On Sinatra's Singing Style

While coming across the following passage in
Broadway Babies Say Goodnight  , I discovered another reason why I like Sinatra's singing style.

The author mentions the blue-eyed one in his discussion of Broadway's lack of melisma:
Broadway lyricists are not melisma men. They like songs to follow the cadences of speech, a note per syllable and long notes for important syllables. This is a good rule: in Sinatra’s almost 60-year recording career, he’s given melismas the bum’s rush, won’t go near ‘em, thinks they’re cheap and phoney. Today, in pop songs, with Barry White and Mariah Carey and a zillion others, we’re awash in melismas: is ‘love’ a more emotional word for being stretched out to ‘lu-u-u-u-u-u-urve’? This is fake soulfulness.
So that's why I get a little annoyed with the hooting, hollering, bellowing and groaning in some ballads. It totally takes you out of the moment and you're just listening to verbal gymnastics.  Sinatra sings a straight forward rendition of "Blue Skies" with the Dorsey band below. It's my favorite cover of the song. Yes, the band belts out a great deal of virtuosity (which I enjoy), but Sinatra's singing is beautifully unembellished.

As much as he largely avoided stretching a syllable too long, Sinatra was not above making up a lyric now and then, especially as he ... Aged? Became famous? Got bored?

In one version of Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek," Sinatra turns this:

Oh, I'd love to climb a mountain
Or to reach the highest peak
But it doesn't thrill me half as much
As dancing cheek to cheek

But it doesn't boot me half as much
as dancing cheek to cheek

It's a little more in the vernacular, a bit more violent, like he just got kicked down by love - which is the opposite of the soaring rhetoric about heights in the previous lyrics. But it's so Sinatra - straight and to the point.

Or what about in "Goody, Goody," a breakup song where the singer is delighted that the ex has gotten the axe from the new lover? Instead of

And I hope you're satisfied
You rascal you

Sinatra sings

And I hope you're satisfied
'Cause you got yours

It's a little coarser, a little meaner, but it works. And it's so Sinatra.

Win a Free Marlene Dietrich Biography! [Now Closed]

Simon & Schuster is offering a free copy of Marlene: Marlene Dietrich, A Personal Biography to readers of Java's Journey! This coming December 27th marks Marlene Dietrich's 110th birthday, so Charlotte Chandler's biography of the star arrives with time to spare.

Born Maria Magdalene Dietrich in Schoneberg, Germany, the husky-voiced, enigmatic film star has been the subject of definitive biographies, and memoirs by people very close to her.  Yet, there is still plenty of space for Ms. Chandler's contribution to the Dietrich canon, according to Kevin Thomas of The LA Times. Thomas notes that, "It hardly seems possible that there could be room for yet another important biography on so iconic a star as Marlene Dietrich.... [yet]....Chandler's slender but revealing volume ... complement[s] previous Dietrich biographies."

Pick up an early Christmas present or indulge yourself with a summer read by entering to win this book.

How To Enter This Contest
  • Send an email to java-rush@hotmail.com with "MARLENE" in the subject line.
  • Include a name and a mailing address.
Deadline is June 1, 2011 at 11:59pm EDT. The winner will be chosen by random drawing and will be notified by email.

Book Details:
  • Published in March 2011
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Hardcover
  • 320 pages
  • Retail value: $26.00
While You're Waiting For The Verdict...
Check out some tidbits about my favorite Marlene Dietrich film, Witness For The Prosecution (1958).
  • Life Magazine published a blurb about Witness for the Prosecution on page 79 of their issue from Jan 13, 1958. It includes a full page photo of Dietrich and her famous limbs. Click here to read it. 
  • Turner Classic Movies has in-depth history of Witness for the Prosecution. It's one of their Essentials. According to TCM,  "Christine Vole was the only role [Dietrich] ever felt emotionally connected to because 'she's not only brave, but she loves her man unconditionally.'"

Judy Garland v. Deanna Durbin - Two Weddings, Same Article [Update: John Fricke Dubs This Blog Post "Bizarre"]

In the Judy Garland v. Deanna Durbin battle, Durbin seems to win in the following newspaper clipping. The big deal is that film star Durbin has married again and Judy is about to do the same.

Does it seem that Judy is treated like an also-ran in this article?

You really cannot claim any bias on the writer's part, since he/she treats both events with scornful detachment. He lumps the two together, calls the whole shebang " Hollywood's latest romantic box score," then counts up the ex-husbands caught in their wake. The reporter is totally not a fan, since - unlike most of the other papers - not one line is wasted on what colors Durbin wore to her 2nd wedding - fans would eat it up!


