Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nov. 4, 2008: The Siren's Blue Yodel

Sing it, Ethel.


Here I go again
I hear those trumpets blow again
All aglow again
Taking a chance on love.

Here I slide again
About to take that ride again
Starry eyed again
Taking a chance on love.
I thought that cards were a frame-up
I never would try--
But now I'm taking the game up
And the ace of hearts is high.

Things are mending now
I see a rainbow blending now
We'll have a happy ending now
Taking a chance on love.

51 comments:

Vanwall said...

Darlin', blue is color of my soul today, and I see great things ahead! Thanks for the yodel!

gmoke said...

Here's a video of another blue yodel that Skippy the Bush Kangaroo put up the other day. It's Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash doing Jimmie Rogers' "Blue Yodel #9." Oddly enough, Pops played on the original recording with the Father of Country music. This country has always been multi-cultural and multi-racial in ways that we keep on rediscovering.

http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=wqc209-rwNI&eurl

Gloria said...

Congratulations to the US citzens for making, as Madness would sing "one step beyond" in history... I was fearing another "Floridazo"

Some day, some they there'll even be a female US president, maybe not in this 'ere century, but some day...

Now, there are big challenges ahead, but when Pep Guardiola became the coach of Football Club Barcelona, a few months ago, with the team in crisis, many people thought "Gosh, pep is surely a nice fellow, but no force on earth can possibly make a winning team this season"... A few months after, F.C. Barcelona is the wonder of the league, playing beautiful and with goals galore.

If Pep Guardiola can, Obama can, too!

Gambatte!

X. Trapnel said...

Nothing but blue skies from now on...

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

What a day this has been!
What a rare mood I'm in!
Why, it's almost like being in love
There's a smile on my face
For the whole human race
Yes, it's almost like being in love...

Flickhead said...

I'm Flickhead and I approve this election.

DavidEhrenstein said...

A great moment in cinema. Cabin in the Sky is very much underrated, IMO. Ethel, Lena, Eddie Anderson, Duke Ellington and "Bubbles" are a dynamite combo in Minnelli's tasteful hands.

The lyrics of the song in question were, as one might expect, written by a gay man -- the legendary John LaTouche.

Karen said...

What's been going through my own head today is The Rascals' "Beautiful Morning," but Ethel Waters will surely do as well!

It's morning again--although, sadly, California has chosen to rain on my parade....

mndean said...

Yikes, and I watched one of the more racist movies I'd seen in some time. I recorded an old Ann Harding thing called Prestige, directed by Tay Garnett from 1931. Didn't know a thing about it, but it was fascinatingly ugly. Sometimes it's impossible for me to evaluate a movie on style when the substance is so repugnant. And what is it with Ann Harding being cast in these sorts of roles? Here, she is Miss White Man's Burden, trying to keep Melvyn Douglas' colonialist chin up. In The Conquerors, she was Miss Manifest Destiny, urging Richard Dix to go west.

Campaspe said...

Thanks V., this one just seemed to fit. Gmoke, I had this one ready to go if things had turned out different:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbqZde1_zSQ

David, I really love Cabin as well. It's also pretty free from cringe-inducing "shuffle" or "comical" stuff. The sexism is another matter but it's all so dang wonderful I just shelve my reservations.

Karen, you can't sweep the table every time, alas. California will do the right thing eventually, I feel sure of it.

M., I will have to see what Garnett says about Prestige in his autobiography, if anything. It's a really fun book although you get to wondering how reliable he is pretty much from chapter one.

And finally, Ivan, your song is perfect as well! All the music of life seems to be/Like a bell that is ringing for me...

Campaspe said...

oh and Gloria, Mr. C would love the soccer comparison. :)

Campaspe said...

And Flickhead -- darn tootin'.

Yojimboen said...

In the spirit of surrendering to the completist urges within us all, let us sing some soft praises for the other half of the ticket: VP elect Joe Biden. I've always had a soft spot for the other featured ballad from "Cabin" (written especially for the film by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg)

Can't find it complete, but there is a fragment sung by Ethel in the Cabin trailer here:
http://www.wikio.com/video/536116

Title? "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe"

Lyrics below:
It seem like happiness is just a thing called Joe.
He's got a smile that makes the lilacs want to grow.
He's got a way that makes the angels heave a sigh
When they know little Joe's passing by.
Sometimes the cabin's gloomy and the table's bare,
But then he'll kiss me and it's Christmas everywhere.
Troubles fly away and life is easy go.
Does he love me good? That's all I need to know.
Seems like happiness is just a thing called Joe.

