What You Miss in Musical Movies
By Peter Filichia —
Went to see Guys and Dolls in Concert at Carnegie Hall. By the time Miss Adelaide sang “A Bushel and a Peck,” I once again started wondering why this song – one of the big hits from this 1950 musical – was dropped for the 1955 film and replaced with a lesser song, “Pet Me, Poppa.”
Despite the many recordings that “A Bushel and a Peck” had enjoyed during that five-year span, many people may not know it. If you’ve only recorded the film off TV, or bought a VHS tape or DVD, you wouldn’t have heard “A Bushel and a Peck.” You’d have to secure one of Guys and Dolls’ cast albums for that one. (May we recommend the 1992 revival recording, where it’s sung by Faith Prince in her Tony-winning performance?)
Those who only know musicals from movies have missed out on some great songs from the Broadway scores. Movie studios, especially in the early days, played fast and loose with stage musicals because they had their own publishing companies and made extra money by putting their own songs into the films. Many original songs were replaced in the process, such as another Guys and Dolls winner: Sky Masterson’s “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” which gave way to “A Woman in Love.”
Before it, Sky didn’t sing “My Time of Day,” either. For in addition to “A Bushel and a Peck,” the Guys and Dolls movie also lost “Marry the Man Today” and “More I Cannot Wish You” which at last week’s concert was beautifully sung by Len Cariou. You’d have thought that he even knew what a lickerish tooth was.
But if I had to choose one and only one dropped song that should have been in the film, “A Bushel and a Peck” would be it. And if we examine other Broadway scores and pick one – just one – song that had been excised from each screenplay, what would each be?
If it turns out that you don’t know some of them, downloads are only a click or two away.
In alphabetical order:
Annie: “NYC” — Was Hollywood afraid that moviegoers wouldn’t know the names Kaufman and Hart – or even, God forbid, Gershwin?
Annie Get Your Gun: “Moonshine Lullaby” – Was it dropped because Hollywood was afraid to show Annie and children endorsing illegal liquor?
Bells Are Ringing: “Long Before I Knew You” – Perhaps Dean Martin felt that this was too corny a song for him. Most of the rest of us find it quite beautiful.
The Boys from Syracuse: “What Can You Do with a Man?” – Love the pun that an ample actress inadvertently displays when singing that she has “acres and acres of beauty going to waste.”
Brigadoon: “The Love of My Life” – The film needed more comedy, and it would have had it had this been retained.
Bye Bye Birdie: “A Healthy Normal American Boy” — Although you would have thought that Albert and Rosie by now would have coordinated their story about Conrad’s roots.
Cabaret: “So What?” – Of course the reason that was dropped because the character was essentially dropped, too. By the way, take it from someone who read the script the summer before the original opened: this was written for a heavy-set lady to sing. One lyric I remember: “The abundance of me” was what Fred Ebb originally wrote; once the thin Lenya was cast, it became “the uncorseted me.”
Carousel: “The Highest Judge of All” – I hope that the person who decided to drop this stirring anthem had the punishment fit the crime once (s)he met a judge in heaven. Or was the person denied heaven for dropping this song?
Chicago: “My Own Best Friend” – When Liza Minnelli spelled Gwen Verdon during the star’s illness, she did this as a solo. Lucky for us that we get to hear Verdon and Chita Rivera duet on the original cast album.
A Chorus Line: “The Music and the Mirror” – Play us the music! Give it a chance to come through!
Damn Yankees: “The Game” – Dropped because it was considered too raunchy?
Fiddler on the Roof: “The Rumor” – And that’s what comes from men and women not knowing a smart song when they hear one.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: “It’s High Time” — The passengers on this ocean liner are now far enough out at sea that Prohibition no longer applies. So what a wonderful double meaning on “high time”: 1) it’s finally time that we can imbibe and 2) it’s the time to get stinko.
Girl Crazy: “Bronco Busters” – There’s a terribly politically incorrect lyric in the song, but it’s almost bearable because of the “send ‘em back to the east” line that follows. Do discover it.
Gypsy: “Together” – Another well-known hit at the time that surprisingly didn’t make the cut.
Hair: “Dead End” — On one level, it’s just a list song: “Keep off the grass,” “Loitering forbidden,” “No standing.” But when you add up all demands, you see just how hemmed in we are by society – and why the hippies rebelled.
Half a Sixpence: “The Party’s on the House” – A fine eleven o’clocker – although it may have been dropped because those attending the l-o-n-g movie wouldn’t want another number as midnight approached.
Hazel Flagg (retitled and retooled as Living It Up): “Everybody Loves to Take a Bow” – The best eleven o’clock number you’ve never heard.
Hello, Dolly!: “I Put My Hand In” – Too bad that Dolly’s sharp set of observations was replaced by a mere list song.
How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying: “Coffee Break” – Filmed, but not used – although I swear it (and “Paris Original”) were both in when I saw a sneak preview of the film.
The King and I: “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” — All right, it does have that awkward and terribly abrupt ending that isn’t as funny as it should be, but the soliloquy itself is arresting.
Kiss Me, Kate: “Another Openin’, Another Show” — To think that one of the all-time greatest opening numbers couldn’t make the movie.
Lady in the Dark: “One Life to Live” – And if you don’t agree, well, you can just, to quote one of Ira Gershwin’s lyrics “jump in the riv.”
A Little Night Music: “Remember?” – After all these years, I’m still smiling when envisioning “the lady with the large tambourine.” Can’t you see the demented aren’t-we-having-fun smile on her face?
Man of La Mancha: “What Do You Want of Me?” – Aldonza’s two angry songs were kept intact, but her one plaintive moment wasn’t. A beautiful melody was lost, too.
Nine: “Only with You” – Whether or not Guido is being sincere, Maury Yeston’s melody is intoxicating enough to not make us care.
Oklahoma!: “Lonely Room” — When the original cast album was recorded, original Jud Howard DaSilva wasn’t available, so Alfred Drake — the original Curly — did this song, too. Many listeners must have felt that they weren’t hearing Jud, but Curly who was revealing his dark side. The 1979 revival cast album rectified this by having the actor cast as Jud – the magnificent Martin Vidnovic (who passed on some of his musical theater genes to his daughter Laura Benanti) – sing it (splendidly).
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever: “On the S.S. Bernard Cohn” – At least we have the cast album on which Barbara Harris shines – and any opportunity to hear Barbara Harris must be seized.
On the Town: “Some Other Time” – What a shame to lose one of the most beautiful songs ever written in the entire history of Broadway?
On Your Toes: “There’s a Small Hotel” – What we all sing when we’re playing Monopoly and we upgrade from four houses on a property.
Paint Your Wagon: “How Can I Wait?” – Jennifer wasn’t just renamed Elizabeth in this version; she was transformed into a Mormon wife, making this song irrelevant. It was reason enough NOT to change the plot.
Pal Joey: “Take Him” — After an act and a half of each woman’s wanting Joey, now they’re virtually ready to flip a coin – and make the loser get him.
The Sound of Music: “How Can Love Survive?” – Getting a smidgen of it as background music is not enough.
Sweet Charity: “Baby, Dream Your Dream” – Two ladies (not quite of the evening but perhaps late afternoon) mock their colleague’s success at finding a man – until coming to the realization that they’d love to have the chance she’s now getting.
Oh – and let’s not forget Fanny or Irma La Douce. The former used some of the score as background music, while the latter kinda-sorta retained “Dis-Donc” and nothing else. New movies, please, of both – and true musical movies at that!
Peter Filichia also writes a column each Friday at www.kritzerland.com.and www.mtishows.com. His books on musicals are available at Amazon.com.