Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mercoledi Musciale

As often happens with this wonderful thing called the Internet I was searching around last evening and one thing led to another. For some reason a Cole Porter song from a musical called Can-Can popped into my head and I went searching or it. I had it firmly set in my mind's ear with the voice of Lilo the first person who sang it when the show premiered in 1953 - no I didn't see it in 1953 but got the album several years later.  Despite a thin premise and almost as thin a libretto the show lasted for over two years on Broadway and transferred to London and of course there was a touring company.  It was thought it would turn its French cabaret star into an international celebrity but the big name to come out of it was Gwen Verdon, who went on to become one of the greats of the Broadway stage.  Aside from Verdon the show's biggest strength was the Porter score:  before the end of the year everyone was recording the two big numbers - I Love Paris and C'est Magnifique.  But what I remember from my original cast recording was a wistful love song filled with all the wit, talent and gift for melody that was decidedly Porter.  I had the throaty Gallic sounds of Lilo in my head but could only find a recording by Kay Starr - not a bad substitute.  Allez-vous en! topped the charts for 11 weeks in 1953 and was just one of a string of hits for Miss Starr, who is apparently still performing at the age of 88.

And that reminded me of a movie that I caught on ARTE  two years ago and immediately added to my small DVD collection.  A year after the Porter musical Jean Renoir the French filmmaker released his tribute to Paris of the Belle Epoque and the dance that set hearts - amongst other things - athumping.  French Can-Can is a glorious piece of fluff with Jean Gabin proving that old can still be sexy, Maria Félix proving that her eye brows were the best actors in the business, Françoise Arnoul proving that pert could be appealing and Edith Piaf - well she had nothing to prove.  As always Renoir treated his subject with love and a great sense of theatre.  And of course being the son of the famous painter and an artist in his own right his sense of colour and movement is galvanizing.  Here's the finale where impresario Henri Danglard (Gabin) has his faith in the old quadrilles danced in Montmartre rewarded.

Both Porter and Renoir loved Paris not just in the springtime but in their work.

15 giugno - Santa Germana Cousin

Enhanced by Zemanta


Anonymous said...

A bit of trivia: A cousin of mine played piano in the NYC hotel where Cole Porter lived (people actually lived full time in hotels in those days). Cole came often to listen to him and they got to know each other. When he died, he willed his piano to my cousin.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I listened to a documentary on CBC radio once that said the can-can's origins were very political and arose out of the unrest in France in the mid-1800s. Apparently every can-can move (especially the splits) had some sort of anti-authoritarian significance that the crowds all knew. Today, though, those meanings are lost and now we think of it as just some titillating, risqué dance.