As you may have noticed, I have long had a fondness for good songs that were cut out of musicals. Also, lesser known musicals. And people singing who you would never expect to hear sing. Having just embedded a song from Vincent Price, I was reminded of my posting a while back about the flop musical Minnie's Boys, the story of the Marx Bros. In the title role of Minnie was the two-time Oscar-winning actresses, Shelley Winters.
By no stretch of the imagination could it be said that Shelley Winters sings well. She has lousy breath control, gulps for air, slurs words, and doesn't quite hit the notes exactly where they're placed. Yet she delivers the songs well. It's musical enough, she's basically on the tune, and has a strong personality.
(I actually worked on a movie with her once, the epic Jury Duty, with Pauly Shore. It had quite a good supporting cast. In addition to Shelley Winters as the mother, there was Tia Carrere, Stanley Tucci and Abe Vigoda. I was only on the film for a couple weeks, doing the publicity, and had been warned by the company what a holy terror Ms. Winters was, so to take care. During my two weeks, she was a pleasure, very friendly and easy to work with. Later on, I was back in touch with the company, and they'd told me I'd lucked out, that my two weeks were like the eye of the hurricane, and days after leaving it became a nightmare. I'm very grateful for my two enjoyable weeks...)
I was trying to decide which of her songs to play here. "They Give Me Love" is quite a nice ballad. "You Don't Have to Do It For Me" is a very funny song about a mother getting her children to do what they don't want to do. But I'm going with "Be Happy" because -- well, it's probably my favorite song in the show (which has a lot of very good songs). She shares the number with The Boys, but most of it is her. And their part is wonderful. My only hesitancy is that it's wistful and bittersweet (which is one of the things I admire about a song about being happy), and the other song I embedded from Minnie's Boys was that, as well, and I don't want to give the impression that this is what the whole score is. It's not. Some is bittersweet. Some is simply nice. And a lot is very funny. This? It's "Be Happy." And ultimately, is. In a wistful way. It's the second to last number in the show, when things aren't going well in vaudeville for the brothers, and they have to make career decisions. (Spoiler alert -- they turn their career around and get into movies...)
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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