Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited
by Fred Flaxman

©2013 by Fred Flaxman

Program 211
"Hollywood Musical Hits"

MUSIC: orchestral excerpt from Nacio Herb/Arthur Freed: Singin’ in the Rain [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 6] [under the following]

This is Compact Discoveries.  I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Stay with me for the next hour and we’ll listen together to some of the greatest hits from Hollywood musicals! These will include Cheek to Cheek, Over the Rainbow, Easter Parade, Anything You Can Do, Ol’ Man River, Singin’ in the Rain, The Surrey with the Fringe on Top, Getting to Know You, Some Enchanted Evening, Thank Heaven for Little Girls, Maria, and Seventy-Six Trombones.

The singers include Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, William Warfield, Gene Kelly, Gordon MacRae, Marni Nixon, Giorgio Tozzi, Maurice Chevalier, Jim Bryant, and Robert Preston.

Movie musicals have provided these songs and many others that have become popular classics. During the golden age of the Hollywood musical, which roughly spans the 1930s to the mid 1960s, the greatest songwriters of the 20th century -- Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Frederick Loewe, and Alan Jay Lerner -- were cranking out great melodies at a time when audiences wanted song-and-dance numbers in their movies.

Some of the most famous of these songs have been transferred to compact discs in a three-disc set called “Hollywood Hits: 70 Years of Memorable Movie Music.” The first CD is devoted to movie themes, the second to Oscar winners, and the third to musicals.

Let’s start with Cheek to Cheek from the 1935 RKO production, “Top Hat.” It’s by Irving Berlin and stars Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It was the most successful picture with that partnership and remains today their best-known work.

MUSIC: Irving Berlin: Cheek to Cheek sung by Fred Astaire [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 1]

Irving Berlin’s Cheek to Cheek as sung by Fred Astaire in the 1935 RKO movie, “Top Hat.”

You are listening to an hour of “Hollywood Musical Hits” on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

Next, Over the Rainbow from the 1939 MGM production of The Wizard of Oz, sung by Judy Garland. The music is by Harold Arlen; the lyrics by E. Y. Harburg. The musical is based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum.

The Wizard of Oz has become one of the best-known of all films. It stands out for its early use of Technicolor, elaborate use of character makeup, and special effects for a film up to that time. Yet it was not a huge box office success on its initial release, and failed to recoup the studio’s investment. Re-releases made up for that.

It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but it lost that award to Gone with the Wind. But it did win two other Oscars, including Best Original Song for Over the Rainbow. The song was ranked first in the American Film Institute’s “100 Years… 100 Songs” list.

MUSIC: Harburg & Arlen: Over the Rainbow sung by Judy Garland [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 2, Track 2]

Over the Rainbow from the 1939 MGM production of The Wizard of Oz, sung by Judy Garland. The music is by E. Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen.

Easter Parade, the 1948 MGM musical, also starred Judy Garland along with Fred Astaire singing the music of Irving Berlin. It was the most financially successful picture for both Garland and Astaire as well as the highest-grossing musical of the year.

MUSIC: Irving Berlin: Easter Parade sung by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 3]
 
Easter Parade from the 1948 MGM musical, sung by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. The music was by Irving Berlin, who also wrote the songs for the hit Broadway musical, Annie Get Your Gun, which was turned into an MGM musical in 1950.

MUSIC: Irving Berlin: Anything You Can Do sung by Betty Hutton and Howard Keel [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 4]

Irving Berlin’s Anything You Can Do sung by Betty Hutton and Howard Keel from the 1950 MGM musical Annie Get Your Gun.

A year later MGM made another highly successful Broadway musical into a movie, where it could be shared by the entire country and beyond. This time the music was by Jerome Kern and the lyrics were by Oscar Hammerstein II. The show and film were both called Show Boat.

MUSIC: Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II: Ol’ Man River sung by William Warfield [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 5]

Ol’ Man River sung by William Warfield, from the 1951 MGM musical, Showboat.

Singin’ in the Rain, the title song for what many critics consider the greatest movie musical of all time, was actually an old song by the time Gene Kelly traipsed through those puddles and immortalized it. It was originally written for a stage revue and was even featured in an MGM musical called The Hollywood Revue of 1929 and a number of other early musicals, though no one seems to remember those versions. Which makes this song the best example of repurposing in Hollywood history.

MUSIC: Nacio Herb/Arthur Freed: Singin’ in the Rain sung by Gene Kelly [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 6]

Singin’ in the Rain, by Nacio Herb and Arthur Freed, sung by Gene Kelly.

You are listening to “Hollywood Musical Hits” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of this program]

In the 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma!, Curly asks Laurey to go to a box social with him. To convince her to say yes,  he sings The Surrey with the Fringe on Top.  A surrey is a four-wheel covered carriage pulled by horses. In the 1955 RKO/Magna movie version, the surrey is initially seen in a brief fantasy sequence, but it appears for real at the end when Curly and Laurey ride off in it to their honeymoon.

