Over time, I've posted a few offbeat and lesser-known songs by Lionel Bart, best known of course for writing the musical Oliver! This requires a bit of a background.
Back in 1973, I saw that a new movie was opening at the Glencoe Theater, when I was back home outside Chicago. It was called The Optimists and struck my interests. Even if it isn't up everyone's alley, it certainly should be clear why one would be intrigued by it. (And me, especially.) The film starred Peter Sellers and was somewhat of a musical, with a score by the creator of Oliver!, Lionel Bart. It wasn't a traditional musical, but was about a down on his luck street musicain -- played by Sellers -- who is befriended by a couple of young kids, and the songs are interwoven within that structure. But yes, it was a Lionel Bart musical with Peter Sellers. Hard for me to pass that up.
I remember going to a matinee performance, and the theater wasn't very crowded. Maybe a dozen or so people. I enjoyed it well-enough. I don't have any specific memories of the film, and I do know it wasn't great, but my recollection is that it was charming with a slightly wistful side that ultimately was fairly sweet. And the songs, while not memorable, were fun -- particularly seeing Peter Sellers singing them,
What I also remember is that throughout the film, I saw a few people walking back up the aisle and leaving. Not their cup of tea, clearly. But I thought it was fine enough. A quirky little cockney charmer. And when the lights came up at the end...I was the only person left in the theater. Not a soul was left, other than me. I suspect that theater staff was waiting for me to leave so they could clean the place out already.
It really was not bad. It wasn't wonderful, but definitely fun enough. In fact, on iMDB it has 7.1 stars. (It was a bit hard to find. For some reason, Lionel Bart isn't listed in the credits, so you can't find it that way. And the title is listed as The Optimists of Nine Elms. Perhaps that was the name in England, though it definitely wasn't here, nor was it on the soundtrack album, which I have.
You can even see that it has Three Stars from Leonard Maltin which, though that doesn't prove anything, at least supports that I'm not alone in enjoying it well enough.
Anyway, for those of you who might be intrigued in hearing Peter Sellers sing -- not only sing, but a song written by Lionel Bart, here 'tis. The song sort of fades out as something happens in the scene before he can go into the second verse, but you nonetheless get what is basically a "full performance," even if a short one. And I feel confident that I won't be alone watching when it's over...
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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