Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A NEW Sound of Music ....

THE SOUND OF MUSIC was one musical I never wanted to see and I successfully avoided it until New Year's Day 1996 when I had to give in and watch it with my then ill partner (he died 2 weeks later) and his mother ..... and ok, I enjoyed it, but it is not my favourite or even favourite Oscar & Hammerstein musical (that would be SOUTH PACIFIC). Far too saccharine - I relished Pauline Kael's famous review at the time, where she muses "Wasn't there one little Von Trapp who did not want to sing on cue with the others or who threw up before having to go on stage?" - or words to that effect; or as "Films and Filming" said: "THE SOUND OF MUSIC is 179 minutes, and the first minute is rather good".  Eleanor Parker was marvellous as the Baroness, she could do a lot with very little.

I also saw the London Palladium production some years ago which starred television discovery Connie Fisher, who was an ideal Maria too. The O&H show was first staged in 1959 with Mary Martin. The 1965 film air again here also on new Year's Day. But now our ITV commercial channel has aired a new production, done 'live' and as my current partner (of 13 years) also loves the show and has done the whole Salzburg thing, I had to sit down and watch it again, and actually liked it a lot, it may be the best production yet. Obviously it could not be opened out like the Robert Wise film with location shooting, but it was nicely done and included the songs, mainly for the Baroness, which were not included in the film. 
Kara Tointon was an ideal Maria - she is a television actress here (EASTENDERS)  and won a series of STRICTLY COME DANCING so is well versed in show business and is quite charming, particularly as her Maria matures. The children were all ok, TV regulars Alexander Armstrong was Max, Mel from the BAKE-OFF was the housekeeper, Katherine Kelly (CORONATION STREET, MR SELFRIDGE) as the Baroness, but Julian Ovendon seemed a tad too young for Von Trapp, though he too matures into the role - he sings at the Proms, was in FOYLES'S WAR and one of Lady Mary's suitors in DOWNTON ABBEY (final episode screens here on Christmas Day - there will be a report) and he stripped for that scene in that revival of MY NIGHT WITH REG at the Donmar, which we saw last year. Maria Friedman is a great mother superior at the convent and sings a convincing "Climb Every Mountain".  So in all, we quite liked it and it adds a new dimension to the well-known show. With David Bamber and Paul Copley. Directed by Mel's sister Coky Giedroyc and Richard Valentine. It is due to be repeated soon.

Getting back to SOUTH PACIFIC, I was wondering why it did not do more for Mitzi Gaynor - its really her last film of note, after that came that dreadful SURPRISE PACKAGE (reviewed a while back, Stanley Donen label), then a forgettable David Niven comedy and her final screen credit in 1963 in a long-forgotten comedy with Kirk Douglas. 
Mitz was a talented hoofer and comedienne who arrived just as musicals were going out of fashion, but she scores in the 1954 THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS (above, relaxing with Marilyn and Ethel), and ANYTHING GOES and she was one of the LES GIRLS with Kay Kendall and Taina Elg in Gene Kelly's dance troupe for Cukor in 1957, one of our favourites here, see label - and then her Nellie Forbush in SOUTH PACIFIC, where she seems ideal - I loved the movie as a kid and it was one of the first soundtrack albums I got. I would not have bought the more well known Doris Day in the role. Mitzi then had a good television career with all her musical specials and, like Debbie Reynolds, is still a game gal now.  
Below: those guys on the island, including muscle boy Ed Fury - ideal rainy day viewing.


  1. Michael! "South Pacific" was also a childhood obsession of mine. I could not get enough of it. It may be the first film with which I became obsessed. But, these days, I feel like a traitor, as I find it almost unwatchable, largely because of the acting of the three leads (apologies to Mitzi). Still, I love it, in spite of myself. Frankly, I always thought that Yves Montand would have been the ideal Emile (he was French, he could sing and he was slightly dangerous) and often hoped it would be remade with him, perhaps with Natalie Wood as Nellie. But they both died and it never happened. A person can dream, right?

  2. Montand would have indeed been fantastic and ideal, but it seems Hollywood did not discover him until 1960 and LETS MAKE LOVE. The soundtrack to SOUTH PACIFIC was one of the first albums I bought when an early teen - it and WEST SIDE STORY and the Broadway album of MY FAIR LADY. They were played a lot!

  3. I just happened to watch "White Christmas" and "There's No Business..." on Netflix streaming in the last week. Both were big hits around the same time, with songs by Irving Berlin. I was struck by how similar Vera-Ellen and Mitzi Gaynor looked. And how both their careers in film petered out pretty quickly, despite appearing in these crowd-pleasers...

    I really think the passing of musicals hurt their and other stars of this genre careers by the late '50s. The musicals of the '60s all seemed to be Broadway roadshows brought to the screen with superstar names attached...

  4. I love musicals as you know and maybe I might even go and see THE SOUND OF MUSIC on the stage at some point but I don't think I could have sat through that television production. I know the critics hated the film of SOUTH PACIFIC but I rather liked it, not that I would have called it one of the great film musicals. Montand would, indeed, have been a good Emile though his voice wasn't really strong enough for the big ballads.

  5. I seem to remember reading that Mitzi Gaynor starred in a long-running Las Vegas revue not long after "South Pacific" opened. It's success probably kept her from accepting some movie offers (which likely weren't that plentiful, with musicals going out of fashion at the time).