Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dog Days Bloggin'

Getting kind of lazy with this blog, and so here's an instant replay of a few things that I posted on a Yahoo list serve yesterday and this morning:

1.) Never have I read an autobiography of a performer whose private life was more at odds with their public image than Jane Powell's "The Girl Next Door." I finally had to laugh to keep from crying. Every page full of disfunctionalese, i.e. victim of a childhood rape (she thinks, not sure) [see post no. 2 below], alienated from her parents, enough marital discord to fuel several nighttime soaps, a husband who made sexual moves on one of her children from a former spouse, a drugged-out suicidal son, dislike of nearly every one she worked with, massive financial woes, temporary loss of her singing voice, all culminating in a thwarted suicide attempt. Eventually, she appears to have found a degree of (perhaps) happiness with her skeenteenth husband, former child star Dickie Moore. But, in the immortal words of Thelma Ritter in All About Eve, "What a story! Everything but the hounds yapping at her rear end."
Then someone on the aforementioned list pointed out that I was mistaken about the molestation, thus generating post number 2.)

2.) You're absolutely right. It's been a while since I read the book as well. I'm so used to repressed childhood memories consisting of molestation, that I misremembered pillow-smothering as the former. Either way, not exactly awalk in the park.

On a happier note, I'd like to put in a good word for Powell's Verve LP, "Can't We Be Friends", arranged and conducted by erstwhile lister Buddy Bregman. Jane in a much jazzier setting than usual, and sounding a bit like Ruth Olay... from the next room.

I mentioned this to Ruth a while back, and she said this was not the first time she'd been told this. She's never heard the album but was delighted to bear a resemblance to someone as gifted as Jane Powell.

Speaking of Buddy Bregman, I believed he claims to have written one or several of the arrangements (or orchestrations?) used by Judy at Carnegie. They emanated from her Coconut Grove appearance. Much talk about this the last few days for obvious Rufusian reasons. I think, most specifically, the overture. I seem to recall that Bregman left this list [see above intro] in a snit a few years ago when the list posted, for the record, some of the less than flattering reviews he received for his New York Bing Crosby revue. (Not since Moose Murders....) And the problem was, that's all that there were.

3.) About twenty years ago the L.A. Times published an amazing article about Deanna Durbin. One of their writers---could it have been my friend Kevin Thomas?---found himself in the French Village where Durbin resides. They didn't know one another, but he decided to affect an unannounced pop-in. He rang the bell, or pulled the chain, or rapped with the knocker (it's been a while since I've read this---see previous post by me), or whatever, and a moment later the door was answered by someone immediately recogniseable. Doubtlessly Durbin! She was perfectly okay with the unannounced intrusion, and the writer spent the rest of the afternoon with her as she lived her daily life, went shopping in the market, etc. For anyone with the slighest interest in the delightful Durbin, it's well worth a trip to the nearest LAT microfiche collection. Might even be on the net, but doubrful.

I was at Songbirder Lew Spence's birthday party here in L.A. about a half-year back---the one where Pinky Winters sang AND accompanied herself on piano---and had a delightful conversation with writer-actor-director George Furth. He told me that he happened to be pretty good friends with Durbin. There were about a half-dozen others in the conversational circle (all much younger than Furth and myself), and not a single one of them had ever heard of Durbin. Not even a single, "I think I once heard my mother. . .." Somewhat ironically, even as I write this, Durbin is a very well-known and revered artist in the former Soviet Union where pretty much, I am told by reliable persons, nearly everyone knows who she is.

For the record, my favorite Durbin movie is "Christmas Holiday," where she plays piano in a whorehouse and falls in love with Gene Kelly who turns out to be a psychopatic killer and is mowed down in a hail of gunfire, after which she goes into a church and sings Ave Maria. The End! Directed by the great Robert Siodmak, who helmed this one between making "Phantom Lady" and "Cobra Woman". . .the same year, 1944!

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY WITH DEANNA DURBIN AND GENE KELLY! Clearly wartime movie patrons thought they getting a festive holiday musical romp. Instead, can you just imagine their utter shock, dismay and even occasional vomitation as they stumbled out of theaters after viewing this deceptive film noir? The film that intro'd Frank Loesser's "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year."

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