One of my all-time favorite Cary Grant moments, courtesy of the 1947 classic The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple (all grown up), Harry Davenport and Ray Collins star. Sidney Sheldon won the Oscar for his original screenplay (which has been adapted for stage by F. Andrew Leslie and is licensed by Dramatists Play Service). Enjoy:
It took me until I was in high school to learn that the Gershwins had written a classic song with this very title, but for me whenever I hear those three words, I always think of The King and I. My introduction to the piece came in early 1995 when I saw the Oscar-winning film adaptation. Up until that point I had no idea Rodgers and Hammerstein did anything other than The Sound of Musicand South Pacific. But as a result of this discovery, I started to take special notice of Rodgers & Hammerstein; that same year The Sound of Moviesdocumentary aired on A&E and read Ethan Mordden’s comprehensive coffee table book Rodgers & Hammersteinad nauseam. It could be argued that that was the creation of this encyclopedic monster known as me.
Looking back, I was staying with a friend for a weekend off school, and our classmate and friend lived next door to him and brought the film with her. She had picked it up, and with little resistance we decided we’d watch too. There we were, three 12 year olds watching The King and I in my friend’s living room. (Once an old soul, always an old soul…)
It was my introduction to Deborah Kerr. I was watching the film and thought, “Who is this gorgeous redhead and how have I never heard of her before?” Checking out the box, I made special note of her name and proceeded to watch as many of her films as possible. I had already seen Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments, and found I liked him much better here. Little did I realize at this time just how iconic his performance was. (Brynner played the role 4, 525 times; he appeared as the King onstage, onscreen and in a short-lived TV series. He won two Tonys and an Oscar for his performance). I enjoyed the score, the story and impressive CinemaScope and Deluxe color (such vibrant art direction, costumes and cinematography, it was such a feast for the eyes). There was Rita Moreno as a doomed Burmese “present” and the little kid from All Mine to Give (Rex Thompson) as Anna’s son.
When the film aired on the Family Channel, I popped in a cassette and wore that out. The TV print was lackluster; color was unimpressive and a few shots had been snipped out for whatever reason. But it was still The King and I. I upgraded to the Rodgers and Hammerstein collection VHS and purchased the soundtrack LP (and have since upgraded to the comprehensive 2-disc DVD and the special edition CD). I have ten recordings of the score, but this particular one though not the most complete, always remains my sentimental favorite.
The film is easily the best of all Rodgers and Hammerstein stage to screen adaptations, with an explicit attention to capturing the magic of the stage show. Though I miss the soliloquy “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” and “I Have Dreamed,” the cinematic treatment is resplendent. Kerr, who had no musical experience, worked diligently with the young singer who was going to dub her voice. That person was Marni Nixon, who would go onto a successful career in Hollywood voicing many soprano heroines. The combination of Kerr and Nixon is the best vocal dubbing of any screen actress on film; so successful they were reunited a year later on An Affair to Remember.
But it was “Shall We Dance?” where I really became enraptured. We were all so blown away that one of us reached for the remote as soon as the film was over and watched the musical number over and over again. Throughout the plot Anna and the King have been at odds with one another, with their West vs. East culture clash. However, in Hammerstein’s treatment of the story (based on a heavily fictionalized myth of Anna Leonowens) there is a great deal of chemistry between the pair, which culminates in this particular moment. The back and forth, and the success of their mission to impress the British emissary (and thus save Siam from becoming a protectorate of the Empire) comes to a head as they discuss the idea of a man dancing with a woman (who is not her husband).
In a musical where the two main characters never share anything explicitly romantic, the simple act of dancing a polka with one another becomes, in effect, a consummation of their unspoken feelings for one another. The King becomes playful and flirtatious, they reach a sort of understanding between the two and never is that attraction stronger than the moment when he places his hand on her waist to literally sweep her off her feet. Whenever I’ve seen this live in performance, it has never failed to receive applause. (I used to sell the number to people by saying, “It’s the sex.”) Take unspoken emotions, add subtext, music and dance, and you transcend all.