Overall it's good day.

Yojimboen said...

In the interests of surrendering to the completist urges within us all, let us sing some soft praise for the other half of the ticket: VP elect Joe Biden – who played his part surprisingly, but refreshingly well.

In that vein, the other hit from “Cabin” – written specially for the film by Arlen and Harburg – “Happiness is Just a Thing Called Joe”.

The original isn’t on Youtube as far as I can find, but there is fragment by Ethel in the Cabin trailer (about 30 secs in) at: http://www.wikio.com/video/536116

The lyrics:
It seem like happiness is just a thing called Joe.
He's got a smile that makes the lilacs want to grow.
He's got a way that makes the angels heave a sigh
When they know little Joe's passing by.
Sometimes the cabin's gloomy and the table's bare,
But then he'll kiss me and it's Christmas everywhere.
Troubles fly away and life is easy go.
Does he love me good? That's all I need to know.
Seems like happiness is just a thing called Joe.

All in all, a pretty good day.

Yojimboen said...

Aplogies for the double-post.

Still blog password-challenged.

Campaspe said...

Yojimboen, oh how I love that song, and no one sang it like Waters. That "Christmas everywhere" line just gets me.

For strong emotions nothing quite matches a musical. Who was it who said characters in a musical sing when they can no longer speak?

DavidEhrenstein said...

The sweetness she exhudes here, and in The Member of the Wedding is a universe away from her sullen, sapphic, hateful, frequently knife-wielding self.

Like my boyfriend always says "My favorite character in American fiction is Ethel Waters."

Campaspe said...

I know she had a difficult life and was self-made in the very truest sense of that term--but I confess this is the first I have heard of knife-wielding.

mndean said...

Siren,
Heh, I see you know how far to trust autobiographies of the Hollywood set. Directors especially from the books I read long ago were notorious for being more political than truthful. And self-critical? That's right out.

To give you a taste of the movie, it's about French colonialism in Vietnam and one particularly nasty outpost, which makes you wonder what the hell Clarence Muse and a number of black extras are doing there. Let's just say when I saw Douglas finally take a bullet, I was rooting for the natives to finish him off. It's so outrageous it's almost campy. The end especially is hilariously bad. I want to call it Kipling on crank.

Campaspe said...

x trapnel, I neglected to say that "Blue Skies" would have worked well too, and I love that movie too.

M., I felt the same way about White Cargo. When I saw it as part of Hedy Lamarr month not too long ago I damn near died. Boy was that baaaaaad.

Ethel Waters may not have been all velvet but honestly I think I might have wielded knives too considering what used to be the norm for portraying anyone non-white in American film.

And now look at us. Not perfect, but you gotta admit this is PROGRESS.

mndean said...

This is worse, waaay worse. From the native women who are fascinated by and can't help touching Harding's extreme whiteness to the leering Asians who want nothing more than to rape Harding to Douglas' words about a prisoner (his faithful manservant in fact, and guess who played that part) who did him a big favor, "He killed a white man, he must die". It really has to be seen to be believed. I forgot that the reason it was shown was that it was in a block of Adolphe Menjou movies. He's in it, playing a French officer with a cushy sinecure in Saigon who's after Harding. When I said it's fascinatingly ugly I wasn't kidding.

Karen said...

I watched Prestige when it was on recently as well, and I can absolutely back up mndean's statements. It's pretty horrific.

Not one of Hollywood's finer moments, by a long stretch.

Vertigo's Psycho said...

As a liberal Democrat who is also a gay Californian, "Sometimes I'm Happy/Sometimes I'm Blue" is my song of choice today. I love that Obama made it, but the Prop 8 results indicate we still have a ways to go in viewing all Americans equally. The time for California to eventually do the right thing was now, but unfortunately it appears the fight will have to continue.

Speaking of autobiographies, has anyone read Waters' "His Eye is On the Sparrow"? It's extremely compelling, and Waters pulls no punches in detailing her fascinating life and career.

Campaspe said...

K, all right, I won't be making room for that one on the old viewing schedule.

VP, I know, I know. I'm sorry. Over at Film Experience Nathaniel R is raging that the producers of Milk didn't manage to release it in time for the campaign.

Karen said...

