JOE BLITMAN'S
FASHION & CELEBRITY DOLLS
2021 HOLIDAY ADVENT CALENDAR
DAY 21




16 Dartmouth Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
323-953-6490

 
joeblitman@aol.com





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JEROME KERN




1885-1945


In 1945, producer Arthur Freed was planning a biopic all about composer Jerome Kern.

The film would get the full MGM treatment - a dozen or so superstars and a cornucopia of musical performances. 



The problem was with the story.  There was none. 

Although wildly successful as a songwriter, Kern had travelled a smooth road for 60 years.  There were no clouds that needed to roll by. 

It looked like the movie would be two hours of nothing more than “…and then he wrote.”

The closest Kern came to “drama” was the sinking of the Lusitania. 




He had a ticket for the 1915 Atlantic crossing of the British ship that was sunk by a torpedo from a German u-boat.


Kern, however, had partied the night before departure, slept through his alarm clock, and missed the boat.

That was the most “exciting” thing that had almost-ever happened to Kern. 

And then, during the early stages of filming the movie, Kern died quite suddenly after collapsing on a busy Manhattan street. 

His passing -- although wholly regrettable -- did provide the movie with a “dramatic” ending.

Not nearly as dramatic, but interesting nonetheless, are the doll-related items from our website that we are featuring today:



SHEATH SENSATION
(1961)
Near Mint/Mint & Complete
PLUS
Bonus Dress -- rare version with zipper
$129.00

SOLD - SORRY




TWO-SIDED DIORAMA
2008 BARBIE CONVENTION GIFT
(Fashion Salon on one side;
Photo Studio on the other side)
(2008)

Mint
$59.99

SOLD - SORRY


CITY STYLE BARBIE
(1993)
$25.00
SOLD - SORRY


LEARNING TO RIDE
(SKIPPER OUTFIT)
(1966)
NRFB
$189.00

SOLD - SORRY



RALLY DAY
(KEN OUTFIT)
(1961)

Mint & Complete
$75.00


CAREER GIRL BARBIE
NOSTALGIC REPRODUCTION
(2006)

NRFB with Shipping Box
$129.99

SOLD - SORRY


CONCERT IN THE PARK
(FRANCIE OUTFIT)
(1966)
NRFB
$274.99

SOLD - SORRY


SORORITY MEETING
(1962)
Excellent+ & Complete
$65.00


SCOTTISH BARBIE
(1981)

$32.99

SOLD - SORRY


4-BUTTON SHEATH - RED
(PAK)
(1961)
Excellent
$18.00


GIFT CERTIFICATES
IN ANY AMOUNT YOU WANT



Jerome Kern called himself a “musical clothier - nothing more or less,” and said “I write music to suit both the situations and the lyrics in plays.” 
 

From 1905 to 1935, he wrote more than 40 shows with a wide variety of lyricists (although most happily with Oscar Hammerstein II - see Day 15 of the Holiday Advent Calendar).
 




From 1935 to 1945, he wrote almost exclusively for movies, winning two Oscars for Best Song in the process.

Kern’s practice was to write the music first and then give it to the lyricists to work their magic. 

He was a master of creating big romantic themes, and most of his best-known songs are ballads.

His first “hit” was “They Didn’t Believe Me” in 1914’s “The Girl From Utah.” 




The music is so modern, it could have been written far more recently than 107 years ago.

See if you don’t agree when you listen to Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen McRae sing it:



And when’s the last time you heard a song that began with the word “and”?

With Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse,




Kern reinvented the musical in the teens with the “Princess Musicals” (so named because they were all performed in the petite Princess Theater. 


 


They had small casts, small orchestras, musical scores that were not operetta, and stories that had nothing to do with marrying Ruritanian royalty. 

In the 1920’s, among a number of his successful musical comedies, Kern wrote the music for two with similar names - “Sally” and “Sunny,” both of which starred 1920’s musical comedy “it” girl - Marilyn Miller:





From “Sally” comes the standard “Look For the Silver Lining.”
 