When I was in college, I was a TA for the American Musical Theatre course for several years. One of the things I enjoyed was when the professor allowed me to either guest lecture in his stead, or to choose various clips for discussion. I was given the choice of eleven o’clock numbers, and I made sure to include this among the three clips (the other two were Bernadette’s “Rose’s Turn” and the 1992 Guys and Dolls “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat”). I still recall that Shall We Dance?” seemed to generate the most responses by the students in the classroom. And if I ever teach a musical theatre class again, you can bet that I’m going to include this clip.
In the meanwhile, here’s “Shall We Dance?”
Leave it to Sesame Street and their brilliant writers to come up with this gem. While perusing the Youtube for the clip above, I came across this one. Here’s Monsterpiece Theater and host Alistair Cookie presenting The King and I, starring Grover:
Another year has gone by, and I have kept up my list of films watched in their entirety for the calendar year. Same premise, same Moleskine. No TV movies or miniseries are included. The only difference from last year’s list is that I’ve marked the films which I’ve never seen before with an asterisk.
Love Actually (2003) 1/1 Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) 1/4 *Death at a Funeral (2007) 1/6 *The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965) 1/7 *Burn After Reading (2008) 1/8 His Girl Friday (1940) 1/9 *Back to Bataan (1945) 1/10 Topkapi (1964) 1/19 The Philadelphia Story (1940) 1/21 *Morning Glory (1934) 1/21 The Little Foxes (1941) 1/24 Network (1976) 1/26 Good News (1947) 1/27 *Doubt (2008) 1/28 Vertigo (1958) 1/30 *The Big Sleep (1946) 1/31 The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) 1/31 The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) 2/1 101 Dalmatians (1961) 2/2 Once (2007) 2/2 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) 2/2 *The Big Chill (1983) 2/2 Tootsie (1982) 2/2 *Twelve O’Clock High (1949) 2/3 *The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) 2/5 *Be Kind, Rewind (2008) 2/5 *Red River (1948) 2/5 *Radio Days (1987) 2/6 Guarding Tess (1994) 2/7 *Lars and the Real Girl (2007) 2/8 *Only Angels Have Wings (1939) 2/9 *Made for Each Other (1939) 2/10 My Fair Lady (1964) 2/11 *Five Easy Pieces (1970) 2/13 Barefoot in the Park (1967) 2/15 *Darling (1965) 2/16 *Slumdog Millionaire (2008) 2/17 *Ghost Town (2008) 2/23 *Julius Caesar (1953) 2/24 *The Public Enemy (1931) 3/6 *Watchmen (2009) 3/7 Howards End (1992) 3/13 *Milk (2008) 3/21 *Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) 3/22 *Synecdoche, New York (2008) 3/23 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) 3/25 Pinocchio (1940) 3/31 East of Eden (1955) 4/2 Some Like it Hot (1959) 4/5 So Proudly We Hail (1943) 4/5 Paper Moon (1973) 4/6 Never on Sunday (1960) 4/9 Key Largo (1948) 4/10 *The Actress (1953) 4/11 The Rose Tattoo (1955) 4/13 *Zelig (1983) 4/13 Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) 4/15 The Trouble with Angels (1955) 4/18 Anatomy of a Murder (1959) 4/18 The Rainmaker (1956) 4/20 Stalag 17 (1953) 4/26 North to Alaska (1960) 4/27 The Goonies (1985) 5/3 *Last Chance Harvey (2008) 5/8 Inherit the Wind (1960) 5/11 *Star Trek (2009) 5/11 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) 6/1 State Fair (1945) 6/1 The Quiet Man (1952) 6/2 *The Hangover (2009) 6/5 The Godfather (1972) 6/13 Splendor in the Grass (1961) 6/22 *Hairspray (2007) 6/23 Last Chance Harvey (2008) 6/23 *You Can Count on Me (2000) 6/25 Amadeus (1984) 6/26 It Happened One Night (1934) 6/27 Stagecoach (1939) 6/28 Saboteur (1942) 6/30 *Rooster Cogburn (1975) 7/1 *The Lost Patrol (1934) 7/2 The Wild Bunch (1969) 