Sunday, July 16, 2006

Song of my heart's composing

I grew up as part of a blue collar family in a middle class neighbourhood. I had an argument once about my calling it that with my friend S. She said that I could not call myself blue collar when I was middle class and enjoyed the same middle class things that she did. I said that if she was middle class then I couldn't call myself thus. My parents did not have the education that S's enjoyed and so while her parents had white collar jobs, mine had blue collar jobs. Therefore I considered myself blue collar in a middle class neighbourhood. So, I may have had friends that went away for the weekend (beach houses in Torquay, oo lala) but alas we did not. My parents worked on the weekends as well, and when they didn't there was always a lot to do around the house. I remember the weekends of my childhood never being particularly restful times (it's probably why I'm so protective of my weekends now). There was always such a flurry of people coming and going and gardens to be tended to, vegies to be picked, food to be carefully made, people to entertain. When my parents had a spare moment they just wanted to relax. That's not to say we didn't go out and do things because we did - but it was just such a treat to do so.

So looking back, due to lack of something better to do most of the Sunday afternoons of my childhood were spent consuming a heavy diet of old Hollywood studio movies under the expect guidance of Bill Collins* (who presented the "Golden Age/Years of Hollywood" on Sunday afternoons on the tele). Mostly he played movies that came in a series - actors that worked together often or movies that followed some sort of common theme. There was Shirley Temple, Abbott and Costello, The Rat Pack, The Three Stoogees, Andy Hardy, Rogers and Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Micky and Judy, Laurel and Hardy, Sandra Dee, Doris Day and Rock Hudson and of course Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Of course there were others as well, the real classics and I devoured them all like a sponge. Although the golden years are typically pre-50s Bill played movies well into the 60s - it was all good; some of my favourite movies came after technicolour. Bill talked of these stars so lovingly and always providing such a rich introduction that I too fell in love with them. This is probably where I'd credit my rather obsessive love of all things celluloid today. I knew all the old screwball classics and other assorted black and white movies by the time I got to high school.

My dad particularly enjoyed the old movies too - he was a big fan of Westerns, War movies, noir and Lewis and Martin. I loved Lewis and Martin too. Of course, while everyone swooned over Dino I was completely besotted by the utterly clumsy but blessed with a heart of gold; Lewis. In my eyes, Dean Martin's character always had it too easy with the ladies and was too smarmy about it. He'd swan in and the girls would faint around him, while Jerry Lewis' character was always in the background stepping on rakes and having them hit him in the nose or something. Bloody hell he made me laugh. I'm not really into slapstick but I'm sure if I watched those kinds of movies now I'd still be holding my sides together. When dad was home we'd watch the movies together. He'd take his place, lounging on the couch and I'd crawl up to squeeze myself into the space behind the bend of his knees and rest my head on the side of his hip. Besides hiding in the closet that was honestly my favourite spot in the world. A pretty nice place to watch Sunday afternoons go by really. When the commercials came on I'd run out to go to the toilet and when I'd come back bro would have taken my spot and I'd have to threaten him to get him out. When the TV would black out (as it often tended to do ...at the most crucial moment) either my brother or I were summonded up to give it a hard kick or slap or something to get it working again.

Stars back then were all-rounders. They could sing, dance and act - and so a great many movies were musicals or had big band musical numbers in them. Bill Collins replayed the classics so often on the tele that I took it upon myself to learn a great many of the dances and songs (and lines). I just fell head over heals for the romance, glamour and fairytale endings. This era of Hollywood movies came before the gritty reality portrayed in the movies of post-studio breakdown. Movies of the "golden era" were purely about escapism, glamourising the mundane, creating a world that wasn't about the depression or the war and allowing people to dream. I couldn't agree with the philosophy more than if they were handing out free donuts with it, (mm donuts). I loved the movies that had a bit of song and dance in them, still do - I guess because I have a bit of song and dance in me too.

Most of the music in these kinds of old movies was big band or jazz. I became a huge fan of both kinds of music and still am - not just for the movies either. Sometimes I go for weeks at a time listening to nothing else. I'm in one of those moods at the moment.

Last week I saw Kevin Spacey's movie Beyond the Sea. A Bobby Darin memoir - not quite a biography but not quite all real either. I've always thought he has such a great voice - and demonstrated this especially when he sang the classic band music: Sunday in New York, Beyond the Sea, Charade, Mack the Knife - rather than the teen boppy music (Dream Lover). Spacey was pretty bloody good (though, isn't he always?), especially considering he sang all the songs as well (excellent, really). Bodsworth as Sandra Dee was quite good as well (in some scenes looking scarily like her).

So my rather a bit too early Musical Monday (since it's still well and truly Sunday) Charade by Bobby Darin plays tribute to a few noteworthy items.

1) The great voice and big band performance of Charade by Bobby Darin
2) The undeniable mastery of music and lyrics by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer
3) The movie "Charade" from which the song (but not this version) came - and especially Grant and Hepburn who are pretty much flawless in everything they do.
4) Some sort of stiff drink - this song calls for it. Go get one.

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*Aussies, who was the *other* guy who also did this at the same time on one of the other channels? He had greying hair (Ian someone?).