If you watched the Kennedy Center Honors last night, there are a couple of tidbits worth passing along about the tribute section for Shirley MacLaine. The segment was an homage to Broadway, a notable though somewhat odd choice considering that she's really only known for two musicals -- a chorus part in The Pajama Game which led to her Hollywood career, and the movie version of Sweet Charity.
They performed songs from those two shows, but also from two others, the songs "Irma La Douce" and "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish." There are reasons for those two numbers, though.
The first is somewhat obvious if you know Shirley MacLaine's career, since she starred opposite Jack Lemmon in the movie, Irma La Douce. However, if you know her career and that movie, you also know that there are no songs in the movies, and there's certainly not that song. However, the movie is based on a stage musical of the same name, and when they made the film, co-writer/director Billy Wilder cut out all the songs, and make the movie as a straight dramatic comedy. But that number performed on Sunday was the title song of the original musical. (Some of the music from the stage show was, at least, included in the film's background.)
The second song is from a stage musical called Seesaw, with a score by Dorothy Fields and Cy Coleman. The connection to Shirley MacLaine is that the show is based on the movie, Two for the Seesaw. And that starred Shirley MacLaine and Robert Mitchum.
So, now you know.
By the way, moving in a different direction, but connection, that musical, Irma La Douce, didn't begin life on Broadway. Previous to that, it played on London's West End -- and before it, it originated in 1956 in Paris, where it was a huge hit and ran for four years. The original French lyrics were written by Alexandre Breffort, with music by Marguerite Monnot.
And that's the reason for bringing this up. Marguerite Monnot was a renowned French composer who's best known for writing many of the great songs performed by Edith Piaf, including most famously "Milord," one of Piaf''s two most renown songs..
(Another especially big song that Monnot wrote for Piaf was what was known in the U.S. as "The Poor People of Paris," which ultimately took on a life of its own and got recorded by many artists, including Maurice Chevalier and Yves Montand)
For those of you who saw Marion Cotillard's Oscar-winning performance as Edith Piaf in the film, La Vie en Rose, I thought you might like to see the real deal.
Here then is Edith Piaf herself with a tremendous performance of that same "Milord" (with music by Marguerite Monnot) on The Ed Sullivan Show. Stick around to the end -- not only does the song build to a roof-raising conclusion, but you'll get to see why Ed Sullivan really means it when he refers to her in his introduction as "the diminutive French star," when he calls her over afterwords. But all that explanation is unnecessary. I suspect you'll want to stick around to the end, period.
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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