Sunday, February 10, 2008

Till The Wind Rolls By

After a very late chat with my fellow WENN fans (thanks for the e-mail again, Linda!), I spent most of the morning sleeping. I did wake up in time to find that it was no day to be riding a bike. The wind was blowing fiercely, making the trees over my porch bend and creak. (I always know when the wind's blowing fiercely. I can hear the chimes on the house next door on windy days.) I first called my stepfather to wish him a happy birthday (it was yesterday), but he wasn't home. I switched on WOGL's "Brunch With the Beatles" show (love songs were the theme today) and called my biological father for a ride to work.

Work was crazy when I came in at 11:45, dead when I finished five hours later. A few annoying customers (including one fussy older woman who complained when I tried to bag her rotisserie chicken in double-plastic; she whined it was too hot when it really wasn't that bad), but the real problem was with the computers. Our credit card system acted weird all day. It ran slow on-and-off, would make people sign for debit cards, and wouldn't take gift cards at all. The gift card thing isn't good. Many people rely heavily on gift cards they've won in contests or school raffles to pay for their orders. (Which is why you should always bring two methods of payment whenever you do any kind of major shopping.)

I watched Till the Clouds Roll By while eating leftover Merlin's Magic Chicken, spinach salad, and wheat noodles. Clouds Roll By a biography of Jerome Kern. According to the Reel to Real featurette on the DVD, some incidents in the film (like the romantic way Kern met his wife Eva and his barely missing the doomed voyage of the Lustitania) really were taken from Kern's life, but two of the most important characters - the kindly, gruff arranger and his tempestuous daughter - were pure fiction.

Being a fan of musicals, one of the things I like about Clouds Roll By is how some of the songs in the film are seen in their original contexts, from the shows they first appeared in. The Marilyn Miller vehicle Sally, for instance, really did feature Miller as a dish-washing dreamer who becomes a Ziegfield star and introduced "Look For the Silver Lining". The later Miller vehicle Sunny really did have a circus setting and Miller singing "Who?" and "Do 'Ye Love Me?". All of the Show Boat songs in the opening are seen more-or-less as they would in the theater. Even Lucile Bremer and Van Johnson's delightful, energetic "I Won't Dance" duet has some basis in fact - the song was written for the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers version of the show Roberta. (A deleted scene also shows another true-to-life show performance. Kathryn Grayson and radio singer Johnny Johnston do two of the songs from the 1933 Kern operetta Music In the Air, which was partially set in a Tyrolean village, as we see in the sequence.)

On the other hand, despite some truly wonderful performances (check out Tony Martin's "All The Things You Are" and Lena Horne's "Why Was I Born?"), that finale is just way too much. Frank Sinatra may have liked "Ol' Man River" so much he concluded his later shows with it, but the younger, skinnier singer just looks silly singing it here. Evidently, with Kern having died during the filming, this was his way of paying tribute to him.

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