December 2nd, 2017

Wunderbar

Yesterday’s post on stage musicals vs. movie musicals led somehow to me watching video after video on YouTube with great pleasure, and one of the greatest of those pleasures was to learn that Patricia Morison is still alive and kicking at 102.

You probably have never heard of Morison. I never saw her perform in person; at least, I don’t think so. But she features greatly in my musical memory because she’s the voice of the lead character (“Lilli”) on the original cast recording of “Kiss Me Kate,” just about every note and lyric of which I remember. She had a deep and rich and vibrantly expressive voice that I found wonderful even as a child, and seeing her on video (there are only a few such offerings on YouTube, although she’s got a huge body of work), I find that she doesn’t disappoint in the acting and beauty departments, either.

Here she is with Alfred Drake (also on my record). In case you’re not aware of the plot of “Kiss Me Kate,” it involves a musical within a musical within a play. These two play an acting couple starring in a touring musical version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” and the overarching musical “Kiss Me Kate” also follows all their (and others’) backstage shenanigans. So they are Kate and Petruchio as well as Lilli and Fred.

Here Morison and Drake are reminiscing about a schlocky show they’d once played in (“something about a bar….”), and then they sing a mocking version of the Germanesque song they’d sung in the show: “Wunderbar.” You can tell a great deal about their relationship through this song—their competitiveness, their mutual hamminess, their frisson of conflict. But towards the end (around 4:37), the pace changes and they sing the song more seriously for a few moments, and you can see their passion and the bond behind it.

It’s not easy to pull off, but they do a great job (despite the ad that’s unfortunately plastered in the center of the video, but it’s possible to ignore it):

Now for another big treat—Morison at 100. This woman is phenomenal—listen to the strength of her voice, and see how beautiful she still is:

It makes me think of Yeats’ “Sailing to Byzantium“:

…An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress…

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

26 Responses to “Wunderbar”

  1. parker Says:

    The sun is just below the horizon. These musical treats are a brilliant sunrise. Thanks.

  2. vanderleun Says:

    That is most, most, most….. well….. most WUNDERBAR!

  3. J.J. Says:

    Delightful.

  4. Ann Says:

    That’s Alfred Drake, not Howard Keel, doing “Wunderbar” with Morison. Here’s Howard Keel doing it with with Kathryn Grayson.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    Ann:

    Thanks, will fix.

    It’s odd that I wrote Keel. I knew it was Drake from the record, not Keel, and of course it’s Drake here. Sometimes the Drake/Keel wires get crossed in my head (much like the Raitt/McCrae wires).

  6. Ann Says:

    I only caught it because I had a sort of crush on Keel when I was a youngster. 🙂

  7. andy weintraub Says:

    Kate and PETRUCHIO!

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    andy weintraub:

    ARGHH!!!!!

    Thanks, fixed it!

    You can see I wrote the post a bit too quickly. Haste/waste. But that’s an awfully funny one, isn’t it? I can just see them—Kate and Mercutio—they’d be quite the pair, wouldn’t they?

  9. AesopFan Says:

    I also have a story about my HS production of “Kiss Me Kate” –
    There is a scene in Lilli’s dressing room where she is supposed to receive an important phone call.
    But our set crew forgot to put the prop phone on her dressing table.
    When the phone had missed it’s cue, the actors started ad-libbing, until finally one of the crew walked on briskly with a black Bell standard model in hand and declaimed,”Here’s that phone you ordered, Miss Lilli”, carefully “installed” it and left, whereupon the sound man rang the bell and the scene continued.

    “I can just see them—Kate and Mercutio—they’d be quite the pair, wouldn’t they?”

    There could be a play in that —
    I think I’ll go Brush Up My Shakespeare.

  10. DNW Says:

    She’s quite a knock-out … for a certain type. Looks like a cross between Marie Windsor (a not so good looking 1950s villainess) and Emily Blunt.

    http://famousdude.com/images/patricia-morison-04.jpg

    http://media.gettyimages.com/photos/pictured-announcer-ed-mcmahon-actresssinger-patricia-morison-host-picture-id184125613

    Surprised she did not have 10 kids.

    Great mugging too: or whatever that jokey diva, one upmanship routine she is engaging in, is called.

  11. Eric J. Says:

    Kiss Me Kate is one of my favorite shows, and the Movie, while not perfect, is a lot of fun.
    One of the pleasures of the movie is getting to see a very young Bob Fosse dancing his own choreography. Watching it, I realized that much of the stuff that we think of as “Fosse-esque” – and became tics or clichĂ©s later on – was just the way he moved naturally. Because his choreography is so distinctive and recognizable, you can see how it came from who he is.