For your perusal, I give you the San Jose Evening News, June 14, 1945. "Durbin Weds Producer; Judy Marries Tomorrow." [Who is this Tomorrow fellow Judy's marrying? Minnelli might get mad. (rim shot)]

Update July 16, 2012:
Judy Garland biographer, John Fricke, has read this blog post and says in the Judy Garland Message Board the following about Java's Journey in general and this post in particular :

Many thanks for the historical clipping, Willow -- not to mention the hysterical blog that shared it. That's one of the most bizarre "interpretative" postings I've yet come across where Judy is concerned -- and given fandom at large, that's saying something :)

To quote my father: What a hot dog!

Or, if one prefers a less personal, more universal (not to say Warner Bros.; badda-bing!) approach:

To quote Bugs Bunny: What a maroon!


Again, the clipping was great fun; thank you!

1981 Photo of Deanna Durbin

A post-1940s photo of reclusive megastar Deanna Durbin is rare. I'd seen the famous early '80s photo that she'd sent to Life Magazine to refute the rumor that she was plump, but it was published in grainy black and white and not sharp enough.

That's why I nearly leaped out of my seat when I found this:

This photo was taken in Paris in 1981 by her husband, Charles David (director of Lady On A Train). It was later given to Professor William Everson of NYU Cinema Studies

The lady is stunning and stylish at sixty, of course. But what eye-popping color! This must be what audiences felt like when they saw her first technicolor movie.  Wow!

CMBA Movies of 1939 Blogathon -- Never Say Die

While John Wayne was learning to walk like a girl, while Jimmy Stewart prepared for his Oscar-nominated faint, and while Clark Gable was too angry to give a (cough),  Bob Hope and Martha Raye were gearing up for the premiere of another comedy together - Never Say Die.

Paramount was squeezing every ounce of profit out of this popular duo by putting them together in four movies in less than two years. It is a fruit-flavored licorice of a movie - not substantive, but it’s great to have around.

Hope is a wealthy hypochondriac who is vacationing at a nondescript health spa called Bad Gasswasser.

Here the spring water is as natural as this guy can manufacture it.

Right away, the plot shows up in the form of Gale Sondergaard as Mrs. Marco, a Roadster-driving, money-hungry woman  who is after Hope‘s millions.

We know that she’s a villain because she has a fabulous wardrobe and  enjoys telling cryptic stories about the deaths of her husbands.
This woman is creepy and dangerous! Even the flower brooch on her dress is spiky! I like her already.
 Hope tries to think of a way out of marrying the intemperate pistol champion.

  Meanwhile, a chemist mixes up his files which leads to Hope to think he will die within thirty days.

Since he's a dead man walking anyway, Hope agrees to marry the fortune-hunter. Mrs. Marco promptly hires a minister. I include this screenshot just to see her outfit.
 That’s what my wardrobe needs - a cupid’s arrow brooch and Cookie Monster oven mitts! But seriously, Ms. Sondergaard wears these ridiculous accessories with confidence. Yea for her!

 In a startling what-were-they-thinking moment, our leading lady, Martha Raye, is introduced wearing puffed sleeves and a curlicue collar. Her family has just fallen into money, so she went out and bought the tackiest dress that she can find. [Her dad’s suit looks good, though.] In the battle of outfits so far, it’s Raye 0, Sondergaard 2.
Not wanting to leave his assets to the black widow,  Hope decides to marry a random woman that he meets at a wet t-shirt contest - Martha.

Martha's men
Martha's dad is forcing her to marry a Prince (Alan Mowbray) when she really loves truck driver Henry Munch (Andy Devine).  Naturally,  she’s totally open to marrying Hope - a complete stranger who claims he’s going to die and leave her and Henry all his money. A win-win-win situation!

In a move that must have had the original audience a little shocked, our leads go back to his hotel room to dry off and talk strategy. Here Martha is in men’s pajamas. It’s not a great outfit, but it suits her no nonsense sensibilities better than the fluttery, over-layered dress.  Ms. Raye’s wardrobe moves up a half point.

The movie's best quip is given to the Prince, who is deeply in arrears,

“Gentlemen, you all know Kretsky. There he stands- an elegant picture of his mission. The bulge in his right pocket, my unpaid notes. In his left pocket, my bad checks. The hollow in the middle is Kretsky.”

Prince and Mrs. Marco prepare themselves for their respective matrimonial services, but Hope and Raye beat them to the altar disguised as servants.