It is paired here with the similarly-themed “Tomorrow” (written by Charles Strouse -- see Day 3  of this Advent Calendar) and sung by a grown-up Andrea McCardle, who had originated the role of Annie in Charles Strouse's mega-hit "Annie":

 

From 1925’s “Sunny,”




here is “Who?,” sung by Judy Garland, backed up by many dancing boys, in this clip from the Kern biopic “Till The Clouds Roll By”:



The zenith of Kern’s Broadway career was “Showboat.”
 




Kern’s music was perfectly paired with Oscar Hammerstein II’s lyrics. 

(If you go back to Day 15, you’ll see links to renditions of “Ol' Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”) 

Among the other hits were the love songs “Make Believe” and “You Are Love,” and a song Kern had written with P.G. Wodehouse.

It is sung here by Helen Morgan, who introduced the song in the stage version of “Showboat” in 1927:

 

Another Jerome Kern big ballad came from “Sweet Adeline,” with lyrics by Hammerstein. 




Here’s Billie Holiday’s take on “Why Was I Born?



In 1932, Kern and Hammerstein had another big hit - “Music in the Air.” 




The big tune from that show is “The Song is You,” performed here by Wendy Kimball:



1933’s “Roberta” is famous for two classic Jerome Kern songs, with lyrics by Otto Harbach:





"Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,"




heard here in the 1950’s hit by The Platters:



And “Yesterdays,”




featured in Barbra Streisand’s second TV Special, “Color Me Barbra”, which was filmed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1965. 


(The outside of the museum is where Rocky jumped up and down, eleven years later, to “Gonna Fly Now,” a song that was NOT written by Kern.)




By 1936, Kern had pretty much decamped to Hollywood full time. 




He and Dorothy Fields
wrote the score for what some consider the best of the Astaire-Rogers films -- “Swing Time.”
 




Go to Day 2 of this Advent Calendar (Dorothy Fields day) to hear and read about a bunch of the songs from this film,
including “The Way You Look Tonight,” which brought Kern his first shared Oscar for Best Song.






Musically, Fred Astaire loved to keep up with the times.
 




For “Swing Time,” he wanted a swing song. 

Kern had zero interest in or knowledge of swing… or of jazz, for that matter. 

Astaire would go to Kern’s house and dance around the living room for hours, trying to show Kern what a swing beat would be.
 




Kern ultimately threw up his hands. 

He wrote a couple of musical themes, handed them off to musical arranger Richard Rodney Bennett, and told him to create a swing song for Astaire. 

When it was done, Kern drolly named it “Waltz in Swingtime”:



From 1937’s “High, Wide and Handsome”




is the wistful “The Folks Who Live On the Hill,” sung by Bette Midler as part of her tribute album to the songs popularized by Peggy Lee:



Periodically, songwriters are polled as to the best song…ever. 

All The Things You Are,” from a so-so Kern-Hammerstein musical called “Very Warm for May,” won that poll several years in a row.
 




To use a word from the lyrics, it is divine, especially as done by Barbara Cook at the White House:

 

Kern’s second Oscar was for the music he wrote to Hammerstein’s lyrics for “The Last Time I Saw Paris.”

(You can hear Dinah Shore sing the song on Day 15 of this Holiday Advent Calendar.) 




Kern didn’t show up to the Academy Awards ceremony that year because he was certain that he and Hammerstein would lose to what he considered was the better song -- “Blues in the Night” -- which was written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.


In 1942, Kern and Mercer teamed up for the Fred Astaire-Rita Hayworth musical “You Were Never Lovelier.”




Singing the breakout song from the score -- “I’m Old Fashioned”-- is Ella Fitzgerald:



And for Rita Hayworth’s 1944 movie “Cover Girl,”
 




Kern had one of his final hits with “Long Ago and Far Away,” given the full razzle-dazzle here with Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly:

 

So what happened with “Till the Clouds Roll By,” the Jerome Kern biopic that was in need of an ending? 





Once Kern passed away, the movie ended with a tribute medley all done up in white costumes on a white wedding cake set, as if it were taking place in heaven. 

Here is most of that medley, with Kathryn Grayson, Virginia O’Brien, Tony Martin, Lena Horne and Frank Sinatra:









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