Saturday, February 15, 2014

Shameless Saturday Camp Explosion: Mr. Music

What Camp taste responds to is "instant character"...
- Susan Sontag, "Notes on Camp"

Oh, Just about anybody can mark the birthday of the great Mr. Harold Arlen with Judy singing "The Man that Got Away" or Barbra blowing "A Sleepin' Bee" out of the water...

...But hereabouts we like to think we take the road less traveled.  Therefore, I thought we'd celebrate the auspicious occasion (he would have been 109 today) with a rather less legendary number.  This little wartime pleaser is from 1943's Star Spangled Rhythm, and if it isn't quite "Come Rain or Come Shine," it provides a nice enough showcase for those Paramount pretties Misses Goddard, Lamour,* and Lake (not to mention their alter egos, Messrs. Arthur Treacher, Walter Catlett, and Sterling Holloway).

Mr. Arlen's music - enriched by the lyrics of Harburg, Mercer, Ted Koehler, and other greats - runs as wide a range of emotional impact as can be conveyed by popular music.  His up-tempo numbers - the likes of "Get Happy" and "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" - are matchlessly ebullient, while his introspective ones... well, get out the Kleenex, kids, when the right singer takes on "My Shining Hour" or "One for My Baby."  More than anything, something in his melodic line, happy or sad, limns sheer longing better than that, I think, of any other composer in the Great American Songbook - that mysterious little tug that sets apart songs like "Paper Moon" and that sends some - "Over the Rainbow" chief among them - right into immortality.

Here, though, he's more in the territory occupied by "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," and a good thing, too - I don't think I could bear the idea of Arthur Treacher trying out a torch number...

* Who may just have become our first-ever SSCE two-in-a-rower.  Couldn't have happened to a nicer girl.


  1. Simply faboo, darling! And Veronica Lake is a revelation - who knew the lady had a comedic bone in her uber-glamorous body? Jx

    PS Little known fact - Miss Lake's long-forgotten career was revived briefly thanks to none other than Liza Minnelli...

  2. That has to be the oddest big finale ever.