7/3 Roman Holiday (1953) 7/4 *Mary, Queen of Scots (1971) 7/5 Clue (1985) 7/6 Animal House (1978) 7/10 *Untamed Heart (1993) 7/11 Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) 7/12 *Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) 7/13 *Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) 7/15 A Night at the Opera (1935) 7/16 I Confess (1953) 7/17 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) 7/17 *The Iron Giant (1999) 7/19 Notorious (1946) 7/20 The Court Jester (1956) 7/24 *The Baxter (2005) 7/29 *Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1960) 7/30 Doctor Zhivago (1965) 7/30 The Parent Trap (1961) 7/30 *The Paper Chase (1973) 7/31 *Monster House (2006) 7/31 Imitation of Life (1959) 7/31 Oklahoma! (1955) 7/31 *Walk Hard (2007) 8/2 *Little Nellie Kelly (1940) 8/6 *For Me and My Gal (1942) 8/6 *In the Good Old Summertime (1949) 8/6 *The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963) 8/7 The Awful Truth (1937) 8/10 *Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) 8/16 *Chocolat (2000) 8/28 *Troll 2 (1990) 8/30 *The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) 8/30 *Gran Torino (2008) 8/30 *Babette’s Feast (1987) 9/5 The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) 9/7 Sweeney Todd (2007) 9/11 Where Eagles Dare (1968) 9/12 How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1967) 9/13 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) 9/18 *Bad Little Angel (1939) 9/21 *A Perfect Couple (1979) 9/25 The Grass is Greener (1960) 9/26 *Lovers and Other Strangers (1970) 10/8 Halloween (1978) 10/31 Big Trouble in Little China (1986) 11/5 *Sunrise at Campobello (1960) 11/8 *Tell It to the Judge (1949) 11/15 Reds (1981) 11/17 *Li’l Abner (1959) 11/26 Elf (2003) 11/30 *Susan Slept Here (1954) 12/11 *Invictus (2009) 12/14 *Bolt (2008) 12/14 Miracle on 34th Street (1947) 12/15 Gone with the Wind (1939) 12/15 *George Washington Slept Here (1942) 12/19 *The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941) 12/20 White Christmas (1954) 12/21 Going My Way (1944) 12/21 Holiday Inn (1942) 12/22 Bad Santa (2003) 12/23 *Christmas in Connecticut (1945) 12/25 Scrooged (1988) 12/25 The Lion in Winter (1968) 12/25 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) 12/25 *Brideshead Revisited (2008) 12/26 Orange County (2002) 12/26 *The Fisher King (1991) 12/26 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) 12/27 Fiddler on the Roof (1971) 12/27 Star Trek (2009) 12/29 Adventures in Babysitting (1987) 12/29 The Simpsons Movie (2007) 12/30 Edward Scissorhands (1990) 12/30 The Dirty Dozen (1967) 12/30 The Thin Man (1934) 12/31
I’ve been looking over the upcoming season and I gotta say I’m most excited this fall for Hamlet with Jude Law as it’s my favorite Shakespeare tragedy (and I’ve never seen it live), Oleanna because I enjoy Bill Pullman, A Little Night Music because of its rumored cast and the Kennedy Center import of Ragtime. Did I fail to mention Superior Donuts? After August: Osage County, I’ll see anything Tracy Letts writes. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that I’m forgetting about… Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to?
I’m watching the the 1955 film version of Oklahoma! as I type. For those who don’t know, the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein smash was shot twice, once in CinemaScope (an anamorphic lensed widescreen system using an aspect ratio of 2.55:1) and in the brand new Todd-AO, a large format 70mm system developed by Mike Todd. Todd-AO used a wide-angled lens, and a deeply curved screen which was meant to rival the expensive and impractical three camera Cinerama. Todd-AO didn’t require anamorphic image compression and displayed a spherical aspect ratio of 2.20:1.
