Talking about movie musicals

By: Al Wicklund
   MONROE — Christian Carey explored some of the best music of the Hollywood musical in its glory days at the Monroe Township Senior Center Monday.
   Mr. Carey, who sang, played the piano and told anecdotes in his program "Classic Movie Songs," said the golden era of movie musicals ended in 1965 with "The Sound of Music."
   "That was basically the last of the movies where people spontaneously burst into song and/or dance," he said.
   Mr. Carey, a member of the music faculty at William Paterson University, said his problem in putting together a program about the Hollywood musical was the limitation of time and trying to pack some of the movies’ best songs into an hour presentation.
   He started his presentation with a Cole Porter song, "You Do Something to Me," that he termed "a bad luck song." It was cut from "50 Million Frenchmen," a 1929 movie, and missed making it in other films in 1931 and 1934 before it finally reached the screen as background music to the movie "Can Can" in 1960.
   "Most of Porter’s movie musicals were adaptations of Broadway musical plays," Mr. Carey said.
   He said his personal favorite composer is Jerome Kern and used Kern’s "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" from the 1933 movie "Roberta" as one of the best movie songs.
   "The film featured Fred Astaire and Irene Dunne," he said.
   He said when Astaire — who was to have a great career in film as a song and dance man as well as an actor — first went to Hollywood, a movie mogul said of Astaire’s performance in a screen test, "He can’t sing, can’t act, can dance a little."
   He cited another Kern song, "The Way You Look Tonight," which was in "Swingtime" and won an Academy Award for best song.
   Mr. Carey said a sign of how times change — and an amusing part of this 1930s movie — was that the character played by Astaire had to prove his worth by becoming a wealthy man; he was to "amass" $25,000.
   He said Harold Arlen’s "Over the Rainbow" came close to being cut three times during the filming of "The Wizard of Oz."
   "They were afraid the song would slow down the pace of the movie," he said.
   Mr. Carey said the "Wizard" also had another outstanding song in "If I Only Had a Brain." Other standout songs picked for comment by Mr. Carey were Dave Raskin’s haunting title song from the 1944 movie "Laura" and "Where Is Your Heart?" by George Auric, written for the 1952 version of "Moulin Rouge.
   He also paid tribute to George Gershwin’s "Our Love is Here to Stay" from "An American in Paris," Henry Mancini’s "Moon River" from "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," Richard Rogers’ and Lorenz Hart’s "I Could Write a Book" from "Pal Joey" and Rogers’ and Oscar Hammerstein II’s "Climb Every Mountain" from "The Sound of Music."