Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday morning tunes: Cobwebs and sorrow

Broadway legend Ethel Merman died thirty years ago today at the age of 76.
"You may have done all right elsewhere," Ethel Merman once said, "but you haven't really done it until you face a New York first-night crowd." No one faced a New York first-night crowd with the confidence that Merman did. On opening night of her very first Broadway show, in George Gershwin's Girl Crazy, Merman brought down the house with her performance of the now-classic "I Got Rhythm," at one point holding a high C note for 16 bars while the orchestra played on and the crowd roared.

In the 1963 film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," a kind of Woodstock of comedians from Broadway, classic Hollywood, and the Golden Age of Television (plus "newcomers" like Jonathan Winters and Dick Shawn), Merman's character was the mother-in-law from hell to dentist Melville Crump, played by Sid Caesar, who died this week at 91.

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