Thursday, December 8, 2011

62 Years of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes!

A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, / But diamonds are a girl's best friend. / A kiss may be grand, but it won't pay the rental on your humble flat. / Or help you at the automat. / Men grow cold as girls grow old, and we all lose our charm in the end. / But square-cut or pear-shaped, these rocks won't lost their shape. / Diamonds are a girl's best friend.
Lyrics, Leo Robin and music Jule Styne

December 8th, 1949!

 "Happy days are here again. The musical version of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which lighted the Ziegfeld last evening, is a vastly enjoyable song-and-dance antic put on with humorous perfection. Millions of people doted on Anita Loos' comic fable when it appeared as a play in 1926 with a memorable cast and the laughs pitched fairly low in the diaphragm.
Fortunately they are going to have an opportunity to enjoy it again in a thoroughly fresh treatment. For Miss Loos and Joseph Fields have now fitted it to the formula of an old-fashioned row-de-dow with Tin Pan Alley tunes by Jule Styne and some brassy and amusing lyrics by Leo Robin.
Staged expertly in a festive manner by John C. Wilson, it brings back a good many familiar delights to a street that has been adding art to the musical stage for quite a long time. But thanks to the clowning of Carol Channing, it also brings us something new and refreshing. Let's call her portrait of the aureate Lee the most fabulous comic creation of this dreary period in history.
You will recall Lorelei Lee as the flapper gold-digger who made her way through masculine society with a good deal of success in the Twenties. In Miss Channing's somewhat sturdier image, Lorelei's rapacious innocence is uproariously amusing. Made up to resemble a John Held creature, she goes through the play like a dazed automaton-husky enough to kick in the teeth of any gentleman on the stage, but mincing coyly in high-heel shoes and looking out on a confused world through big, wide, starry eyes. There has never been anything like this before in human society.
Miss Channing can also act a part with skill and relish. They have given her a funny autobiographical ballad, "A Little Girl from Little Rock," which she translates into a roaringly entertaining number. She has something original and grotesque to contribute to every number. She can also speak the cockeyed dialogue with droll inflections. Her Lorelei is a mixture of cynicism and stupidity that will keep New York in good spirits all winter.
Having good taste in general, the producers of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes have hired Yvonne Adair to appear with Miss Channing as Dorothy, the more cautious brunette, and Jack McCauley to play the part of Lorelei's protector. Since they are both expert performers with a sense of humor, this turns out to be very happy casting. A pleasure-mad, teetering old lady by Alice Pearce; a handsome, genteel young man from Philadelphia by Eric Brotherson; a philandering Britisher by Rex Evans, and an indecently healthy zipper manufacturer by George S. Irving-round out the principal performers of a singularly affable cast."
-Brooks Atkinson, New York Times

It was a Thursday. It was 39 degrees in New York.With no precipitation. But a heatwave was about to hit New York that night that continues to heat up the world. Carol Channing landed on Broadway as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the Ziegfeld Theatre!
 It would play 740 performances.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was a 1925 novel written by Anita Loos.
It was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1949; the songs (written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin) included "Little Rock" and "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."
The musical version was adapted into a movie in 1953, starring Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe.

 The film, VERY LOOSELY based on Carol's opus,  follows two showgirls, and best friends, Dorothy Shaw
( Jane Russell) and Lorelei Lee ( Marilyn Monroe).
As it starts off Lorelei and her fiance, Gus Esmond, were going to travel to France in order to get married. However, since Gus's father, Edmond Sr., disapproves of Lorelei, he prevents them from going. Despite this, she decides to go anyway, taking Dorothy along with her. Before their trip, Gus tells Lorelei to behave herself while in France or his father might find out and prevent their marriage from even happening. This is not untrue as the old man has hired a detective, by the name of Ernie Malone, to watch her every move.

(An earlier silent movie version is lost.)
A semi-sequel, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, was released a couple of years later starring Russell and Jeanne Crain; it didn't do nearly as well as the first movie.

If you were at home that night, you could have seen Buster Keaton on The Ed Wynn Show. Madam Bovery starring Jennifer Jones was playing in movie theatres.

"Dragnet" premiered on radio on this date in 1949 it was a breath of fresh air. No wisecracks, no impossibly exaggerated characterizations, no too-purple-for-belief dialogue, just a dedicated law enforcement officer, determined to do his job as completely and as thoroughly as possible. 

Joe Friday is one of radio's great Everyman figures -- just another workaday guy in a cheap suit, trudging thru his daily routine -- but in Webb's hands, the characterization takes on a fascinating edge of realism. The deliberately-low-key direction and the stylized flat-voiced delivery of the supporting cast adds to this downbeat, it's-really-happening style, giving "Dragnet" a feeling and a mood unlike that of any other radio program of its era. 
 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a musical with a book by Joseph Fields and Anita Loos, lyrics by Leo Robin, and music by Jule Styne, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Loos. The story involves an American woman's voyage to Paris to perform in a nightclub.
 The musical opened on Broadway in 1949 (running for 740 performances and introducing Carol Channing), a London production was mounted in 1962, and there was a Broadway revival in 1995 starring my friend KT Sullivan.
 An adaptation called Lorelei played on Broadway in 1974. It was made into a film of the same name (see below) in 1953, starring Marilyn Monroe.

The popular songs "Bye, Bye Baby" and  "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" were introduced in this musical.


It was produced by Herman Levin and Oliver Smith, directed by John C. Wilson, and choreographed by Agnes de Mille, with vocal direction by Hugh Martin.
Several well-known blonde actresses, including Betty Hutton,Jayne Mansfield (Carousel Theater, 1964), Mamie van Doren, Barbara Eden (Florida, January 1999) and Morgan Fairchild, have starred in regional and summer stock productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes over the years.