Each scene was shot twice in each process which means there are two versions of the film available. The most notable difference between the two are the opening credits, but there are also differences in line readings and camera angles. When it originally opened in 1955, the Todd-AO format played the major roadshow engagements in NY and other major markets. The traditional CinemaScope version played other theatres throughout the country. The CinemaScope version made the initial video releases, but was supplanted by the restoration of the Todd-AO print, which was marked with superior sound and image quality. In 2005, 20th Century Fox released a 2-disc special edition containing both versions, though for some reason the Todd-AO transfer doesn’t improve on the 1999 release, except in making it 16:9 friendly. There’s a comprehensive website called the American Widescreen Museum which goes into explicit detail on the history and technological details of these different processes that are for the most part no longer used in filmmaking.
This video of Gloria Grahame singing “I Cain’t Say No” gives you an idea of the different versions:
The following year, Carousel was shot twice in CinemaScope and a process called CinemaScope 55 in an attempt to combat Paramount’s VistaVision process. The new CinemaScope process was an experimentation with 55 mm film that was heralded in both Carousel and The King and I. The idea of shooting Carousel twice is what led Frank Sinatra to quit the project, since he didn’t like the idea of shooting two films for the price of one. Ironically enough, they abandoned the 35mm shoot during filming. CinemaScope 55 was actually never really used: both R&H films were shot in 55mm stock and had their prints reduced onto regular 35mm, since it was more feasible than requiring movie houses to accommodate the unusual film size. From what I understand, the 55mm prints were never even used.
I’m still unable to get The Norman Conquests out of my head. So I decided to watch Table Manners from the 1977 BBC adaptation. It’s an entirely different animal from the recent revival, but it is still quite extraordinary. The television version stars Tony-Award winner Tom Conti as Norman. After Stephen Mangan it is seriously difficult to imagine any other actor in the part and unfortunately Mr. Conti’s performance suffers (The problem here is he’s not nearly as likable in the breakfast scene, in fact he’s downright irritating). David Trougham is a bit too stiff for Tom. However, Richard Briers makes for a game Reg, while Fiona Walker scores as Ruth. Penelope Keith won the bulk of the praise and a BAFTA award for her turn as Sarah (deservedly so – she was the only original London cast member to reprise her role onscreen). It was particular fun discovering that Jessica Hynes’ fellow Shaun of the Dead actor Penelope Wilton played the same role here in the TV adaptation (and quite well). Will be getting around to Living Together and Round and Round the Garden before long.
Sadly, this is out of print on DVD in the UK and has only been released on VHS in the US. BBC America, get on it! However you can get a sampling of it on youtube. Here are the first ten minutes of Table Manners:
There are two weeks left for you to catch Mary Stuart. If you haven’t had the opportunity, run don’t walk to the Broadhurst. Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter are giving titanic performances as Mary and Elizabeth I, respectively. It’s worth the price of admission for the first scene of the second act alone, which depicts the fictional meeting between the two monarchs. The two leading ladies are breathtaking and deserve to be seen, again and again and again. Plus, there’s a fantastic discount code for the rest of the run. This one is not to be missed.
I’m off to Long Island for the weekend. A friend is getting married in Centereach (sadly no East Hampton this trip) and the honor of my presence has been requested, so I will resume my blog perch on Sunday evening. I’ll be thinking of my friends spending some quality time with those titans at the Broadhurst tomorrow while enjoying marital libations.
