Sunday, June 10, 2012

1930 and Gershwin

1930 blogging, part 4 of 5
Rhythms of 1930

In these long breaks between the signature 21 Essays series, I’m running a new feature where I randomly select a year or set of years, and then brainstorm on some possibilities for 21 Essays series that could emerge from the assigned time.   For the current round, the roulette wheel has spun, gradually slowed, then clicked to a stop, pointing at:  1930. 

So here’s my fourth 1930 series possibility:  21 essays on a popular Broadway play of 1930 called Girl Crazy.

On Broadway in 1930:  Ethel Merman and the chorus of Girl Crazy.

While movies were often kind of dull in 1930 (going through some difficult adjustments in the switch from silent to talkie), music was enjoying a solid-gold year.  The 1930 pop charts are bursting with riches.  There’s “Mood Indigo” by the up-and-coming Duke Ellington, “Georgia on My Mind” by Hoagy Carmichael, “Ten Cents a Dance” by Rodgers and Hart, “Body and Soul” by Johnny Green, and “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Irving Berlin.

But I decided to go with Girl Crazy when I realized that three major musical contenders for the year—the Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” and “But Not for Me”—all came from this one musical.  I’ve seen it in a couple of guises but never the actual original play.  I really like the 1943 Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland Girl Crazy movie, which uses six of the play’s songs and reworks the plot for its stars.  And I really like Crazy for You, the 1992 retooling of Girl Crazy with over a dozen Gershwin hits borrowed from other plays and movies.

I’m interested in that original production.  It’s got great songs, the star-making debut of Ethel Merman, the first major role for Ginger Rogers, and a legendary opening night pit orchestra with Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Jack Teagarden, and Jimmy Dorsey, all conducted by George Gershwin.  And no one captured it on tape or vinyl!

Here’s Ethel Merman, 26 years after her stage triumph, suggesting what Broadway audiences were treated to in 1930:

Tomorrow, I’ll be proposing the last of these 1930 ideas (with no promises that I’ll necessarily be getting to any of them…).  But I’m wide open to other suggestions.  Any ideas for 1930 movies, books, short stories, poems, songs, or other cultural artifacts that might inspire a good 21 Essays series?

Next up on the roulette wheel of years:  1856-1860.

© 2012 Lee Price


  1. CW, this one's for you! The Rhythm Boys with Duke Ellington doing "Three Little Words" --