Financial backers included Harold M. Esty, Jr.
 Several well-known blonde actresses, including Betty Hutton,Jayne Mansfield (Carousel Theater, 1964), Mamie van Doren, Barbara Eden (Florida, January 1999) and Morgan Fairchild, have starred in regional and summer stock productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes over the years.

 The musical ran in the West End, London at the Princes Theatre, opening on August 20, 1962 for 223 performances, and featured Dora Bryan as Lorelei Lee, Anne Hart as Dorothy, and Bessie Love as Mrs. Ella Spofford.
A much younger Bessie Love in her most famous role

In 1974 a revised version entitled Lorelei ran for 320 performances on Broadway, also starring Channing.

The Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, Connecticut, revival ran in November 1994, and featured KT Sullivan as Lorelei Lee, Karen Prunzik as Dorothy Shaw, Jamie Ross as Josephus Gage, and Allen Fitzpatrick as Gus Esmond.  The production transferred to Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre on April 10, 1995 and closed on April 30, 1995 after 16 previews and 8 performances.

A concert staging of the musical was mounted as part of the "Discovering Lost Musicals" series directed and produced by Ian Marshall-Fisher at Barbican Cinema 1 in London in 1997, which featured Louise Gold as Lorelei Lee, Kim Criswell as Dorothy Shaw, and Dilys Laye as Mrs Ella Spofford. The Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London, production ran from July 23, 1998 through September 1, 1998, and featured Sara Crowe as Lorelei Lee and Debby Bishop as Dorothy. 42nd Street Moon theatre company, San Francisco, California, presented the musical in April 2004.
The 1953 film adaptation of the 1949 stage musical, released by 20th Century Fox, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, with Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid, Tommy Noonan, Taylor Holmes, and Norma Varden in supporting roles.
The screenplay by Charles Lederer is augmented by the music of songwriting teams Hoagy Carmichael and Harold Adamson and Jule Styne and Leo Robin.

The songs by Styne and Robin are from the Broadway show, while the songs by Carmichael and Adamson were written especially for the film. 
The movie is filled with comedic gags and musical numbers. 
While Russell's down-to-earth, sharp wit has been noted by most critics, it is Monroe's turn as the gold-digging Lorelei Lee for which the film is often remembered.
 Monroe's rendition of the song "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and her pink dress are considered iconic, and the dress has been copied by Madonna, Geri Haliwell, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman, Anna Nicole Smith, Christina Aquilera, and James Franco.

The story line first appeared in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady, a 1925 novel by Anita Loos.
It was adapted for the stage in 1926, and then a 1928 silent movie, starring Ruth Taylor, Alice White, Ford Sterling, and Mack Swain, which is now lost.

 Loos wrote a sequel to her novel entitled But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, with further adventures of Lorelei and Dorothy. The 1955 Gentlemen Marry Brunettes used only the book's name and starred Russell and Jeanne Crain playing characters who were the daughters of Dorothy Shaw.

Thank you Anita Loos and ESPECIALLY Carol Channing for keeping us laughing and smiling for 62 years!

with KT Sullivan at my show earlier this year

This is the the second installment of this series. Once a month, Richard will be celebrating a different theme. A Benefit for Carol Channing's Foundation for the Arts.

Billie Brouse, Rosemary Loar, Miles Phillips, Diane J. Findlay, Maureen Taylor, Leslie Orofino, Scott Coulter, Carol J. Bufford, Karen Oberlin, Julie Reyburn, AND... Raissa Katona Bennett! RESERVATIONS A MUST! $25 show plus two drink minimum, $50 PREMIUM SEATS plus two drink minimum.  


Richard- YOU fill the bill (and more) as a ‘skipper’ who is responsible for the ‘voyage’, and with panache, know-how and talent makes sure those on the ‘journey’ have a fun-filled adventure!
MANY thanks for inviting me to have the experience.
Your fan AND ally,
Arlene B. Isaacs

I enjoyed Richard Skipper's Class so very much last night. Like Richard, it was lively and entertaining; AND it was also very informative. Please-for the sake of all of us Artists who know so much about the "Show" end of Show Business, but so often know very little about the "Business" end of Show Business-keep these intelligent, common-sense-filled Classes going. We need them, and we need RICHARD SKIPPER to keep teaching them!
Ronnie Giles
Hasbrouck Heights, NJ

 We had such a great time seeing Richard as Carol Channing -- though the 'Richard' part eased into the background as Carol came to the fore. Within minutes, we were being entertained by Carol - with her sibilant "ssss" and broad lipsticked grin. We were lucky enough to be selected by Richard for some audience interaction, and being long-time fans of Carol Channing, we had some knowledge of her career and background. We made an appropriately esoteric inquiry and without skipping a beat she (sic) replied with wit and the wide-eyes faux-naivete that kind of became trademark.
Well - enough of my accolades! See this show!! And try to sit close enough so you can catch some of the jewels that will be tossed out into the audience!
So much fun!
Chuck Goldfine, New York, NY

Have your voice heard – You can make a difference!

I have been fortunate enough to call among my friends several celebrities.
The one thing that I've gleaned from them beyond their bodies of work is their humanness.

Thank you to all of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you ALL have given to the world!

Thank you for joining me on these nostalgic journeys!
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"Richard, for supporting the ARTS and calling attention to the STARS of yesterday. You are a STAR in your own right!! With admiration and friendship"
Arlene Dahl

Thank you to all who have encouraged me! Thanks to all who have tried to stifle my art. I have learned from ALL of you!

Here's to an INCREDIBLE day for ALL!


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