Saturday, February 15, 2014
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAROLD (2/15)
Republished from 2005
Last night at the Motion Picture Academy in LaLaWood, a centenary salute to songwriter Harold Arlen, hosted by Michael Feinstein. If you'd dropped a bomb on the place---heaven forefend---you'd have wiped out half of what's left of Old Hollywood. Competing with the opening of Attack of the Blinth, thus not a single teenage boy was in evidence (not even a budding show music queen), but still there was a nearly full house. Among those in attendance, spotted during the pre-show buffet: Betty Garrett, and all in the same "shot": Mitzi Gaynor, June Foray AND---beeeestillmyheart---Cyd Charisse, the latter looking not a day over half her real age. She must realllly work out. Songwriter Ray Evans. Patricia Morison, famous for exactly ONE THING. But what a thing! Kiss Me Kate, yet. Also one-half of the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller. I aluz get them confuzed (which one almost went down on the Andrea-Doria?). "Who's that actress in pink?," my neighbor at table asked me. "Why, that's Miss Marsha Hunt," I knowledgeably replied. Marsha was chatting up my old friend Fayard Nicholas. Ninety and still dancing. At least with his hands. As for the program itself. Like dying and going to Film Clip Heaven. Clips from Wizard of Oz, Country Girl (featured performer Jacqueline Fontaine shoulda won the Oscar. who she?), (that old nyc channel nine mdm standby) Casbah, Stormy Weather, I Love to Singa, Summer Stock, At the Circus ("Lydia"), Cabin in the Sky, Bugsy, Star Spangled Rhythm, Sky's the Limit, Here Come the Waves, Star is Born and...well, you get the picture. Also home movies of Arlen, the Gershwins, Dorothy Fields, Levant et al on Roxbury Drive. Songwriter Alan Bergman sang the original Johnny Mercer lyrics to "The Man That Got Away." Feinstein also warbled, to no noticeable effect, BUT was a terrific emcee; quoted someone as once saying, "Harold Arlen sings like his fly is open." Lyricist Martin Charnin talking on videotape, Jet-Blued in, about his, ultimately, mostly fruitless six years of collaborating with Arlen. Libretto problems on their aborted show Softly ("You have an emergency 'book' meeting and...fire the costume designer.") Also Charnin had a great bit about Arlen's cantor father trying out his son's melodies on his congregation. There, too, Tony Martin---husband of Cyd Charisse and a somewhat talented gent himself---who's 93 and still has the speaking voice of a young man. Judging from the rave reviews he still receives, his singing voice is also in fine fettle. I guess the Tony Martins must have a couple of proverbial portraits in the attic that look like hell. Free food. Great night!
And speaking of Arlen, who was discovered and mentored by legendary musician Will Marion Cook, here is a link to an interesting article about the current activities surrounding Cook's landmark home (20s-40s) on New York's Striver's Row in Harlem.
Posted by Bill Reed at 8:30 PM