Lerner and Low
The video of Stanley Donen generated a bit of admiring comment, here and elsewhere. It also brought about a couple of interesting thoughts from one reader, Douglass Abramson.
Editing down his comments drastically, he said that, " My first reaction when I saw it live was that he still danced pretty good for a man his age and that it was remarkable that he was willing and eager to perform on live TV." And also, "I did have a thought about the perceived attitude behind Lerner's comments [about how he claims Donen ruined Frederick Lowe's music in the movie musical The Little Prince.] Lerner started out when Broadway and the West End was king and everything else fell somewhere between second rate and embarrassing....His career was "purer". As far as he was concerned, The Little Prince was butchered by someone who could "only" work in Hollywood. If he was any good, why wasn't he working on Broadway? I think that its all a bunch of baloney, but it does fit with the comments and the attitudes of the East Coast arts community regarding any entertainments that weren't New York based."
I had a similar reaction to Stanley Donen singing and dancing when he got his award -- but another thought occurred to me, as well. It was a way of saying to his Industry, "Folks, I'm not dead yet, y'know." Whether that was conscious or subconscious -- or a thought at all -- I don't know. But what I do know is that only two years later, he was hired to direct the TV movie, Love Letters starring Laura Linney and Steven Webber, Donan's first film in 15 years.
Also, much as I think Douglass makes very good and valid points about the Broadway mindset versus Hollywood, and while it certainly could be at play here, I'm not so sure. After all, he had very good luck with Hollywood's treatment of many of his stage works. George Cukor was a Hollywood-only guy, and My Fair Lady won the Oscar for Best Picture. Not a word of complaint for Lerner over that. And same with Vincente Minelli and Gigi, also winning the Oscar for Best Picture without complaint.
So, I'm just not sure what the problem was. It could have been a personality conflict. It could have even been that Stanley Donen was wrong in his decisions and mucked up the music. The score to The Little Prince is very mediocre and doesn't come across as especially good Frederick Lowe. Is it because Lowe shouldn't have come out of retirement -- was the music as wonderful as Lowe says, and it did get screwed up. For my taste, there's only one song in it that I particularly like, "Over and Over," sung by Gene Wilder with Steven Warner as the Little Prince.
Maybe, too, even if Lerner was the one wrong, he felt bitter at losing on-set arguments over what was the last full, original score by his long-time partner.
No idea about all this. But I don't think Broadway vs. Hollywood is what caused the rift. It might have ultimately exacerbated the problem once it existed, but I wouldn't put this past actual creative differences. And wonderful as Stanley Donen was -- he could have been wrong. Or not.
By while pondering that almost-answerable, I just figure it's best to enjoy that song, "Closer and Closer." Here it is, with Gene Wilder playing a human-version of a 'Fox,' explaining to the Little Prince about what it means to try and tame a wild creature.
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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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