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November 12, 2000

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Bringing the War Back Home

Veteran's Day prompts a look at World Wars I and II from the perspective of the Vaudeville and Broadway stages.
PLAYLIST
Selection Source Performer(s) Comments
The Army of Today's Alright; Your King and Country Lost Empires (OS 1986) Julia Parrott A pair of British music-hall songs from World War I. Lost Empires is an adaptation by Britain's Granada Television of a novel about a young man coming of age during WW I while working backstage with a Vaudeville troupe. It's by J.B. Priestly, who also wrote An Inspector Calls, the play in which Chuck was performing the past two weekends.
Over There Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (1977) Nora Bayes The WW I classic by George M. Cohan, recorded by Vaudeville star Bayes in July, 1917, shortly after General Pershing sent the first contingent of American troops to France.
Hello Central, Give Me No-Man's Land Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (1977) Al Jolson By the spring of 1918, America's earlier optimism (not to say arrogance) had been tempered by German advances into Allied territory. This song, from Jolson's current hit show Sinbad (it ran for 338 performances), reflects a more sober view.
I've Got My Captain Working for Me Now Ziegfield Follies of 1919 (1977) Eddie Cantor Another Jewish kid who made it big using blackface, Cantor started his career in British music halls before becoming a star in the USA. From 1919, this song reflects American relief at the end of "the war to end all wars".
We Saw the Sea Starring Fred Astaire (1973) Fred Astaire, Johnny Green Orchestra From Follow the Fleet (1936) which, being between wars, can take a light-hearted look at military life.
Remember My Forgotten Man The Busby Berkeley Album (1994) Debbie Shapiro Gravitte, London Sinfonietta and Sinfonietta Chorus cond. by John McGlinn From Gold Diggers of 1933, this is a surprisingly bleak look the plight of out-of-work World War I veterans from a songwriting team (Harry Warren and Al Dubin) and choreographer (Busby Berkeley) better known for lavish upbeat numbers such as "We're in the Money" and "42nd Street".
Der Fuehrer's Face Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (1977) Spike Jones Humor was part of both the American and British arsenals in World War II (the cartoons of Hitler in Punch were said to infuriate Der Fuehrer). The tune is a parody of the Nazi "Horst Wessell Lied" that first appeared in the cartoon "Donald Duck in Nutzi Land"; the 1942 Spike Jones version was a runaway hit.
Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning The Vintage Irving Berlin (1977) Irving Berlin, male chorus cond. by Milton Rosenstock Originally from the 1918 show Yip, Yip, Yaphank (which featured a cast of 350 soldiers from Camp Upton, Long Island), Berlin revived it for This is The Army in 1942, which is when this recording was made.
The White Cliffs of Dover Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? (1977) Glenn Miller Orchestra From 1941, the song takes a sentimentally optimistic view of Britain's almost solitary stand against the Nazi war machine. The song was recorded by a number of bands during the early 1940s.
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Swing! (OC 2000) Everett Bradley, Keith Lamelle Thomas, Edgar Godineaux This was a big hit for the Andrews Sisters during WW II and again for Bette Midler in the early 1970s.
I'll Be Seeing You Swing! (OC 2000) Ann Hampton Callaway Callaway is appearing in St. Louis this week in her one-woman cabaret review Broadway Baby. A latecomer to the Broadway scene after establishing a reputation as a cabaret and jazz artist, Swing! is her first show. She's currently working on an elaborate one-woman show which she hopes to bring the Broadway in a couple of years.
Some Other Time On the Town (studio cast 1961) Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Nancy Walker, Cris Alexander From Leonard Bernstein's 1944 hit, the song reflects the uncertain nature of wartime relationships (as does "I'll Be Seeing You"). Comden and Green wrote the book and lyrics and starred in the original cast, along with Alexander and Walker.


Acronyms and other mysteries defined:

OC: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Cast recording of a Broadway show, along with the date.

OS: Unless otherwise indicated, the Original Soundtrack recording of a film, TV show, etc.


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