SUMMER SHORTS

Tomorrow is the first official day of smelly armpits season (unless, of course, you live in the southern hemisphere of earth — or in any hemisphere of Ur-anus, where, they say, it stinks the year round). To greet the season, I’m saluting summer with a look back at several good old summer films (and I mean films that actually have “summer” in the title).

It’s unthinkable that there’s no unstinkable way of sweating as I wrack my brain composing a fulsome introduction to each movie, so I’ll make do with a minimum of b.s. (background setting) preceding each clip….then sum(mer) it all up with bonus b.s. at post’s end.

First we have SUMMERTIME (1955), starring Katherine Hepburn as a spinster vacationing in Venice. After meeting and being attracted to shop owner Rossano Brazzi in his antiques store, they unexpectedly encounter each other again in this scene:

Next: IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949) starring Judy Garland & Van Johnson as lonelyhearts pen pals in a musical remake of THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940), directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Jimmy Stewart. Here is the trailer:

Last we have SUMMER AND SMOKE (1961), a film adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, neither of which I have seen, but which I include here because its title serves as a “Perfect!” lead-in to this anecdote told by the late actor Tony Randall (and which relates back to the first of our films):

David Lean, one of the world’s finest directors, is a meticulous and fastidious craftsman, compulsive and uncompromising about getting things exactly the way he wants them. There is a scene in Summertime in which the [female] owner of a Venetian pensione arranges a tryst with a young American guest at night on the terrace of the pensione. Lean put the couple in two high-backed wicker chairs that completely envelope them,  placed with their backs to the camera so that all the lens could see were her left hand holding his right hand and puffs of white smoke from their cigarettes curling above the backs of the chairs. The brief scene, which could have been shot with any two people sitting in the chairs and the voices of the couple dubbed in later, took an entire night and a carton of cigarettes to film. Lean made the two actors do it over and over. Just as dawn was about to break, Lean finally got a shot that satisfied him.
“Perfect! Perfect!” Lean exclaimed enthusiastically. “The puffs were perfect!”

It seems we’ve come to the end  — but where, you might ask, is the promised “bonus b.s.”? Will you settle for the bonus without the b.s.? Here is the trailer for the aforementioned THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, directed by that master of “the Lubitsch touch” of happy memory to Golden Age film buffs:

 

 

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TRAINS OF THOUGHT

All my life I have been thrilled by the names of famous trains. The Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul, the Train Bleu rushing through the night to the Riviera, the Flying Scotsman and the Brighton Belle rolling north and south from London, the Twentieth Century Limited, the Santa Fe Chief and Super Chief crossing the vast continent of America — these were magical names to people of my generation, but on a dark November evening in 1963 the rather dingy train awaiting us in the Zurich station offered no interest until, at a second glance, I noticed that under the grime it bore a name in letters which had once been of polished brass — the Wiener Waltzer [Vienna Waltz]! My spirits rose. How charming, how romantic and how right, I thought, for I was on my way to Vienna to play the part of Johann Strauss in a picture.
–Brian Aherne, English-American actor (1902-86)

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I, too, have long been fascinated by trains — probably since the age of 12, when I traveled with my family by train from Cincinnati to Mexico City. Perhaps my most vivid memory of that trip: the elegant dining car, lined on each side of the aisle with tables covered by immaculate white tablecloths topped by spotless linens and tableware, at which we would sit like ‘big wheels’ eating leisurely meals as the scenery rolled by. “Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer” — like the old song, now echoing back over time.

On the wall near where I sit as I write this post, hangs a large 1966 calendar published by the Union Pacific Railroad (“Road of the Domeliners”). Above each month is a color photo of a scene which is presumably within viewing or dreaming distance of a Domeliner: Sun Valley, Idaho; Morro Bay, California; Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon; Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; a covered bridge somewhere in northern California; and so on. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in 51 years.

But the handwriting was already on the wall for iconic streamliners in America by 1966. Numbered were the days of such storied trains as the CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO and railroads like THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND THE SANTA FE. Sad to say, the new kid on the track, AMTRAC, would lack their imagery….not to mention, their soundtrack songs from films such as SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941) and THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946):

Those were the days, my friend. Clickety-clack, echoing back. It’s enough to give one the….

NOTE: I will be taking a one-post break. Until my next post on June 20, keep your dreams intact and your hopes on track.

 

 

THIS POST IS FOR THE WORDS (AND MUSIC)

“They had a story written that at times impinged on the truth, but not very often.” –Richard Rodgers (re Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s filming of the 1948 Rodgers & Hart biopic WORDS AND MUSIC)

The Hollywoodized version of the life of Rodgers and Hart may be for the birds regarding the facts of their life, but above and beyond the cornball script are such treats for the ears as Betty Garrett, Judy Garland and Lena Horne singing those sophisticated R & H songs. But at least — though MGM had no conscience with regard to the narrative — they took no liberties with respect to Hart’s Words And Rodgers’ Music.

