Alejandro Escovedo has been a longtime...
Five For Monday: Son of If The Fretboard Journal Ran The Oscars
posted by Michael John Simmons
I won the pool at last night's annual Oscar party (17 out of 24 correct) and while the actual telecast was a little dull, the party was a blast. I was pulling for Michelle Williams to win best actress in Blue Valentine, not because I saw the movie (it looked really depresing so I skipped it) but because it had Ryan Gosling playing a uke in the trailer. I think every movie would be improved with a ukulele scene. Here are a few of my favorites.
Hollywood on Parade
Cliff Edwards was one the most popular entertainers of his day. He was a star in Vaudeville and on Broadway in the 1920s and made a successful transition to film in the 1930s. He was a reliable character actor who appeared in dozens of movies including classics like Gone With The Wind and His Girl Friday, although, sadly, he didn’t play his uke in those two. He also performed the original version of the song "Singin’ in the Rain" in 1929. Perhaps his most famous role was as Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, where he sang the lovely “When You Wish Up On A Star.” This clip from the 1933 short Hollywood on Parade perfectly showcases his irreverent, goofy and slightly manic performing style.
“All I Do Is Dream Of You” was composed in 1934 and was first performed in the Joan Crawford movie Sadie McKee by Gene Raymond. There is only a brief bit of uke in this scene but it’s such a great song, and it has become something of a ukulele standard, so I had to include it. The song was also featured in 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, which was set in 1929, five years before the song was written. “All I Do Is Dream Of You” was also featured in A Night at the Opera, where Chico Marx magnificently performed it on piano.
Feather Your Nest
According to movies that win Oscars, England is populated almost entirely by aristocrats who live in stately manors and wear elegant clothes. But if you look at a lot of movies made in England, you’d get the impression that the country of full of cheeky working class blokes who always manage to get the best of the toffs. George Formby is perhaps the premier example of the latter type. He made around 20 movies in the 1930s and 1940s and he sold an immense number of records even though the BBC banned many of them for being too naughty. (He perfomed more than a few about peeping in windows.) Perhaps Formby’s most famous song is “Leaning on a Lamp Post,” which was also a hit in the UK for Herman’s Hermits in 1966. George Harrison was an avid George Formby fan and actually owned a few of his ukuleles.
A Thousand Clowns
“Yes, Sir That’s my baby,” was a massive hit in 1925 and over the years it has become one of the songs that have come to define the 1920s. This double ukulele version is from 1965’s A Thousand Clowns, a wonderful movie that for some bizarre reason has never made it to DVD. UPDATE: A Thousand Clowns is now available on DVD from Warner Archive.
Thanks to its appearance in the Steve Martin movie The Jerk, “Tonight, You Belong To Me" has become something of a ukulele anthem, if you can call a wistful, bittersweet love song an anthem. Although Martin is an excellent musician and could have easily played the uke part in the film, he’s actually miming to a track that was pre-recorded by Lyle Ritz, a studio musician who usually played bass. (I guess one four-string instrument is pretty much like another.) If you'd like to learn to play this song, ukulele chanteuse Janet Klein offers a fine online tutorial.
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