Last New Year’s Day as I had a couple days to myself I decided to have a mini movie marathon. During this time, I decided to keep track of the movies I watched throughout the year in my Moleskine, just out of curiosity. I only included movies I watched in their entirety and just thought I’d share the list with you (it’s a bit long):
Love Actually (2003) 1/1 Operation Petticoat (1959) 1/1 California Suite (1978) 1/1 People Will Talk (1951) 1/1 Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) 1/2 Harold and Maude (1971) 1/2 The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) 1/2 Shane (1953) 1/3 Peter Pan (1953) 1/3 North by Northwest (1959) 1/5 Superbad (2007) 1/6 Jurassic Park (1993) 1/8 On the Waterfront (1954) 1/9 Music and Lyrics (2007) 1/30 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) 1/30 The World of Henry Orient (1964) 2/2 Lawrence of Arabia (1962) 2/2 No Country for Old Men (2007) 2/2 Once (2006) 2/15 Gone Baby Gone (2007) 2/18 There Will Be Blood (2007) 2/19 The 39 Steps (1935) 2/20 Michael Clayton (2007) 2/22 Atonement (2007) 2/22 Juno (2007) 2/23 La Vie en Rose (2007) 3/1 Singin’ in the Rain (1952) 3/2 Being Julia (2004) 3/8 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) 3/12 Laura (1944) 3/14 The Heiress (1949) 3/15 Mean Girls (2004) 3/16 The Quiet Man (1952) 3/18 Come Back, Little Sheba (1952) 3/19 Rififi (1955) 3/23 Michael Clayton (2007) 3/23 I See a Dark Stranger (1946) 3/29 The Prestige (2006) 4/11 The Clock (1945) 4/13 Deathproof (2007) 4/19 Cloverfield (2008) 4/23 Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) 4/24 Children of Men (2006) 4/24 Closer (2004) 5/18 Enchanted (2007) 5/25 Freaky Friday (1976) 5/25 Charade (1963) 5/25 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) 5/27 Twister (1996) 5/30 Rear Window (1954) 5/30 The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) 6/1 Surf’s Up (2007) 6/3 Wall-E (2008) 7/1 South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999) 7/7 Hancock (2008) 7/7 You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (2008) 7/7 Death on the Nile (1978) 7/13 The Dark Knight (2008) 7/18 Knocked Up (2007) 7/22 How to Steal a Million (1966) 7/23 Gosford Park (2001) 7/24 The Dark Knight (2008) 7/25 Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) 7/26 Volver (2006) 7/26 Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) 7/26 The Lady Vanishes (1938) 7/27 Sense and Sensibility (1995) 7/27 The Awful Truth (1937) 7/27 Caddyshack (1980) 7/27 Sixteen Candles (1984) 7/27 Pretty in Pink (1986) 7/28 The Rocketeer (1991) 7/29 The Queen (2006) 8/4 Auntie Mame (1958) 8/13 Bull Durham (1988) 8/16 Tropic Thunder (2008) 8/17 City Lights (1931) 8/22 1941 (1979) 8/24 Evan Almighty (2007) 8/28 In Bruges (2008) 8/29 The Savages (2007) 8/30 Superbad (2007) 9/5 Pineapple Express (2008) 9/9 No Country for Old Men (2007) 9/19 Lady for a Day (1933) 9/24 Gigi (1958) 9/29 Run Fatboy Run (2008) 10/4 Halloween (1978) 10/31 Rebecca (1940) 11/3 Role Models (2008) 11/7 We’re No Angels (1955) 11/8 The Ritz (1976) 11/10 Muriel’s Wedding (1994) 11/11 Battleground (1949) 11/11 Quantum of Solace (2008) 11/14 Bad Santa (2003) 11/17 Smiles of a Summer Night (2007) 11/18 Wall-E (2008) 11/22 On the Town (1949) 11/25 Bachelor Mother (1939) 12/7 From Here to Eternity (1953) 12/7 Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) 12/9 The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) 12/11 White Christmas (1954) 12/15 Harold and Maude (1971) 12/16 The Bishop’s Wife (1947) 12/20 Home Alone (1990) 12/22 Suddenly Last Summer (1959) 12/23 Scrooged (1988) 12/24 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) 12/25 A Taste of Honey (1961) 12/31