Without further ado, then, on with the show. Carrying forward the theme of the previous post, here are (you have my word) three great ‘love’ songs from WORDS AND MUSIC:

But wait — you want unadulterated love and sophistication? R & H had nothing on Cole Porter:

FOR THE RECORD, AND THE LIKE

Either heaven or hell has continuous background music piped in; which one you think it is tells a lot about your personality. –Bill Vaughan

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I rarely listen to radio, and spend as little time Christmas shopping in stores as possible. Even so, I hear Christmas music almost everywhere I go, from dentist office to automobile service waiting rooms. If my reaction to much of this music makes me seem ‘ear-itably’ Scrooge-like, my reaction to that characterization is “Bah! Humbug!”

For example, after hearing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” (not one of my favorite Christmas songs to begin with) for the umpteenth time this month (and a million times over the years), I’m dreaming of receiving ear plugs for Christmas (or sooner, if Santa wants to get a head start). I admit I once owned a recording of the song, but I evicted it from my record collection long ago….unfortunately, to no apparent avail.

Nevertheless, there are far worse outrages in the world, and there are a number of numinous Christmas songs which earn “Likes” from the likes of mistermuse. You won’t be hearing from me again until Dec. 30 (no post on Dec. 25), so I thought I’d include a few of those songs (with a little help from YuleTube) in my early Merry Christmas wishes to you:

HOLD THAT NOSE!

When I remarked, in a comment to my last post, that some mugwump Republicans would “hold their noses” while voting for you-know-who, it brought to mind (who nose why?) the old college football exhortation, HOLD THAT LINE!….which, in turn, suggests a catchy campaign slogan for the GOP’s Offensive Lines Man: HOLD THAT NOSE! VOTE FOR TRUMP!

The nose, it seems, has long been a useful appendage when it comes to exhortations:

KEEP YOUR NOSE OUT OF MY BUSINESS
DON’T BE A HARD NOSE
KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN
DON’T CUT OFF YOUR NOSE TO SPITE YOUR FACE
KEEP YOUR NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE
DON’T GET YOUR NOSE OUT OF JOINT
Etc.

I don’t nose about you, but I find people with noses fascinating — especially thoses with long noses….especially thoses whose noses made them famous.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s fair that animals with big noses are often seen as having faces only a mother could love:

Animals with Big Noses

Did you notice that several humans managed to horn their way into that mix of pix, one of whom seems bent on cutting off his nose to spite his face?As Jimmy “Schnozzola” Durante used to say, “Everybody wants to get into the act,” but that guy is apparently trying to take a short cut. Oh, well, it’s no skin off of my nose.

Of course, not everyone is blessed with a big nose, otherwise mistermuse might be known as misternose. HAHAHA!  The point is that you don’t have to have a natural big nose to clown around and be a big hit with the young at heart:

MARRYING MADE MAID MARY MERRY

Mary Christmas is her name.
Merry Christmas is her game.
So, Merry Christmas, Mary Christmas!
Merry, the way you made your list less
The merry day you lined off your wish list
The last name that you became
When you married Mister Christmas.

And now you’ve heard the gospel of how Christmas, Mister,
Made Maid Mary’s Merry Little Christmas….a tongue twister.

 

A DISTANT RAINBOW

Once upon a time, in a sepia-toned place called Kansas (before landing in the colorful and Merry Old Land of Oz), a girl by the name of Dorothy sang a song called OVER THE RAINBOW. We all (many of us, at any rate) know who sang that song in the film, but the man who composed it is now long past recognition by almost all. He was born on this day (Feb. 15, 1905), and his name was Harold Arlen. This post is simply an appreciation of the man and his music, each of which encompasses much more than one man and one song….for, in those days, popular songs generally did not live by melody alone and were not born of one person alone. Composers/songs needed lyricists/words.

Arlen himself (according to biographer Edward Jablonski) acknowledged that words – even the title – were just as important as the melody, often saying that “A good lyric writer is the composer’s best friend.” The lyricists who collaborated with Arlen were among the best in the business: Ira Gershwin, Ted Koehler, Johnny Mercer, E.Y.”Yip” Harburg….and the songs they wrote were among the best in popular music history (many of them done for movies and Broadway shows). Here are some of them:

1930 – GET HAPPY
1931 – BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
1932 – I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING
1933 – IT’S ONLY A PAPER MOON; LET’S FALL IN LOVE; STORMY WEATHER
1934 – ILL WIND
1935 – LAST NIGHT WHEN WE WERE YOUNG
1939 – OVER THE RAINBOW; WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD; DING-DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD
1941 – BLUES IN THE NIGHT
1942 – THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC
1944 – AC-CENT-CHU-ATE THE POSITIVE

But even those who remember Harold Arlen the composer probably do not know that he was also a fine singer who made a number of recordings, such as this one in 1933:

Harold Arlen died April 23, 1986, but his music should never die.