Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fred Astaire: One for My Baby (from The Sky's the Limit)

The Siren has been waiting for a good video of this to show up on Youtube. This version is dark, but it'll do.

Probably my favorite Fred Astaire solo. It isn't just the precision (that kick to the single glass!) or the athleticism (that jump to the barstool, then the bar!), it is also the way he stays perfectly in character and perfectly drunk, even as he dances as no other mortal ever did.

He sings the song beautifully, too.

I could watch it all day. Pity the rest of the movie isn't nearly as good.

P.S. SIGH. It does not post, and it does not post, and it does not post. And then it posts five times AFTER I give up and go to bed. And now it's erased again. I give up. And people ask me why I don't post clips. Because I'm old, my computer's old and I have my blood pressure to think about, that's why I don't post clips. Without Mr. C here the technical glitches pile up. Anyway, if I had to post something more than once, Fred's the best for it I think.

26 comments:

Karen said...

it is also the way he stays perfectly in character and perfectly drunk, even as he dances as no other mortal ever did.

Too true. This is why it will ALWAYS be Astaire for me.

He's a one-man barfight, with total grace.

And, yes--his singing is perfection as well (the way he handles the very first "baby" gets to me particularly), and his acting ain't bad either.

Sigh. I do so love him.

mndean said...

It's so good, you posted it five times on your blog page? I do believe Blogger's gone nuts on you.

Campaspe said...

And now it's erased the video. from the post I edited. I give up. Guys, you will just have to look at the link. I'll add it.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I've always loved Marelene Dietrich's version. Saw her sing it back in 1968 at the Lunt-Fontaine in New York with Burt Bacharach conducting the orchestra.

Campaspe said...

David, I didn't even know Marlene did this song. I am "meh" about Sinatra's version. The only singer I have heard nail it like Astaire is Etta James.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Marlene's whole point was to subsume gender. She was the most luscious woman -- and the toughest man -- of our dreams. When she sang "See what the boys in hte back room will have," she wasn't kidding.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

First of all, let me mention Harold Arlen (the song's composer) and Johnny Mercer (its lyricist). Both masters, both of 'em in fine shape during the '40s. I would feel guilty *not* naming 'em.

I like the way the song's upward modulation (around "I got the routine") fits in with the dissolve from one drinking locale to another.

People have badmouthed this sequence in the film, as if *sturm und drang* were out of keeping with our image of Astaire. How ridiculous!

I got to know this song through the Harold Arlen volume of Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook series. Sinatra's rendition in "Young at Heart" is pretty much definitive for me, although I'm not going to forget about this one.

Off-Topic Quip

Fine critic and novelist Kim Newman wrote an H.P. Lovecraft pastiche, at one point, which was in essence a Shaggy Eldritch Gods story. The set-up involved an unwed pregnant mother in a depressed New England town waiting in a bar for the child's father, who is of suspicious origins. She orders drinks and waits. Punchline: "One for my baby, and one more for The Toad."

Tonio Kruger said...

If it makes you feel any better, Campaspe, half the Youtube videos I post on my site have disappeared from the original site within the last year. Sometimes in as short a period as a week. Or less.

Plus my VCR keeps giving me additional reasons to invest in DVDs if for no other reason that I have yet to see a DVD of mine damaged in the same way my VCR likes to damage videos.

Apparently there is something in nature that abhors a video...

X. Trapnel said...

For me Sinatra's "One for My Baby" on Only the Lonely is definitive (and doesn't Fred look like Frank in long shot), but this is pretty terrific, a foreshadowing of the slightly rueful, weathered Astaire persona of the fifties. In some ways I like this character better while vastly preferring the 30s films. Astaire became a better actor but the musicals (Bandwagon, Silk Stockings, Daddy Long Legs [egad])got heavier like so much else in that strange decade.

D Cairns said...

BTW that's real glass -- wartime restrictions made sugar-glass too expensive. Poor Fred was cut to ribbons, but then he was used to suffering for his art.

The Siren said...

Tonio, it is indeed very comforting.

Mrs HWV, I just don't much like Young at Heart -- can't accept Sinatra for Garfield, not no way not no how. But "one more for the Toad" is excellent. As a once and future headline writer I love me some bad puns.

