The other week, I wrote here about one of the most bizarre screenings I ever went to, an egomaniacal film written and directed by and starring Anthony Newley, Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? As I mentioned, the movie was being screened on my college campus at Northwestern, and what made it so bizarre is that the film had the reputation of being a salacious, Playboy-approved film overflowing with naked women, and while it was, it was also -- at heart -- a self-centered musical. I knew that, but the rest of the audience didn't, and they emptied out in a stampede.
I also mentioned that the score, by Newley and lyricist Herbert Kretzmer (who later wrote the English lyrics for Les Miserables), was quite good. Not that that mattered to the audience. And I noted one of my favorite, a music hall-type song called "On the Boards." I couldn't find it, and didn't expect to at this point. But, being diligent, I kept searching...and actually found it!!
Though the song is different than most of the others in the film, the scene itself may be more indicative of how utterly strange the movie was.
Just for slight perspective, because otherwise you'd be TOTALLY at sea here -- the film is semi-autobiographical, and we see a very young Heironymous (played by Newley in his classic white-face clown makeup) listening adoringly to his beloved uncle sing to him about a life in the theater. (The uncle is played by Bruce Forsythe, a popular British vaudeville star. When the Broadway musical Do-Re-Mi opened in London, Forsythe starred in the role originated by Phil Silvers.) And after the song ends, George Jessel appears in his recurring role of God.
I have to note two things. One is that I like this song, as a song. It's a great-fun music hall number. And the second is that, if memory serves, this is the second song in the movie and is when the mass stampede exodus began in earnest. Given that most of the college audience was there to see naked Playboy Playmates, you will not be surprised.
But hey, I love musical, so I stayed. And lest one roll your eyes at my supposedly ludicrous action -- remember that I got the bonus of also seeing all the beautiful, young naked women that everyone else (and I mean almost literally everyone) missed. On the other hand, while I also got to hear the good songs, I had to sit through the mess of a movie.
But hey, it's a fun song.
6/30/2015 07:42:06 pm
George Jessel played "The Presence" not George Gobel. I think Gobel would have been fun but he would have lightened the pretension too much.
7/2/2015 11:57:16 pm
Dear George -- Ack!! What a typo. Thanks. I've corrected the brain freeze in the piece.
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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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