Naught, Bawdy, Gaudy

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Charles did finally manage to go long enough without nausea and sleepless incoherence to make it back home.

Tonight we watched a couple of my favorite old movies.

Long before I discovered that I could tolerate much less enjoy an old musical I liked Busby Berkeley. 42nd Street is lollipops and tinsel to be sure but superbly, joyously such. The score Harry Warren and Al Dubin is a big chunk of the pleasure. I think they are the most neglected great popular composers of the 30s. There isn’t an Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Songs of Warren and Dubin. Mostly because they wrote for the movies, a very low class medium at the time. For many long decades the Broadway musical was at the top of the pop music totem pole. Berlin, Gershwin and Porter songs deserve the steadily reinterpretation they received but I’d love to have Sarah Vaughan’s and Billy Eckstein’s renditions of Hooray for Hollywood and We’re in the Money. At least since they were both Warner properties we get Bugs Bunny.

Pretty women were Berkeley’s favorite props. Folks who think only in terms of the Shangri Las and the Shirells probably won’t agree but his musicals give us the earliest instance of the lovely ear candy of the girl group sound.

Curly haired choirboy crooner Dick Powell would eventually appear in at least one Quentin Tarantino movie as a bald, fat tough guy.

Jack Hill isn’t nearly as well known as Ed Wood or Herschel Gordon Lewis, possibly because he could be technically competent when the urge hit him. His Spider Baby is a hilarious story of the odd meeting the ordinary. Equally parts of nutty deadpan humor (picture the Addams family without and urge to fit in) and gloomy fatalism it is a one of a kind movie. Go rent it now. Then you can play Spider and look for fat juicy bugs at work and in your neighborhood.

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Thanks,
Richard

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