A Rare Musical from 1956 Television
As part of the now fabled “Max Liebman Presents” series of televised musicals back in the 1950s, Jerome Kern’s “The Cat and the Fiddle” was announced as the next presentation. But sudden copyright problems (I read) came up and a musical had to be created in three weeks. The result was “Paris in the Springtime” and it can be seen on a VAI DVD.
The book thrown together by William Friedberg and Neil Simon uses a time-worn plot. (I will use the names of the actors rather than the characters). An unsuccessful song-and-dance man, Dan Dailey, goes to Paris with his agent Jack Whiting and runs into a penniless artistic troupe of players headed by Carlton Carpenter and Gale Sherwood, whom he promises to help. He also runs into an old theatre friend, Helen Gallagher, who is a success at a local night club. And so on.
The songs are established ones by such composers as Cole Porter (“Nobody’s chasing me”), George Gershwin (“I can’t be bothered now”), Richard Rodgers (“From another world”), Harold Arlen (“Down with love”), Vernon Duke (“That’s what makes Paris Paree”), and Gus Kahn (“I’ll never be the same”). One is actually attributed to Marie Antoinette (“La jardinière du Roi”)! Not one of them advances the plot and several are used as numbers performed at the night club.
(Notice that Porter’s “I love Paris in the springtime” is not included. Too obvious? Or copyright limitations?)
I wonder how they got the copyrights to all these numbers in so short a time. Nevertheless, it is good to hear unfamiliar numbers from shows seldom if ever revived and from composers like Paul Durand (“Mademoiselle de Paris”) of whom I know nothing.
Gale Sherwood makes a pleasant if not very complex love interest and her voice is operatic. Jack Whiting brings that old-time vaudeville perfection to the song and dance routines, while Helen Gallagher brings down the house in her solo night club number, reminding me of Gwen Verdon at her best. Carlton Carpenter is amiable, while chanteuse Genevieve shows up to deliver one song and is not seen again.
But alas, there is a slight vacuum in the middle of things and that is Dan Dailey. As good a dancer as he is (and we don’t get to see much of him dancing), his singing voice varies from adequate to quite awful. His acting skills are minimal and (sorry to say this) he simply lacks the good looks needed for a part like this.
The black and white video is primitive, of course, but this just adds to the charm. And you can even see the commercials as a bonus! Thank you, VAI, for this treat.