The one interesting thing about Prestige is that it was originally slated to star the fabulous Robert Williams, who bursts off the screen in Platinum Blonde, but he died of peritonitis less than two weeks into production.

It's worth watching as a strange period piece--in the sense, as someone noted in the thread on burning nitrate films, that it's often fascinating to watch bad movies for the cultural information they can convey. The contempt and distrust of the Other really pours off the screen.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Sweet Mam Stringbean" was quite piece of work. She started out as a hooker and a thief, but had singing and dancing talent. Imagine someone on a lower rung of the scale than Edith Piaf and you've got it.She was also a Beyond Butch lesbian. A black shoiw biz entrereneur of my acquiantance (now deceased) once ssaid "Ethel was so mean she stole her husband's girlfriend for spite."

Cabin in the Sky was not a happy set in that the sight of beyond gorgeous Lena Horne sent Elthel into fits of rage. Minnelli had his hands full keeping Ethel from killing Lena.

And I'm not speaking metaphorically.

DavidEhrenstein said...

There's a great passagin Elia Kazan's memoir during the shooting of Pinky he took hr aside for what he thought was a nice calm talk. "Ethel, you don't like white people do you."

"NO!" she said. Go read the memoir for the rest.

mndean said...

Karen,
Exactly right, and that's why I thought it fascinating. While a film like The Mask of Fu Manchu was racist, it's a burlesque of racism, too. Sax Rohmer couldn't tell one Asian from another if his life depended on it, and the thought that the races there might dislike each other was absolutely inconceivable to him. The film seems aware of this and plays on that to the hilt for comic effect. Prestige is told like a colonialist's wet dream (imagine Nayland Smith writing a book on Asia), and in that sense, it turns over the rock and shows what's crawling underneath. I guess in a tiny sense Robert Williams got lucky - there's not one moment in the film where Melvyn Douglas is even likable, first in Paris with his antique military attitudes and snobbery, and later at the outpost where he's drunk 2/3 of the time. The symbolism of Ann Harding's character is probably the most stomach-turning part - she's the Ideal Wife, the Ideal White Woman, and the Ideal Colonialist all in one.

mndean said...

David,
I never knew Ethel's hatred of Lena went that far. I was aware she disliked Lena quite a lot, but you're right, that woman was MEAN.

Karen said...

mndean: dead right; I love me some Melvyn Douglas, oh yes I do, but watching him in Prestige is truly painful.

mndean's terrific assessment, Siren, is why I think you SHOULD watch the film.

mndean said...

Karen,
Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad to see someone is fascinated by this film. Most of the racism I see in films of the era I am most interested in (early sound through the '30s) is of the casual variety, and as upsetting as it is to most, it's often even more upsetting to me than a movie like Prestige because it is so casual and pervasive - rather than isolating the disease, it makes it seem pandemic. The difference is that sort of racism can also be shrugged off more easily since it's never more than a minor part of the plot and usually far less than that. The films that gobsmack me are the ones like Prestige (I agree it must be seen, just to show how far the makers went), and in a different sense films like The Hatchet Man and The Mask of Fu Manchu, which are just too weird to deal with in a short comment.

Siren, I'm sorry for mildly hijacking this thread, but considering our historic Tuesday, it was just very strange coincidence to blindly pick a movie I recorded and have it be something that was so...backward. I wanted to stop watching it many times and yet I couldn't.

Gerard Jones said...
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Gerard Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerard Jones said...

I know it's incredibly corny, but I simply must include my own early '30s movie tune--the one that became FDR's campaign song. Sadly, the original film has gone missing, but here's something:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iL0Qt7IF8Q4

All together shout it now!
No one here can doubt it now!
Let's tell the world about it now!
Happy days are here again!

cgeye said...

Of thee I sing, baby-
Summer, autumn, winter, spring, baby.
You're my silver lining,
You're my sky of blue;
There's a love light shining
All because of you.

Of thee I sing baby-
You have got that certain thing, baby!
Shining star and inspiration,
Worthy of a mighty nation-
Of thee I sing!

DavidEhrenstein said...

Here you go Gerard!

Vanwall said...

Frankly, I've always been a little irked by the slavish devotion to "God Bless America" as a substitute for the National Anthem - even to displacing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during a lot of 7th inning stretches at MLB games. For chrissakes when I'm at a ballgame, I don't need proselytizing with my Cracker Jacks.

