Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hello Goodbye

Lauren and I spent her last morning quietly playing our last round of Pac Man Party. We did the longest round, Desert Mirage. This time, I won - I kept winning her big desert temples. We ran Three Stooges shorts (including another Shemp classic, "All Gummed Up"), until Jodie called and said she and Dad were waiting for us out front.

Other than some road repair on Cuthbert and getting stuck behind a NJ Transit bus, we had no problems getting Lauren to Cherry Hill. I waited with her until Lauren looked her train on her smart phone and discovered the train would be five minutes late. I had Jodie and Dad waiting for me, so I just hugged her and said I'd see her in October and that she could call me before she got into Albany tonight.

And yes, I've confirmed that my next vacation will be the week of Columbus Day, and I will be going up to Pittsfield to visit Lauren. I haven't left Camden County overnight in two years, and I haven't taken a trip out-of-state in six years. I'm way overdue.

I did some things around my apartment when I got in, including posting the blog entry that was delayed by last night's internet outage. Headed to the Oaklyn Library to do this week's volunteering there. The kids' DVDs needed badly to be organized. (Someone keeps putting the kids' series under the title of the disc, rather than together under the title of the series.) Otherwise, there wasn't much going on there. I headed out around 1:30.

(Oh, and I skipped the Haddon Township Library this week. I'm just not up for the ride after more than a week of hiking around Camden County in heat that got into the 90's.)

Headed to Dunkin' Donuts next for a treat. I picked up a Vanilla Bean Coolatta and something rarer, a vanilla cream doughnut. There was one other couple there, but otherwise, it was pretty quiet. The doughnut was a bit dry; the Coolatta was very sweet and very tasty.

Studio LuLoo was nuts when I arrived. They had apparently done some kind of program the day before and was organizing their vast store of costumes. They have costumes of all shapes and sizes, ranging from Teletubby costumes to elaborately sequined mummers' outfits to many, many sparkling tutus, and all the tiaras, hats, scarves, gloves, and bonnets that go with them. There were several kids running around as well, enjoying their first day of vacation after their last half-day at school. I hung dresses and heavy blue wraps on the few hangers they had, folded everything else, and listened to the kids chatter and fuss at each other.

I was worn out after a long week. I spent the rest of the day at home. When I got in, I had cherries and the last of the tuna salad for lunch while watching Chasing Rainbows. Bessie Love and Charles King are a dancing act who are currently appearing in a touring musical about World War I. Marie Dressler is the lead comic. Jack Benny is a station manager with a crush on Love. Polly Moran is the costume designer who is perpetually at war with Dressler. King has a bad habit of falling for his leading ladies. His most recent (Nita Talbot) convinces him to marry her, despite her already having a lover. The two do finally reconcile amid the classic hit song "Happy Days are Here Again."

Big warning about this title - all of its original two-strip Technicolor dance numbers are lost, including the finale. The movie does give you a text-and-still-photo explanation of what went on during them. What's there isn't bad, though. Dressler and Love in particular shine - catch Dressler's hilarious "Poor But Honest" and Love's reactions to King's two versions of "Lucky Me, Lovable You." This one is in the Warner Archives - if you like the cast or enjoyed Broadway Melody or other early talkie musicals, enough remains to give you an idea of why it was popular in 1930.

After the movie ended, I took a long, blissful bath. It's been a while since I last had one. I really needed to relax and soothe my sore legs. I looked over Can't Help Singin' and Song In the Dark, both of which cover early talkie musicals, and listened to my Nipper's Greatest Hits: The 30's Vol 1 CD ("Happy Days are Here Again" is the first track).

Switched to Copacabana while I made salmon in lemon wince sauce with sauteed zucchini for dinner. If you know the Barry Manilow song, you have a pretty good idea of where this one is headed. Tony (Manilow) and Lola (Annette O'Toole) meet when they compete on a radio show for a job at the legendary Copacabana nightclub. He wins, but the job turns out to be bartender. They both rise in the ranks as he pulls her out of a dime-a-dance dive and reworks her dark love song "Man Wanted" into a showstopper. It looks like the two are on their way...until Rico (Joe Bologna) convinces Lola to give up Tony for his flashy Havana nightclub. Tony befriends an older woman who helps him into Havana to rescue Lola. But Rico's not happy with Tony's chivalry, and like the song, this story does not have a happy ending...

...But I think it really should have. This may be one of the few times I enjoyed the stage version of a TV or movie musical better than the original. I liked Lola better as an innocent Ruby Keeler ingenue in the West End stage musical, not to mention all the playing with reality vs fantasy. The tragic finale is much too sudden. It doesn't really jive with the mostly light-hearted romp that came before it.

On the other hand, the cast is pretty decent, even Manilow as Tony. His "Lola/Who Needs to Dream?", performed with O'Toole on a street surrounded by a rapt tenement audience, is a delightful moment. And the stage show does retain my favorite song written for the movie, Tony's big dance number "Sweet Heaven."

I like it...but it's really for heavy Manilow nuts, or those who really love the song. All others may want to dig up the cast album for the stage version instead.

Tony and Lola are far from the only couple in show business with problems. Rose of Washington Square jumps back to the early 20's, where singer Rose Sargent (Alice Faye) sings smoky dirges in low-down dives and speakeasies. Her guy friend (Al Jolson) is also seeing his career rise and is trying to encourage her likewise. She first meets Bart (Tyrone Power) in a speakeasy. She falls hard for him, but Bart is a gambler and a con-artist who can't stay out of trouble. The two end up getting married, much to Jolson's dismay. When the police finally catch up with Bart, Rose has to decide whether it's worth waiting up for her man or consider the damage his brushes with the law are doing to her career.

If that sounds like the story of Fanny Brice and Nicky Arnstein with different names, Al Jolson, and a less gawky woman playing Brice...well, Brice thought so, too, and she wasn't happy. In fact, she sued Fox for damages. Beyond the Brice connection, it's a similar story to Alexander's Ragtime Band with a more dashing and dangerous Power and Jolson singing his own familiar songs. If you love other Fox/Faye musicals like Band or Lillian Russell, there's enough that's different for this one to make it worth a peek.

Oh, and Lauren arrived home safely over an hour ago. She had no problems whatsoever once the train arrived, up to and including her parents picking her up in Albany.

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