I will strangle him with my pearls!
The married couple dashes off for a twenty-nine day honeymoon in the Paramount Backlot Alps. Discovering that they’ve been jilted, the His Haughtiness and Mrs. MurderPants [In high heels and pearls, so the fashion score is Raye 0, Sondergaard 3] seek revenge.  
Henry shows up to complicate the plot and chaperone the newlyweds. Marriage seems to agree with Martha since she’s finally wearing something flattering. Raye 1, Sondergaard 3.

The three take a walk in the woods, and Martha wears...What is this outfit? No! Just... no! I‘m taking Raye’s point and giving it to Mrs. Manslaughter. Raye 0, Sondergaard 4.

That night, hopped up on dairy products from a cheese festival,  Martha sings an upbeat, polka love song to Hope.  This makes Hope hot to trot and Henry just jealous. She’s wearing a lovely dropped-waist, floor-length gown. That deserves some points.

And, what’s this? She’s even brought her own heart-shaped brooch to the party, wearing it, not on her shoulder, but saucily at her waist! Take that, Sondergaard!  That totally cancels out the puffed sleeves and fluffy epaulets.  Raye 4, Sondergaard 4.
All the members of our love triangle (or love pentagon) finally meet up in one room to usher in the third act. Hope, still believing he’ll die soon, promises to take care of everyone’s financial problems in his will. Win-win-win-win-win!

In return, Mrs. Marco (in gorgeous widow‘s weeds) promises to put flowers on his grave every  year.  “She probably gets  them wholesale, ”Martha quips.
Martha’s sleepwear has had a serious upgrade, so  the score is Raye 5, Sondergaard 5.

The perpetual widow then makes a play for the soon-to-be-wealthy-and-still-unattached Henry.

Hope and Raye decide they enjoy each others’ company, which is sweet. Raye is still concealing flotation devices on her neck, which is not so sweet.
Hope discovers he’s not really going to die so the Prince challenges our leading man to a duel to the death (which Hope accepts because the movie needs a fun finale.)

Taking a cue from her nemesis, Martha wears a fabulous set of widow’s weeds to the duel [Raye 6, Sondergaard 5].

She has the pistols marked and tells Hope, 
“There's a cross on the muzzle of the pistol with the bullet and a nick on the handle of the pistol with the blank. ” 
Prince forks over a few bucks to the gun handler for the same information and gets to the gun with the bullet.
Meanwhile, in a whirlwind of lilies and leopard [Raye 6, Sondergaard 6], Mrs. Marco shows up engaged to her new prey, Henry.  In a moment that defies logic, the gold-digging pistol champion shoots the gun out of the Prince’s hand, and cuts off her own inheritance as the soon-to-be-widowed Mrs. Munch, since Henry will now have nothing, as long as Hope remains alive.


Coming Soon! CMBA Blogathon: Classic Movies of 1939

Well, it's almost here, folks. Sunday May 15, 2011 marks the first day of a three-day blogathon produced by Page and Becky and sponsored by the Classic Movie Blog Association. We're concentrating on movies from (arguably) the most prolific year for Hollywood classics - 1939.

I'm reviewing Never Say Die starring Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Andy Devine, Gale Sondergaard... it's one of those ensemble comedy pieces that Paramount put out in the '30s. My review is slated for the third day of the blogathon.

You'll find the entire list of movies to be reviewed at the CMBA blog.

See you there.

- Java

Disney's Topiaries

This is the cutest thing. The Walt Disney empire is famous for its innovative movies and its artistry. This time the creativity is even in the shrubbery. The Main Street Gazette has submitted a photo safari today of the topiaries at Epcot Center, all of which have something to do with Disney's classic animated films, including Peter Pan (1953).
Peter Pan

Tink goes brunette. Love that dress!

There are more photos at the Main Street Gazette Blog.

If this is too much Disney-fied sweetness and light, check out this satire of the song "A Whole New World."


Helping relatives move. Eating sandwiches while sitting on folding chairs. Reminded of Lauren Bacall in Millionaire playing solitaire on a card table after she's sold all her furniture. [William Powell is totally wasted in the film. Not inebriated; I mean underused.] Of course, Bacall is wearing couture in her empty apartment and I'm... well, not.

So this post is simply an excuse to stare at Bogie's wife, since I'm in a Bacall mood.
Glamorous actress in empty room

On the set of Millionaire

The eyes have it.

Applause - In which Bacall takes on Bette Davis' role as Margo Channing set to music.

One of my favorites of her costumes. This is her intro outfit in Murder On The Orient Express

Relaxing while gorgeous
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