  12. FunkyPhD Says:

    Magnificent. Like you, Neo, I trace much of my literary and poetic appreciation to early exposure to musicals. My parents seemed to buy the original cast recordings of all the popular shows, including Take Me Along, which you mentioned in your other post. The four decades from about 1925 to 1965 contain an embarrassment of riches in American musical theatre, unmatched before and since. Three cheers for Gershwin and Porter and Loesser and Rodgers and Hammerstein! When shall their kind come again?

  13. Steve57 Says:

    Wunderbar!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-0FS8__AF4

    Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (SwingKids, Janis Siegel) – Swingtime at Viennese Ball 2011

  14. Steve57 Says:

    An often overlooked aircraft.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HT_PClBc8vE

    Wunderbar!

  15. Artfldgr Says:

    When you are as old as i my dear
    and i hope that you never are
    you will woefully wonder why my dear
    through your cataracts and catarrh
    you would squander away or sequester
    a drop of a precious year
    but when your best days are yester
    the rest are twice as dear

    what good is a field on a fine summer night
    when you sit all alone with the weeds
    or a succulent pair that with eachjuicy bite
    you spit out your teeth with the seeds..

  16. miklos000rosza Says:

    I’m not a big fan of musicals. My favorite ever is “Marat/Sade” — the abbreviated title of “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.”

    I’ve seen this many times and in fact went so far back in the day to obtain the score and learn how to play some of the songs on the piano. Some of these still go round in my head.

    This was Glenda Jackson’s screen debut ad Patrick Magee is possibly the best-ever Sade on film.

    It’s a little hard to find on DVD right now even though acknowledged to be a classic. Directed by Peter Brook.

  17. Steve57 Says:

    A while back you posted something about Georgian ballet. I never forgot that. I hope in some small way I returned the favor.

  18. Steve57 Says:

    11th century
    A free interpretation of the Chauraspanchasika

    Even now
    My thought is all of this gold-tinted king’s daughter
    With garlands tissue and golden buds,
    Smoke tangles of her hair, and sleeping or waking
    Feet trembling in love, full of pale languor;
    My thought is clinging as to a lost learning
    Slipped down out of the minds of men,
    Labouring to bring her back into my soul.

    Even now
    If I see in my soul the citron-breasted fair one
    Still gold-tinted, her face like our night stars,
    Drawing unto her; her body beaten about with flame,
    Wounded by the flaring spear of love,
    My first of all by reason of her fresh years,
    Then is my heart buried alive in snow.

    Even now
    If my girl with lotus eyes came to me again
    Weary with the dear weight of young love,
    Again I would give her to these starved twins of arms
    And from her mouth drink down the heavy wine,
    As a reeling pirate bee in fluttered ease
    Steals up the honey from the nenuphar.

    Even now
    I bring her back, ah, wearied out with love
    So that her slim feet could not bear her up;
    Curved falls of her hair down on her white cheeks;
    In the confusion of her coloured vests
    Speaking that guarded giving up, and her scented arms
    Lay like cool bindweed over against my neck.

    Even now
    I bring her back to me in her quick shame,
    Hiding her bright face at the point of day;
    Making her grave eyes move in watered stars,
    For love’s great sleeplessness wandering all night,
    Seeming to sail gently, as that pink bird,
    Down the water of love in a harvest of lotus.

    Even now
    If I saw her lying all wide eyes
    And with collyrium the indent of her cheek
    Lengthened to the bright ear and her pale side
    So suffering the fever of my distance,
    Then would my love for her be ropes of flowers, and night
    A black-haired lover on the breasts of day.

    Even now
    I see the heavy startled hair of this reed-flute player
    Who curved her poppy lips to love dances,
    Having a youth’s face madding like the moon
    Lying at her full; limbs ever moving a little in love,
    Too slight, too delicate, tired with the small burden
    Of bearing love ever on white feet.

    Even now
    She is present to me on her beds,
    Balmed with the exhalation of a flattering musk,
    Rich with the curly essence of santal;
    Girl with eyes dazing as the seeded-wine,
    Showing as a pair of gentle nut-hatches
    Kissing each other with their bills, each hidden
    By turns within a little grasping mouth.

