Saturday, May 08, 2021

TCM Classic ’21: From Broadway to Hollywood

There was a time when Broadway theaters supplied entertainment for the masses, (rather than thousand-dollar premium Hamilton tickets). If you could successfully compose for the former, odds are you could also pen tunes for the latter, as indeed was the case for classic popular songwriters, like Cole Porter and the Gershwins. Pianist Richard Glazier pays tribute to the Great American Songbook through tunes written for the stage and screen in From Broadway to Hollywood, which airs as part of this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival.

Fittingly, Glazier performs each selection in Hollywood, at Warner Brothers’ “Clint Eastwood Pre-Recording Stage.” He does not include any of Eastwood own compositions, but, as a jazz lover, the actor-director should definitely approve of Glazier’s focus on Lalo Schifrin. It is always good to hear from the iconic composer of
Enter the Dragon and Mission Impossible, but he somewhat dates himself by choosing to play Schifrin’s “Theme from Mannix.”

One might think the same regarding Bronislaw Kaper’s “Theme from
The FBI,” but that makes sense considering Glazier landed the final interview with its star, Efren Zimbalist Jr. (who looks and sounds sharp and healthy), a friend of the composer. Glazier also performs Kaper’s “Drifting” from Auntie Mame, which plays to the pianist’s lyrical strength (but we still would have opted for “On Green Dolphin Street” from the film of nearly the same name.

Of course, Glazier gives Bernard Herrmann his due with “Scene D’Amour” from
Vertigo and performs a sensitive My Fair Lady Medley in tribute to Lerner & Lowe. Perhaps the best fit for his style is Arlen & Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow.” You really should know what film that one is from, if you have any interest in the TCM Fest, but regardless, it is a lovely rendition. Cole Porter’s “So in Love” from Kiss Me Kate is nice too (and it gives Glazier an opportunity to interview Patricia Morrison). However, the inclusion of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” in tribute to Oscar Levant seems like an odd choice, especially since legendary composers like Henry Mancini, John Williams, Nino Rota, and Franz Waxman go undiscussed.

Still, it rather makes sense the Gershwins get special emphasis, since they are the Gershwins. Glazier also credits their music & lyrics for
Girl Crazy as the initial inspiration for his musical career. He performs Arlen & Ira Gershwin’s “It’s a New World” from A Star is Born (one of the decent versions, from 1954), but the special also shows clips of Judy Holiday singing “The Man that Got Away.”

He ends with George Gershwin’s
Rhapsody in Blue, which provides the rousing crescendo we expect. Glazier reasonably associates it with the Gershwin biopic, also titled Rhapsody in Blue, but it is indelibly (and somewhat awkwardly) linked to other films like King of Jazz, featuring Paul Whiteman (the bandleader who premiered Gershwin’s composition, but is now widely considered a pretender to the jazz throne) and Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

From Broadway to Hollywood
is loose, laidback and editorially a bit idiosyncratic, but the music is pleasant. In terms of vibe and style, Glazier is sort of a less swinging (and less singing) Michael Feinstein, but if you enjoy one, you will probably enjoy the other. Also recommended for fans of show tunes and movie songs, it airs tonight (technically 5/9, in the early AM), as part of this year’s TCM Fest.