A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Not A Musical By Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rosemary arrives tired from work. In recent months I have prepared quick dinners which we sometimes consume (no TV trays, yet) while watching a good film on the Turner Classic Movies Channel. We had never seen Auntie Mame (1958), with Rosalind Russell so we settled down yesterday to enjoy it.

But I was quickly unsettled when I noticed the names of Betty Green and Adolph Comden on the initial credits. I wasn't prepared for a musical.

We Latin Americans (or at the very least this one) can become Americanized and Canadianized to a certain point but we like our theatre as theatre and our opera as opera. We sometimes make fun of the Spaniards with their zarzuelas (Spanish operettas). The idea of a romantic couple talking to each other and then suddenly one of them begins to sing is mostly alien to me.

Mexicans made films in the 40s and 50s with the likes of actor/singers Pedro Infante and Jorge Negrete in ranchero outfits and hats. They had bloodless duels (their sidearms were mostly for decoration) as they insulted or one-upped each other with extemporaneous song. Sort of like dueling banjos (but with guitars) by the cantina. I liked them. I even saw one, Gran Casino (1947) with Jorge Negrete which was directed, by Luis Buñuel, no less.

I have become more tolerant of musicals of late but I cannot stand the tap dance, top hat and cane (or umbrella ) routine not even if it involves Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly. I think I would go as far as saying I hate tap dance in any form.

So Auntie Mame took me by surprise when it became evident that nobody in the movie was going to suddently burst into song. It was then that I realized I had not read the credits correctly and Green and Comden had written the screenplays! I smiled and remembered when I had knocked on their door, some years ago, at the Vancouver Hotel. John Lekich had interviewed them (perhaps the early 90s) but the publicist had not warned them of my arrival. They were a bit nonplussed but they did pose for me as you can see here.

Before Auntie Mame began we saw the tail end of Gene Kelly's 1957 Invitation to the Dance. I had never seen this film. As a young boy or a young man I would have hated it. But my interest in ballet in the 90s introduced me to ballerinas like Evelyn Hart who not only can dance but can also act. This prepared me to thoroughly enjoy this wordless musical (now that's a concept that I can understand).

I will have to see it in its entirety for another reason. In a few minutes I nailed down the familiar-sounding(extremely cool) jazz pianist who was also in charge of the musical direction. I can safely say that my favourite jazz pianist of all time was and is Andre Previn.


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