A collection of reviews about my favorite recordings of vintage jazz, classic pop, and the crooners, including the biggest stars and some obscure names, published by Anton Garcia-Fernandez in Martin, Tennessee, U.S.A.
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Recommended Listening This Month
Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap - The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern (Columbia)
Recommended Reading This Month
'Jazz Anecdotes: Second Time Around,' by Bill Crow (Oxford UP)
Doris Day Sings Ruth Etting: The Soundtrack of Love Me or Leave Me
It is no surprise that movie musicals have played such a central part in Doris Day’s career: in the 1940s, before she found fame and fortune on the silver screen, she was one of the featured vocalists with the Les Brown orchestra on a handful of outstanding songs, namely 1945’s “Sentimental Journey,” a tune that has since become not only a pop standard but also an important part of the soundtrack of the years immediately following World War II. In the late 40s and early 50s, Day starred in a series of musical pictures that cemented her image as the beautiful girl-next-door that attracted the attention of her male leads both because of her looks and her singing. Her Hollywood career, then, began in light musicals (that is, if we do not count Young Man with a Horn, from 1949, in which she co-starred with Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall), but in 1955, she changed gears and, after signing a new contract with MGM, she played the leading role in Love Me or Leave Me, the Ruth Etting biopic also starring James Cagney.
Etting was, of course, one of the most relevant pop singers of the 1920s, and both her meteoric rise to fame and her private life were the stuff that Hollywood dramas are made of. In real life, Etting fell in love with Merl Alderman, her pianist, whom she would wind up marrying. The only trouble was that her then-husband, Martin Snyder (superbly played on the screen by Cagney), was one of the most prominent gangsters in Chicago. Snyder did not take too well to his wife’s affair, so he attempted to shoot Alderman and gravely injured him. As we can see, the scriptwriters did not really have to exaggerate the story for the movie adaptation, and the film became a box-office hit upon its release. Doris Day portrays Etting very adeptly, showing that she also had a knack for dramatic roles, and the picture also turns into a magnificent vehicle for her clear, sexy, jazz-tinged voice.
This CD features the original movie soundtrack, reissued on CD by Columbia-Legacy in 1993: these are Day’s own versions of some of the best songs introduced by or associated with Etting, among them such classics as “It All Depends on You,” “Ten Cents a Dance,” “You Made Me Love You,” “Mean to Me,” and the title track. Percy Faith is in charge of the arrangements here, and he handles them with gusto: his charts for the movie are more complex than the usual piano or small orchestra backing on Etting’s original discs, yet they are subtle enough that they never get in the way of Day’s voice. The CD reissue also includes three previously unreleased tracks that serve as a perfect complement for a phenomenal soundtrack.
Not long after the release of Love Me or Leave Me, Doris Day would star in other movies that would be great showcases for the more dramatic side of her acting (I am thinking of Alfred Hitchcock’s remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much, for example, where incidentally she also sings) but the Etting biopic remains one of her most engaging dramatic performances of her career. And indeed, the soundtrack proves that she was very capable of capturing the many nuances of Etting’s soft pop singing while still managing to make these classic songs her own.
MEAN TO ME
IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU
YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU
EVERYBODY LOVES MY BABY
STAY ON THE RIGHT SIDE, SISTER
TEN CENTS A DANCE
LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME
Anton and Erin Garcia-Fernandez