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Friday, August 22, 2014

Come Fly With Him.

Check out this list of very, very popular songs of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s:

"Ain't That a Kick in the Head" (Big hit for Dean Martin. Used in lots of contemporary movies and commercials.)
"All My Tomorrows" (Big hit for Sinatra)
"All the Way" (Ditto)
"Call Me Irresponsible" (Oscar winner. Big hit for Jack Jones)
"Come Dance with Me" (Big hit for Sinatra)
"Come Fly with Me" (Ditto)
"High Hopes" (Ditto again)
"Love and Marriage" (NOT written for "Married With Children", but rather for a TV musicalization of the play "Our Town", and introduced by Sinatra)
"The Tender Trap" (Big hit for Sinatra)
"My Kind of Town (Ditto)
"Nancy With The Laughing Face" (More ditto)
"The Second Time Around" Introduced by Bing Crosby)
"Aren't You Glad You're You?" (Big hit for Crosby)
"But Beautiful" (Ditto)
"Here's That Rainy Day"
"Imagination"
"It Could Happen to You"
"Like Someone in Love"
"Moonlight Becomes You" (HUGE hit for Crosby)
"Personality"
"Polka Dots and Moonbeams"
"Sunday, Monday, or Always" (Big hit for Crosby)
"Swinging on a Star" (Ditto)
"Darn That Dream"
"I Thought About You"

Wonderful songs.
Wonderful melodies.
And I'm just scratching the surface.
What do they all have in common?
They were all composed by one Edward Chester Babcock.
Never heard of him?
Perhaps that's because early on, he had the good taste to change his name to Jimmy Van Heusen.
Still never heard of him?
Too bad.
You should have.
He was as influential as anyone else in creating the Great American Songbook.
And he provided more hits for Sinatra and Crosby than anyone else did.
They named Bob Hope's character Chester Babcock, after Van Heusen, in "The Road To Hong Kong"
He wrote most of the songs for the "Road" pictures.

I recently watched a great documentary about Jimmy Van Heusen on PBS.
Catch it if you can.
I learned that Van Heusen, aside from being a great songwriter, was also a fascinating man.
Looking at pictures and film of him, you could see that he was not at all attractive.
Totally bald, with a hook nose.
Yet, he was a chick-magnet.
The women were constantly swarming all over him.
Sinatra and Van Heusen were very, very close friends.
Van Heusen was Sinatra's shoulder to cry on when he needed one, which was apparently quite often.
When Sinatra attempted suicide after Ava Gardner dumped him, it was by trying to hurl himself out of the window of Van Heusen's high-rise apartment in Manhattan.
And Van Heusen was able to talk him back in.
You know how every guy wanted to be, and still wants to be, Sinatra?
Well Sinatra always wanted to be Jimmy Van Heusen.
Sinatra idolized him.
It was always said that Sinatra lived very hard.
That he never went to bed until 4 A.M.
Van Heusen never went to bed until 5 A.M.

And Van Heusen led sort of a double life.
From the time he was about twenty, he was fascinated with aviation.
He bought his own plane about a year later.
And he'd gotten his pilot's license and tooled around the country in it all the time.
It was his main mode of transportation.
When World War II broke out, Van Heusen immediately enlisted, and became one of the first test pilots for aircraft like the B-25 bombers.
The irony was that the other test pilots who worked alongside him had no idea that he had written all those wonderful songs.
A test pilot writing "Moonlight Becomes You"?
Even if he had told them, nobody would have believed him.
Towards the end of the documentary, Tony Bennett was interviewed.
And this seemed to be a fairly recent interview.
And Tony waxed ecstatic about Van Heusen's accomplishments.
He began rattling off the song titles.
Along the way, he mentioned the song "Teach Me Tonight", which was a big hit for Nat "King" Cole.
A voice made noise in my head.
It said "Teach Me Tonight"? Really?"
I don't think Van Heusen wrote "Teach Me Tonight".
That voice made that noise because I recalled an interview with the lyricist of "Teach Me Tonight", Sammy Cahn, in which he recalled the first time he heard a record of it on the radio.
He had no idea that it had been recorded.
So he called up the radio station that played it, and asked who the artists were who recorded it.
He was told "The DeCastro Sisters"
Then he asked who the songwriters were who were credited on the record.
He was told "Sammy Cahn and Gene DePaul".
Gene DePaul was a rather prominent composer in his own right.
He wrote the songs for the movie "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" and the Broadway musical and movie "Li'l Abner".
But there was no Jimmy Van Heusen here.
In all fairness to Tony Bennett, anybody's entitled to make a mistake.
Or to quote one of Van Heusen's song titles, everybody has the right to be wrong.
And he was 85 years old, and looked fairly disheveled.
It was the first time I had ever seen him where his toupee was askew.
It just wasn't sitting on his head properly.
He usually took great pains in the past to make sure that he looked impeccable in it.
I guess nobody on the camera crew had the nerve to say anything to him about it.
And then I thought, when I saw that interview with Sammy Cahn, HE was pretty old.
And he was bald.
Maybe HE was mistaken.
It was a quandary.
A quandary that took me only moments to solve.
I picked up my IPhone, and for the first and only time so far in my life, I spoke to Siri.
I asked "Who wrote the song 'Teach Me Tonight'?"
The answer came back immediately: Sammy Cahn and Gene DePaul.
So Tony was wrong.
But I felt worse about his hair.
However, this doesn't diminish Van Heusen in the least.
What a great life he had.


..........


My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel, "Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne and Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not
e-books. But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one. If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed,
contact me at macchus999@aol.com.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube, and my 4-hour interview at the Television Academy's Emmy TV Legends Website.
Here's the link:
http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/mark-rothman"

*****

5 comments:

  1. He also wrote the theme for TV's HAZEL. The theme was better than the show.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't think either Sinatra or Crosby recorded it

    ReplyDelete
  3. It was darn near impossible to grow up in my hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., without learning about one of its favorite sons, Mr. Babcock/Van Heusen. I believe thatt Harold Arlen, a Buffalo native, also lived in Syracuse at one point. (His father was a cantor here.) Gordon MacRae, a New Jersey native, attended high school here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You might be eligible for a complimentary $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There is a chance you're qualified for a complimentary Apple iPhone 7.

    ReplyDelete

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Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at macchus999@aol.com. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."