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"Easy to Love"

A Centennial Birthday Tribute
to
James Stewart

 

2008 marks the centennial of the birth of one of the most popular film actors, James Maitland Stewart, born in Indiana, Pennsylvania on May 20, 1908.

Many of his outstanding roles were in films with very good film scores.

They include:

  • MR. SMITH GOES TO WASINGTON and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (music by Dimitri Tiomkin)
  • THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, REAR WINDOW, THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (music by Franz Waxman)
  • THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and VERTIGO (music by Bernard Herrmann)
  • ANATOMY OF A MURDER (music by Duke Ellington)
  • THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (music by Cyril Mockridge)
  • HOW THE WEST WAS WON (music by Alfred Newman).

 

This centennial birthday tribute is devoted to one of Jimmy Stewart's lesser known and less appreciated abilities...

 

 

Jimmy Stewart Sings!

Three soundtracks
which feature him singing

By Roger Hall


BORN TO DANCE (1936)

This review is reprinted from 2003, with slight revisions...

BORN TO DANCE - Songs by Cole Porter

18 Tracks (Total Time = 68:28)

Music arranged and orchestrated by Edward Powell. Produced for release by George Feltenstein. Project Supervisor: Patrick Milligan.  Mastering & Engineering: Doug Scwartz, Mulholland Music. Archival Transfer of 35mm Optical masters: Chace Productions.  Art Direction: Bryan Lasky & Lori Carfora. Design: Rachel Gutek.  Liner notes: George Feltenstein.  

Rhino Handmade RHM2 7778

Limited Edition of 2500 copies

Rating:  ***1/2

Continuing their excellent series of Hollywood musicals from the Golden Age, especially at M-G-M, this latest Rhino Handmade release of BORN TO DANCE is significant for several reasons.  It was Cole Porter's first Hollywood musical.  It also contains two of his best known standards:  "Easy to Love" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."  

Another plus is using the original 35mm optical recordings, and on three tracks several micophones were employed, thus providing stereophonic sound in the 1930s. This musical features the dance sensation Eleanor Powell, along with Virginia Bruce and James Stewart - who sings - and not badly either.

Other than the two Porter song stanards, which are heard in various versions on half of the tracks, there are several other enjoyable songs.  One is "Hey, Babe, Hey!" (6:30). This is a fun rollicking song introduced by James Stewart and also featuring Sid Silvers, Buddy Ebsen, Frances Langford, Marjorie Lane (for Eleanor Powell) and Una Merkel.

 

The following track has "Entrance of Lucy James" (2:13), with a Gilbert & Sullivan flavor with Guy Kibbee, Virginia Bruce and M-G-M Chorus.  The next song, "Love Me, Love My Pekinese" (1:17) is just plain silly.  One of the soundtrack highlights is James Stewart singing "Easy to Love" (track 10, 8:12).  While his voice is not very strong, he sings the song with much conviction.  The lovely arrangement of this song by Edward Powell and Leo Arnaud is a delight and it's in STEREO too!  The other two tracks in stereo are: "Rap Tap On Wood" (extended version, track 4, 4:28) and "Swingin' the Jinx Away" (track 14, 13:20).  

If you're used to the swingin' version of "I've Got You Under My Skin" by Frank Sinatra in the 1950's (superbly arranged by Nelson Riddle), then the version sung by Virginia Bruce (track 12, 2:41) might seem a bit stiff.  But the greatness of this Cole Porter song classic still shines through.  The final three tracks have two different unused versions of "I've Got You Under My Skin," and a censored version of "Easy to Love"by James Stewart and Marjorie Lane.

The notes by George Feltenstein are a bit on the skimpy side but do provide an ample summary of the film and cast, especially Eleanor Powell.  The text is nicely designed in the booklet, with many black & white film stills and
a very colorful CD cover.

Even though half of the tracks are devoted to versions of "Easy to Love" or "I've Got You Under My Skin," there is still much to enjoy on this Rhino Handmade release.  As usual, complete recording information is given for each track.

Recommended especially to fans of vintage M-G-M musicals.

--Roger Hall, 8 May 2003  

 

 

 

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

Even though it slipped a bit on the AFI Top 100 Lists (No. 11 in 1998 down to No. 20 in 2007), Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE remains one of the most beloved film classics.

It stars the ideal couple of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and also a wonderful cast of supporting actors, including Lionel Barrymore, Ward Bond, Frank Faylen, Thomas Mitchell, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Graham, Henry Travers, H.B. Warner, and those adorable Bailey youngsters: Bobbie Anderson (young George), Larry Simms (Peter), Carol Coombs (Janie), Karolyn Grimes (Zuzu), and Jimmy Hawkins (Tommy). Many of them can be seen in this photo:

During the film, Jimmy Stewart sings "Buffalo Gals" several times --beginning with the scene when he takes home his sweatheart, Mary (Donna Reed), after they have fallen into the swimming pool while at the school dance. Jimmy also joins in singing "Auld Lang Syne" with others at the very end of the film.

The excellent soundtrack for IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE by Dimitri Tiomkin has continued to grow in popularity along with the film.

There are two soundtrack recordings available:

The first one has a 30 minute orchestral suite from IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE including music cut from the film. Also featured are suites from two other classic 1940s film scores: Addinsell's A CHRISTMAS CAROL and Mockridge's MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by David Newman. Click on this link for the CD: Sundance Film Music Series, Vol. I

The other one features "the most memorable moments from the movie -- in music and in dialogue." It includes the song "Buffalo Gals" sung by Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Portions of Tiomkin's original score are included on this Nick at Nite CD titled,
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - The Record

"Buffalo Gals" and other songs are discussed in this recommended book:

It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book
by Stephen Cox
Foreword by Bob Anderson (Young George Bailey)

 

NIGHT PASSAGE (1957)

Unfortunately, there is no complete soundtrack CD for this enjoyable underrated western, beautifully filmed in Technirama.

The film stars Jimmy Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Dianne Foster,
and Elaine Stewart.

There are several wonderful songs featured on the soundtrack, with music by Dimitri Tiomkin and lyrics by Ned Washington.

The first song, sung by a chorus over the Main Titles, is the memorable "Follow The River."

A studio recording of this song is included in this recommended Tiomkin collection in two versions: instrumental only, Disc One, track 1/ orchestra and chorus, Disc Four, track 4:

 


THE ALAMO:

THE ESSENTIAL DIMITRI TIOMKIN
FILM MUSIC COLLECTION (4 CD Set)

 

 

The other song in NIGHT PASSAGE is "You Can't Get Far Without A Railroad," sung in the film by Jimmy Stewart accompanying himself on the accordion (which he learned to play as a young man), but re-recorded by a professional accordion player prior to the film's release. You can hear Jimmy Stewart singing both songs from the film, available on this DVD:

 

DVD: NIGHT PASSAGE (1957)

 

 

 

Additional Links

The Jimmy Stewart Museum
Indiana, Pennsylvania - Highly recommended!

Reel Classics - Jimmy Stewart

James Stewart biography (Wikipedia)

"They're Either Too Young or Too Old"
A Centennial Tribute to Bette Davis

 


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