I prefer Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land", a much more inclusive song, which not incidentally fits this occasion quit well, too.

mndean said...

Vanwall,
You've just made me happy I stopped going to baseball games years ago.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I've always favored "I Get the Neck of the Chicken" for our national Anthm.

Gerard Jones said...

Am I right that this God Bless America thing took off after 9/11, when all those Congressmen stood on the Capitol steps and sang? And they probably only sang that because it's the one song they could all remember? Prior to that I remember it being just another on the big list of patriotic songs, remarkable only in that it came from an immigrant Tin Pan Alley songwriter. And I remember America the Beautiful being the song most often used in place of the Anthem (and often suggested as a better choice for our Anthem).

DavidEhrenstein said...

Not really. God Bless America has been around for quite some time. More recently a piece of utter trash entitled "God Bless the USA" has become the anthem du jour in right-wing cricles -- particularly among racists.

Noel Vera said...

Sidenote: Imelda Marcos was asked to sing for Irving Berlin, and sang "God Bless the Philippines" to the tune of Berlin's signature song. Berlin was so bothered by this he took her aside and taught her the song "Heaven Watch the Philippines" to sing instead. She's had the mistaken impression since that Berlin wrote that second song for her (he actually composed it as a tribute to the Philippine Resistance right after the war).

mndean said...

My allergy to God Bless America was from hearing one too many renditions by Kate Smith, and others. As a child, I was forced to watch The Lawrence Welk Show, which poisoned some pretty good songs for many years. I of course made the mistake thinking that's what all big-band music sounded like. Not until my early teens did I know better.

I'm lucky in not ever hearing the song God Bless The USA, the title of which sounds like prefab country music. Or a Chevy commercial.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I'm lucky in not ever hearing the song God Bless The USA, the title of which sounds like prefab country music.

Some of us...were not so lucky.

I was still working in country radio at the time this noxious, jingoistic tune became so popular. It pretty much killed Greenwood's career (well, in terms of creativity); he recorded much better songs (It Turns Me Inside Out, She's Lying, Ain't No Trick, Somebody's Gonna Love You) but seemed content afterward to hitch his wagon to the GOP star.

Before hitting it big with Inside Out, Lee Greenwood worked with a band in Vegas and moonlighted as a blackjack dealer. I was often curious as to how this managed to fly below the "family values" radar.

Vanwall said...

We all know what happens to bad little patriotic songs - they become "sickthink" in Company terms, and are passively or even actively suppressed, while the likes of "God Bless the USA" becomes an excruciating factor at Fourth of July firecracker shows. It may take more than actual critical observations to put a stake thru that kind of dreck - it is fortunately now well associated with the crooks who almost destroyed the world financial system. Perhaps it will go the way of other failed regimes' Top 40s - heard any "Horst Wessel" covers lately? I thought not. Hopefully more enlightened music-lovers will bury the cat poop that passes for flag-wrapping today, and get us a real by-God people's Independence Day standard - "This Land Is Your Land" sounds great to me, and if not that one, preferably a rousing one that's based on a British drinking song - those often sound pretty good.

Gerard Jones said...

David: I know GBA has been around for a long time. Berlin wrote it during World War I. I mean its current obnoxious rise to ubiquity. My sense is that it had gained a cornball rep even by the '50s and was rarely trotted out except in tributes to Berlin or Kate Smith. It seems like it's only been since our elected representatives sang it on 9/11/01 that it's been inescapable.

Gerard Jones said...

By the way, I think the greatest parody of patriotic country songs is Trey Parker's "Freedom Isn't Free" from Team America. It manages to work perfectly within the genre while skewering its stupidity.

Freedom isn't free.
It costs folks like you and me.
And if we don't all chip in
We'll never pay that bill.
Freedom isn't free.
No, there's a hefty f***in' fee.
And if you don't throw in your buck-oh-five
Who will?

Gerard Jones said...

Oh, and David--thanks for the Barbra/Judy!

DavidEhrenstein said...

You're more than welcome. You Tube is a Magic Lamp.

X. Trapnel said...

Personally, I plan to spend the rest of my life not listening to "God Bless America." Even so, I would suggest to anyone who likes it or hates it to hear the version recorded in the 1940s by the great Lotte Lehmann (then a refugee from Hitler), sung with such fervor and conviction that it will dispell all memories of Kate Smith and worse versions past, passing, or to come.

neuroglyphix said...

YES!! YESS!!! YESSS!!!!