    Even now
    She swims back in the crowning hour of love
    All red with wine her lips have given to drink,
    Soft round the mouth with camphor and faint blue
    Tinted upon the lips, her slight body,
    Her great live eyes, the colourings of herself
    A clear perfection; sighs of musk outstealing
    And powdered wood spice heavy of Cashmir.

    Even now
    I see her; fair face blond like gold
    Rich with small lights, and tinted shadows surprised
    Over and over all of her; with glittering eyes
    All bright for love but very love-weary,
    As it were the conjuring disk of the moon when Rahu ceases
    With his dark stumbling-block to hide her rays.

    Even now
    She is art-magically present to my soul
    And that one word of strange heart’s ease, good-bye,
    That in the night, in loth moving to go,
    And bending over to a golden mouth,
    I said softly to the turned away
    Tenderly tired hair of this king’s daughter.

    Even now
    My eyes that hurry to see no more are painting, painting
    Faces of my lost girl. O golden rings,
    That tap against cheeks of small magnolia leaves,
    O whitest so soft parchment where
    My poor divorced lips have written excellent
    Stanzas of kisses, and will write no more.

    Even now
    Death sends me the flickering of powdery lids
    Over wild eyes and the pity of her slim body
    All broken up with the weariness of joy;
    The little red flowers of her breasts to be my comfort
    Moving above scarves, and for my sorrow
    Wet crimson lips that once I marked as mine.

    Even now
    By a cool noise of waters in the spring
    The asoka with young flowers that feign her fingers
    And bud in red; and in the green vest pearls kissing
    As it were rose leaves in the gardens of God; the shining at night
    Of white cheeks in the dark; smiles from light thoughts within,
    And her walking as of a swan; these trouble me.

    Even now
    The pleased intimacy of rough love
    Upon the patient glory of her form
    Racks me with memory; and her bright dress
    As it were yellow flame, which the white hand
    Shamefastly gathers in her rising haste,
    The slender grace of her departing feet.

    Even now
    When all my heavy heart is broken up
    I seem to see my prison walls breaking
    And then a light, and in that light a girl
    Her fingers busied about her hair, her cool white arms
    Faint rosy at the elbows, raised in the sunlight,
    And temperate eyes that wander far away.

    Even now
    I seem to see my prison walls come close,
    Built up of darkness, and against that darkness
    A girl no taller than my breast and very tired,
    Leaning upon the bed and smiling, feeding
    A little bird and lying slender as ash-trees,
    Sleepily aware as I told of the green
    Grapes and the small bright-coloured river flowers.

    Even now
    I see her, as I used, in her white palace
    Under black torches throwing cool red light,
    Woven with many flowers and tearing the dark.
    I see her rising, showing all her face
    Defiant timidly, saying clearly;
    Now I shall go to sleep, good-night, my ladies.

    Even now
    Though I am so far separate, a flight of birds
    Swinging from side to side over the valley trees,
    Passing my prison with their calling and crying,
    Bring me to see my girl. For very bird-like
    Is her song singing, and the state of a swan
    In her light walking, like the shaken wings
    Of a black eagle falls her nightly hair.

    Even now
    I know my princess was happy. I see her stand
    Touching her breasts with all her flower-soft fingers,
    Looking askance at me with smiling eyes.
    There is a god that arms him with a flower
    And she was stricken deep. Her, oh die here.
    Kiss me and I shall be purer than quick rivers.

    Even now
    They chatter her weakness through the two bazaars
    Who was so strong to love me. And small men
    That buy and sell for silver being slaves
    Crinkle the fat about their eyes; and yet
    No Prince of the Cities of the Sea has taken her,
    Leading to his grim bed. Little lonely one,
    You clung to me as a garment clings, my girl.

    Even now
    Only one dawn shall rise for me. The stars
    Revolve to-morrow’s night and I not heed.
    One brief cold watch beside an empty heart
    And that is all. This night she rests not well;
    Oh, sleep; for there is heaviness for all the world
    Except for the death-lighted heart of me.

    Even now
    My sole concern the slipping of her vests,
    Her little breasts the life beyond this life.
    One night of disarray in her green hems,
    Her golden cloths, outweighs the order of the earth,
    Making of none effect the tides of the sea.
    I have seen her enter the temple meekly and there seem
    The flag of flowers that veils the very god.

    Even now
    I mind the coming and talking of wise men from towers
    Where they had thought away their youth. And I, listening,
    Found not the salt of the whispers of my girl,
    Murmur of confused colours, as we lay near sleep;
    Little wise words and little witty words
    Wanton as water, honeyed with eagerness.

