Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Girl Friend of the Whirling Dervish"

I didn't know it at the time but my appreciation for Jazz and musical arranging started when I was a little kid from watching television.  Back then the soundtracks for many shows were Jazz based and that included the old cartoons from the 30's and 40's I saw, particularly the Warner Brothers ones.  From the beginning the soundtracks of the old Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons used songs owned by Warners music publishing company, including many that were used in their musicals.  As a result I knew tunes like "42nd Street",  "Deep In A Dream",  "Lullaby Of Broadway" and "Jeepers Creepers" long before I ever heard them in features.

One of my favorite songs from those cartoons was "Girl Friend Of The Whirling Dervish" which was written by Harry Warren, Al Dubin, and Johnny Mercer original for the 1938 musical Garden Of The Moon. That film happened to be the last musical Busby Berkeley made at Warner Brothers and you could guess he was near the end of his run by watching the production number for this song.  It's set bound, taking place entirely on a bandstand, in a way few Berkeley numbers ever were. Still I've always liked this scene for the way he uses camera movement and staging even when confined to a small space. The song itself is a lot of fun as well.

I was very surprised to find the entire number posted on YouTube.  I couldn't embed it here but I have put a link to it below.  The bandleader-singer here is John Payne, who like Alan Ladd and Fred MacMurray, started out as a big band singer before moving on to tough guy roles in the movies and Jerry Colonna is the "girl friend".

NOTE: Jeffrey Spivaki, the author of a biography, sent me an email correcting me about "Garden" being Berkeley's last Warners film.  It was his last Warners musical. He made the John Garfield drama, They Made Me A Criminal after that, then left and made a couple more films for the studio some time later. I've corrected my original post.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Spivaki said...

"Garden of the Moon" was not the last film of Busby Berkeley's at Warner Bros. It was his last musical at the studio. Berkeley's final film at WB (in the 1930s) was "They Made Me a Criminal" released in 1939. He did return to the studio a few years later for two middling pictures.

Jeffrey Spivak, author, "Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley"