The "Damn Yankees" You Never Saw
In 1967, a time when they were still occasionally doing musicals on television, a very strange -- but very good -- production was done of Damn Yankees. What made it strange was the sets and editing were almost surrealistic. Most of everything was simply painted, almost cartoon-like, no doubt because it was significantly cheaper.
What made it wonderful was the cast. Phil Silvers starred as Mr. Applegate, the Devil, about as good a piece of casting as you could imagine. Lee Remick played Lola -- and though she didn't come close to the dancing of Gwen Verdon, she's a wonderful actress, a respectably good singer and...well, stunningly gorgeous, something that helps a lot of the role of a temptress. As young Joe Hardy, the role was played by Jerry Lanning, not well-known today, but he had just finished starring on Broadway in Mame as the grown-up Patrick. But for me, best of all, is that in the role of the old Joe's wife was none other than Fran Allison -- the "Fran" part of the legendary (and my all-time fave) Kukla, Fran & Ollie. It was probably the first, if not the only time most people ever saw her act without puppets. And my recollection -- and as these clips show -- she was charming and very good.
As for the clips, I have three of them here, about 20 minutes of the show. The quality is washed out, but it's a joy to have them. This first is a 10-minute montage that begins with young Joe returning to his house and trying to rent a room from the woman who doesn't know that he's really her husband made younger by the Devil to grant his wish to play baseball and beat those damn Yankees. It concludes with the final scene from the show.
I'm leaving these next two clips up -- even though they're not available at the moment, in hopes that they return. However, if you scroll to the bottom, I'll add another good video (also from the production) to replace them.
This next clip shows why Lee Remick, though no Gwen Verdon, was terrific in the role and an inspired choice, as she explains to Mr. Applegate, the Devil, that she'll easily be able to seduce Joe, since all it takes is "A Little Brains, A Little Talent."
Finally, this last clip is Lee Remick and Jerry Lanning accepting the fate of having sold their souls, and sing about it in, "Two Lost Souls."
Here's the bonus video that is newly-available, another one with Lee Remick, and probably one of the more famous songs from the show, "Whatever Lola Wants." She's wearing a black wig here, in her attempt to seduce Joe, but my recollection is that later in the production she's back to her blonde hair. That said, I have no idea what this freeze frame below is, because it certainly isn't Lee Remick.
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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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