Poor Audrey Hepburn, though, was shut out.  The reason, not so hard to understand:  her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon.  It was Julie Andrews who played Eliza in the hit Broadway musical opposite Rex Harrison, and Jack Warner, in his less-than-infinite wisdom, cast the film star over the stage star.  (It’s a lesson Hollywood continues to ignore.)  You could say Poor Julie Andrews, except that she had the last laugh—she won the Oscar that year for Mary Poppins.  (Andrews, by then a huge movie star, later turned down a part in Warner Bros.’ Camelot, which flopped.  Not long after, Jack Warner retired.)

My Fair Lady (1964)
George Cukor, director
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
“The Rain in Spain”
Alan Jay Lerner, lyrics, Frederick Loewe, music
Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White (and the singing voice of Marni Nixon)


Quote of Note
Rufus T. Firefly:  Now, what is it that has four pairs of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours?
Chicolini:  Atsa good one.  I give you three guesses.
Rufus T. Firefly:  Now let me see.  Has four pair of pants, lives in Philadelphia—is it male or female?
Chicolini:  No, I no think so.
Rufus T. Firefly:  Is he dead?
Chicolini:  Who?
Rufus T. Firefly:  I don’t know.  I give up.
Chicolini:  I give up, too.
—Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx), Chicolini (Chico Marx), Duck Soup (1933)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 13 Apr 2010 @ 09:48 AM

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 12 Apr 2010 @ 6:00 AM 

Monday Minute
No. 72 | April 12, 2010

April Showers

Last week the baseball season opened and already we have our first “rain” delay.  That’s apt to happen this time of year.  The forecast calls for more of the same the rest of the week, so you may want to pack an umbrella as we get ready for five days of rain-inspired songs from the movies.

Our theme this week
Movie songs for a “rain”-y day

“Singin’ in the Rain”

singin in the rain

I’m singin’ in the rain
Just singin’ in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again
I’m laughin’ at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love

The classic song is so closely associated with the classic movie, it’s worth noting that the song had been around since at least the early days of sound film.  Its movie debut was in The Hollywood Revue of 1929, performed by Cliff  Edwards.  Other film renditions were sung by Jimmy Durante in Speak Easy (1932) and Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly (1940).  Something about the Gene Kelly performance has left the other versions all but forgotten, even the Debbie Reynolds version in the same movie.

It was a wondrous time for MGM musicals.  The year before, Kelly had starred in 1951’s Best Picture, An American in Paris, directed by Vincente Minnelli.  Kelly co-directed Singin’ in the Rain with Stanley Donen, based on a story and screenplay from the great writing team of Adolph Green and Betty Comden.  Inexplicably, the 1952 musical was not nominated for Best Picture.  (Perhaps more inexplicably, the winner that year was The Greatest Show on Earth.)  Only one member of cast was nominated for an Oscar—Jean Hagen, for her role of Lina Lamont, the silent film star whose grating voice hampered her transition to talkies.

Looking back, the oversights of the Academy are puzzling, but not especially relevant.  The film has rightly earned its spot among the very best of Hollywood musicals (it ranked #1 on the AFI’s list in 2006).

Singin’ in the Rain—the song and film—are pure magic, and timeless.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Gene Kelly, singer, dancer, co-director
Arthur Freed, lyrics, and Nacio Herb Brown, music
“Singin’ in the Rain”

(If at first you don’t see Gene, click, click again—or click here to see it at YouTube.) 


Quote of Note
“One day it started raining, and it didn’t quit for four months.  We been through every kind of rain there is.  Little bitty stingin’ rain, and big ol’ fat rain.  Rain that flew in sideways.  And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.  Shoot, it even rained at night.”
—Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks), Forrest Gump (1994)

…58…59…60.

Posted By: John Farmer
Last Edit: 12 Apr 2010 @ 02:04 PM

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