September in November
I've always loved Jimmy Durante, a legendary performer who probably isn't all that known these days -- I'd guess if younger moviegoers do know him at all it would be as 'Smiler Grogan," the convict who dies in a car crash at the beginning of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and before kicking the bucket (literally) tells a group of strangers where his stolen loot is stashed, setting off the maniacal chase that followers. His best movie, though, was most-likely the classic, The Man Who Came to Dinner, in which he played the character 'Banjo,' who was loosely based on Harpo Marx. He also had one of my all-time favorite movie lines in the popular 1962 movie, Jumbo, based on the Broadway musical by Rodgers & Hart, he was in back in 1935 ( -- it comes where's he's trying to sneak the massive elephant out of the circus. I won't give the joke away since I'll try to track down the scene). However, happily, the Great Schnozzola is probably better-recognized than most comedians who played vaudeville since a lot of his recordings are still used in movies, most notably "Make Someone Happy" at the end of Sleepless in Seattle.
Yes, it's a bit unlikely of a way for him to be remembered, since singing wasn't his strength, what with being a comedian (and a unique one at that), although for his gravelly voice, he had an impactful way of delivering a lyric.
One of the song he was know for was "September Song," written by Kurt Weill and the playwright Maxwell Anderson for the Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday. And happily, we have a video of it from a TV broadcast in 1955.
Durante has a very long career, taking him into color television. So, as a bonus, here he is with the same song in 1972. One of the things about Jimmy Durante is that he seems to have been born looking like an old man. So, he could sing this for a long time. Even in his movies in the 1940s, he doesn't look all that much different than here. (His movie debut was back in 1930 -- and I wouldn't make a bet that he couldn't have sung "September Song" then, as well.)
11/13/2017 07:24:38 pm
I've never actually seen "Billy Rose's Jumbo", but the clip that line has made it into at least a couple MGM documentaries. It is one of my favorite lines too. One thing about it though, I think that Durrante is the only one of his contemporaries who could have pulled it off.
11/15/2017 07:46:36 am
Yes, I think they used a clip of the line in "That's Entertainment," and it wouldn't surprise me if it showed up in other documentaries.
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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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