Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Boston Beguine

I'm sorry I haven't been posting much lately (particularly if rants about music replacement in television shows don't count as real posts). Hopefully I'll be able to get a longer post up soon, but in the meantime, here's something entertaining: Alice Ghostley sings "The Boston Beguine" in the film version of New Faces of 1952 (retitled New Faces because it wasn't 1952 any more).

This revue was the most successful of producer Leonard Sillman's series of Broadway revues showcasing young writing and performing talent, and many of the performers hit it big (Eartha Kitt, Paul Lynde, Robert "Hogan's Heroes" Clary and Carol Lawrence). The songs were more cabaret-style songs than Broadway; most of them were written by songwriter-performers (Arthur Siegel, June Carroll, Ronny Graham) and they had an intimate, one-on-one feeling, maybe a little too much so for Broadway, which could explain why these songwriters didn't become big successes in Broadway book shows. On the other hand, "Boston Beguine" is also a cabaret-type song -- a coyly clever parody number -- and its composer-lyricist, Sheldon Harnick, did become a big success: working as a lyricist only, he was teamed with composer Jerry Bock and they did Fiddler On the Roof and the rest. The version in the film is slightly truncated, cutting a passage that quotes Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" (maybe they would have had to pay to use it?).

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