    Even now
    I call to mind her weariness in the morning
    Close lying in my arms, and tiredly smiling
    At my disjointed prayer for her small sake.
    Now in my morning the weariness of death
    Sends me to sleep. Had I made coffins
    I might have lived singing to three score.

    Even now
    The woodcutter and fisherman turn home,
    With on his axe the moon and in his dripping net
    Caught yellow moonlight. The purple flame of fire
    Calls them to love and sleep. From the hot town
    The maker of scant songs for bread wanders
    To lie under the clematis with his girl.
    The moon shines on her breasts, and I must die.

    Even now
    I have a need to make up prayers, to speak
    My last consideration of the world
    To the great thirteen gods, to make my balance
    Ere the soul journeys on. I kneel and say:
    Father of Light. Leave we it burning still
    That I may look at you. Mother of the Stars,
    Give me your feet to kiss; I love you, dear.

    Even now
    I seem to see the face of my lost girl
    With frightened eyes, like a wood wanderer,
    In travail with sorrowful waters, unwept tears
    Labouring to be born and fall; when white face turned
    And little ears caught at the far murmur,
    The pleased snarling of the tumult of dogs
    When I was buried away down the white road.

    Even now
    When slow rose-yellow moons looked out at night
    To guard the sheaves of harvest and mark down
    The peach’s fall, how calm she was and love worthy.
    Glass-coloured starlight falling as thin as dew
    Was wont to find us at the spirit’s starving time
    Slow straying in the orchard paths with love.

    Even now
    Love is a god and Rati the dark his bride;
    But once I found their child and she was fairer,
    That could so shine. And we were each to each
    Wonderful and a presence not yet felt
    In any dream. I knew the sunset earth
    But as a red gold ring to bear my emerald
    Within the little summer of my youth.

    Even now
    I marvel at the bravery of love,
    She, whose two feet might be held in one hand
    And all her body on a shield of the guards,
    Lashed like a gold panther taken in a pit
    Tearfully valiant, when I too was taken’
    Bearding her black-beard father in his wrath,
    Striking the soldiers with white impotent hands.

    Even now
    I mind that I loved cypress and roses, dear,
    The great blue mountains and the small grey hills,
    The sounding of the sea. Upon a day
    I saw strange eyes and hands like butterflies;
    For me at morning larks flew from the thyme
    And children came to bathe in little streams.

    Even now
    Sleep left me all these nights for your white bed
    And I am sure you sistered lay with sleep
    After much weeping. Piteous little love,
    Death is in the garden, time runs down,
    The year that simple and unexalted ran till now
    Ferments in winy autumn, and I must die.

    Even now
    I mind our going, full of bewilderment
    As who should walk from sleep into great light,
    Along the running of the winter river,
    A dying sun on the cool hurrying tide
    No more by green rushes delayed in dalliance,
    With a clear purpose in his flower-flecked length
    Informed, to reach Nirvana and the sea.

    Even now
    I love long black eyes that caress like silk,
    Ever and ever sad and laughing eyes,
    Whose lids make such sweet shadow when they close
    It seems another beautiful look of hers.
    I love a fresh mouth, ah, a scented mouth,
    And curving hair, subtle as a smoke,
    And light fingers, and laughter of green gems.

    Even now
    I mind asking: Where love and how love Rati’s priestesses?
    You can tell me of their washings at moon-down
    And if that warm basin have silver borders.
    Is it so that when they comb their hair
    Their fingers, being purple-stained, show
    Like coral branches in the black sea of their hair?

    Even now
    I remember that you made answer very softly,
    We being one soul, your hand on my hair,
    The burning memory rounding your near lips;
    I have seen the priestesses of Rati make love at moon-fall
    And then in a carpeted hall with a bright gold lamp
    Lie down carelessly anywhere to sleep.

    Even now
    I have no surety that she is not Mahadevi
    Rose red of Siva, or Kapagata
    The wilful ripe Companion of the King,
    Or Krishna’s own Lakshmi, the violet-haired.
    I am not certain but that dark Brahma
    In his high secret purposes
    Has sent my soft girl down to make the three worlds mad
    With capering about her scented feet.

    Even now
    Call not the master painters from all the world,
    Their thin black boards, their rose and green and grey,
    Their ashes of lapis ultramarine, Their earth of shadows the umber. Laughing at art
    Sunlight upon the body of my bride,
    For painting not nor any eyes for ever.
    Oh warm tears on the body of my bride.