MUSIC: Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Surrey with the Fringe on Top sung by Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, and Charlotte Greenwood [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 7]

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Surrey with the Fringe on Top from the 1955 movie version of Oklahoma!, sung by Gordon MacRae with very small parts for Shirley Jones, and Charlotte Greenwood.

Rodgers and Hammerstein are also responsible for the music and lyrics to the 1951 Broadway musical, The King and I. It ran for nearly three years, then the fourth longest-running Broadway musical in history. The 20th Century Fox movie version dates from 1956. It starred Deborah Kerr, whose voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon.

MUSIC: Rodgers & Hammerstein: Getting to Know You sung by Marni Nixon [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 10]

Marni Nixon, the singing voice of Deborah Kerr, in Getting to Know You from the 1951 movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I.

You are listening to “Hollywood Musical Hits” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of this program]

The 1958 20th Century Fox movie musical, South Pacific, was also derived from a highly successful Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical. It premiered in 1949 at the Majestic Theatre in New York, and was based on James A. Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 book, Tales of the South Pacific. Rodgers and Hammerstein believed that they could write a musical based on Michener’s stories that would be financially successful and, at the same time, send a strong message on racism. The film version starred Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor, but Brazzi’s songs were dubbed by Giorgio Tozzi.

Tozzi, despite his Italian name, was very much an American. He was born George John Tozzi in Chicago, Illinois, in 1923. He died in 2011. After dubbing the singing parts for the character of Emile de Becque in the film version of South Pacific, he spent many years playing the role of de Becque himself in various revivals and road tours of the show, including one at the Lincoln Center in New York in the late 1960s. In 1980 he earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Leading Actor in a musical for his role as Tony in The Most Happy Fella. He was also the recipient of three Grammy Awards for his recordings.

In this recording he sings Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific with Mitzi Gaynor.

MUSIC: Rodgers & Hammerstein: Some Enchanted Evening sung by Giorgio Tozzi with Mitzi Gaynor [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 11]

Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein, sung by Giorgio Tozzi with Mitzi Gaynor, from the 1958 20th Century Fox movie version of the Broadway musical.

Well not every Broadway and Hollywood musical of the time was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein, though many were. And not every Hollywood musical was taken from a Broadway show. In fact, in the case of the 1958 MGM musical, Gigi, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, the highly successful film came first, and in 1973, it was the basis for an unsuccessful stage musical produced on Broadway.

The film, which was directed by Vincente Minnelli, is considered the last great MGM musical. It starred Maurice Chevalier.

MUSIC: Lerner & Loewe: Thank Heaven for Little Girls sung by Maurice Chevalier [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 12]

Maurice Chevalier. Thank Heaven for Little Girls from Gigi by Lerner and Loewe.

West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, ran on Broadway for 732 performances, starting in 1957, before it went on tour. The show had an even longer London production. It was Sondheim’s Broadway début.

West Side Story was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Musical, but that award went to Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. West Side Story did win a Tony for its choreography by Jerome Robbins.

The musical was inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet transferred to New York City. That was Jerome Robbins idea.

The film version dates from 1961. It was directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, and starred Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. It won ten Academy Awards out of eleven nominations, including Best Picture. But when the character Tony falls in love with the character Maria, you saw Richard Beymer singing, but you heard the voice of Jim Bryant.

MUSIC: Bernstein & Sondheim: Maria sung by Jim Bryant [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 13]

Maria from West Side Story with the voice of Jim Bryant from the United Artists 1961 film version of the musical.

The Music Man, with book, music, and lyrics all by Meredith Willson, debuted on Broadway in 1957, where it became a hit and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It ran for 1,375 performances. The original cast album won the first Grammy Award for “Best Original Cast Album” and was number one on the Billboard charts for 245 weeks. The show’s success led to revivals and a popular 1962 film adaptation and a 2003 television remake.

Seventy-six Trombones, the rousing march from the film, included an extra large horn section -- not 76 trombones, but enough! It also included a vocal chorus, clanging percussion, and Robert Preston’s singing. The music editor had to figure out how to make 100 separate music tracks coalesce into one cohesive whole -- a process that took many hours of post-production work. Here are the results.

MUSIC: Meredith Willson: Seventy-Six Trombones sung by Robert Preston [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 14]

Robert Preston. Seventy-Six Trombones from the 1962 Warner Brothers film, The Music Man.

Well that does it for this hour of Compact Discoveries devoted to “Hollywood Musical Hits.”

If you missed any of this program or would like to hear it again, go to compactdiscoveries.com on the internet, where you’ll find links to stream Compact Discoveries programs on demand without charge.   You’ll also find information on every recording used in every program. This is program number 211.  I’m the voice of Fred Flaxman sitting in for the real person. Thank you for listening!

MUSIC: ending of orchestral excerpt from Nacio Herb/Arthur Freed: Singin’ in the Rain [Shout Factory TJL 826663-97645, CD 3, Track 6]

ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.  And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida.

Total Program Timing: 58:00