David, I was wondering whether or not it was trick glass. In a play I got coshed with one of those "breakaway" sugar bottles and let me tell you they still hurt plenty. But at least they didn't cut. Sheesh.

Karen said...

Siren, you are protean today. Posting both as Campaspe AND The Siren?

I agree with you 100% (if not more) on Young at Heart--in fact, I think we may have had this discussion before. Garfield had a pained vulnerability under his bitterness in Four Daughters where Frank only mustered the bitterness. Granted, he did it well, but his performance lacked the layers Garfield's had.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Arguably.But Garfield was playing opposite the Laine sisters whereas Frank had Doris Day -- a far more considerable presence.

Young at Heart is one of Terence Davies very favorite films.

Vanwall said...

Hell, I watched something here five different times last time night, but then again I was groggy from hanging with the hoi polloi (and I mean that sincerely in the original Greek) at Comic-Con, so they were all enjoyable viewing anyway.

John G over Frank S anytime, but there were occasions for celebrating performances from even the lesser of the two - and the running was a close thing, too.

X. Trapnel said...

No question that Garfield is the superior actor and screen presence also that the best of Sinatra's filmic personality draws heavily upon Garfield, especially the latter's performane in Force of Evil (with a dash of Widmark's Skip McCoy.

gmoke said...

That's one of my favorite Astaire sequences as well. There's also a little bit where Astaire does a snake dance on top of a table, blackmailed into it by Robert Ryan. Benchley is in the film as well but Joan Leslie doesn't have the stature needed.

Astaire was the favorite singer for many of the songwriters of the great American songbook, I have read.

Johnny Mercer is a very interesting fellow or at least I got that impression from _Skylark: The Life and Times of Johnny Mercer_. His love affair with Judy Garland seems to be the stuff of legends.

X. Trapnel said...

There's a good chapter on Johnny Mercer in Wilfred Sheed's The House That George [Gershwin] Built, one of the best books I've ever read on the American popular song.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Great clip, there aren't enough superlatives in the language to describe Astaire's talent. Interesting fact commenter D. Cairns brought up about the wartime restrictions on sugar glass.

Dave said...

I couldn't disagree with you more about "The Sky's the Limit." It's absolutely one of my favorite movies -- with or without Astaire. It's dark and not at all the upbeat wartime musical we'd expect in 1942.

It's self-referential and funny with a lively score and one of Astaire's finest numbers. And if that wasn't enough, it's got Robert Benchley and Eric Blore.

And for the record, Sinatra's greatest recording of "One for My Baby" is on the "Duets" album. The heartbreak he conveys in that version (even with the handicap of Kenny G) is like Greek tragedy. It's breathtaking.

Pete Lawson said...

I'd never seen this sequence before. It's just marvelous, and such a completely different treatment of the song to every other version I've ever heard.

Dave, really? I've never heard it, but knee-jerkingly assumed the presence of the G Man would make it a write-off. On the whole, are those two Duets albums as putrid as the Bono-guesting 'I've Got You Under My Skin' has led me to believe?

Yojimboen said...

Posted without comment.

Yojimboen said...

Take two.

Yojimboen said...

And take three.
Hope it works.

DavidEhrenstein said...

To have Doris Day smile at you is the definition of Heaven.

Saw The Reckless Moment again last night and was struck by the bleakness of the ending. In the last shot where she's talking on the phone to her husband, whose return she wants so desperately Bennett is definitely framed as if she's in prison -- the bars on the straiwell forming a cage.

In the remake The Deep End, the finale has a much less opressive cast to it.

Dave said...

Pete;

Yes indeed; it's that great of a recording -- even with the G man. Frank's voice is shot, but that only adds to the pain and the heartache. It's a staggeringly good record.

The Siren said...

Dave, welcome! Admittedly it has been quite a qhile since I saw it, but the plot didn't strike me as unusual for the period, and there was rather too much running around and not enough music. I prefer Benchley as a writer, Joan Leslie is not a favorite of mine and I don't recall being wowed by the visuals of the movie. That one sequence is truly the high point for me, although I do remember liking Eric Blore. I guess I didn't remark on that because I always like Eric Blore (doesn't everyone?)