    Even now
    I mind when the red crowds were passed and it was raining
    How glad those two that shared the rain with me;
    For they talked happily with rich young voices
    And at the storm’s increase, closer and with content,
    Each to the body of the other held
    As there were no more severance for ever.

    Even now
    The stainless fair appearance of the moon
    Rolls her gold beauty over an autumn sky
    And the stiff anchorite forgets to pray;
    How much the sooner I, if her wild mouth
    Tasting of the taste of manna came to mine
    And kept my soul at balance above a kiss.

    Even now
    Her mouth careless scented as with lotus dust
    Is water of love to the great heat of love,
    A tirtha very holy, a lover’s lake
    Utterly sacred. Might I go down to it
    But one more time, then should I find a way
    To hold my lake for ever and ever more
    Sobbing out my life beside the waters.

    Even now
    I mind that the time of the falling of blossoms started my dream
    Into a wild life, into my girl;
    Then was the essence of her beauty spilled
    Down on my days so that it fades not,
    Fails not, subtle and fresh, in perfuming
    That day, and the days, and this the latest day.

    Even now
    She with young limbs as smooth as flower pollen,
    Whose swaying body is laved in the cool
    Waters of languor, this dear bright-coloured bird,
    Walks not, changes not, advances not
    Her weary station by the black lake
    Of Gone Forever, in whose fountain vase
    Balance the water-lilies of my thought.

    Even now
    Spread we our nets beyond the farthest rims
    So surely that they take the feet of dawn
    Before you wake and after you are sleeping
    Catch up the visible and invisible stars
    And web the ports the strongest dreamer dreamed,
    Yet is it all one, Vidya, yet it is nothing.

    Even now
    The night is full of silver straws of rain,
    And I will send my soul to see your body
    This last poor time. I stand beside our bed;
    Your shadowed head lies leaving a bright space
    Upon the pillow empty, your sorrowful arm
    Holds from your side and clasps not anything.
    There is no covering upon you.

    Even now
    I think your feet seek mine to comfort them.
    There is some dream about you even now
    Which I’ll not hear at waking. Weep not at dawn,
    Though day brings wearily your daily loss
    And all the light is hateful. Now is it time
    To bring my soul away.

    Even now
    I mind that I went round with men and women,
    And underneath their brows, deep in their eyes,
    I saw their souls, which go slippng aside
    In swarms before the pleasure of my mind;
    The world was like a flight of birds, shadow or flame
    Which I saw pass above the engraven hills.
    Yet was there never one like to my woman.

    Even now
    Death I take up as consolation.
    Nay, were I free as the condor with his wings
    Or old kings throned on violet ivory,
    Night would not come without beds of green floss
    And never a bed without my bright darling.
    Most fit that you strike now, black guards,
    And let the fountain out before the dawn.

    Even now
    I know that I have savoured the hot taste of life
    Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.
    Just for a small and a forgotten time
    I have had full in my eyes from off my girl
    The whitest pouring of eternal light.
    The heavy knife. As to a gala day.

    –E. Powys Mathers

  19. Steve57 Says:

    This is why I don’t do poetry. It’s been done.

  20. Steve57 Says:

    Black Marigolds

  21. Steve57 Says:

    Available at Barnes and Noble.

    https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-garden-of-bright-waters-e-powys-mathers/1026042088?type=eBook

  22. Steve57 Says:

    You have to special order it.

  23. Surellin Says:

    How many 1930s stars still alive? De Havilland, now Morison. Any others? Oh, June Lockhart was in a late-30s Christmas Carol as a kid.

  24. Steve57 Says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_P-38_Lightning

    Lockheed

  25. Steve57 Says:

    https://www.f35.com/

    Lightning II.

  26. DNW Says:

    “miklos000rosza Says:
    December 5th, 2017 at 11:14 am

    I’m not a big fan of musicals. …”

    Me neither. It’s both surprising and disappointing at how few of them feature really good shootouts or convincing fights. In fact I cannot think of any.

    Oh, there is the occasional one that starts out promising enough somewhere out west, but before you know it some gay looking guy in an imitation cowboy getup starts bellowing out something about Oklahoma; or a troupe of them jump around on logs swinging axes as fake as their beards.

    I remember as a kid thinking that in the last 4 hours of Sunday evening before I had to go to bed and school the next day, I’d at least get to see a western movie.

    Then it turns out that they start up with the singing crap.

    Pretty poor stuff if you ask me.

    Now, Fred Astaire exploding firecrackers on the floor is another matter. You know what you are getting going in.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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