Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
Ask me what the greatest movie ever is and I’d flip a coin. Heads, “Gone With The Wind.” Tails, “Casablanca.”
Turner Classic Movies’ Big Screen Classics series kicks off 2022 with 80th anniversary screenings of one of Hollywood’s best. The Oscar-winning Humphrey Bogart-Ingrid Bergman action romance is showing at 4:30 Jan. 23 and 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at Marcus Theatres’ Hillside, Majestic, Menomonee Falls, North Shore, Ridge and South Shore cinemas. Tickets are $13.
Not considered a musical, Casablanca has some great music, even briefly or background. This week various versions of material that you can hear in that classic film.
We begin with a tune directly from the movie.
“Knock on Wood” was the only original song in the soundtrack.
From the website of Turner Classic Movies:
Wilson played Sam, the loyal singer and piano player at a club owned by American ex-pat Rick (Humphrey Bogart). While Sam was a secondary character, the friendship between the two men was very genuine and quite progressive for the time, with Sam very much an equal and a valued compatriot in Rick’s eyes. Wilson was actually not the studio’s first choice for the part and for a time, the studio had thought about making Sam a woman. African-American actor Clarence Muse, whose career dated back to the silent era and had appeared regularly in both big studio and independent features, seemed a lock, but the company eventually decided to borrow Wilson from Paramount for $700 a week, making him the most costly supporting player on the project. One hitch was that Wilson did not know how to play piano, so he mimed the action while studio musician Elliot Carpenter matched him.
Nonetheless, Wilson was very appealing in the role and though only onscreen for a few minutes, Sam became one of the film’s most valuable components (not long after the initial release, Wilson received as many as 5,000 fan letters a week).
Although “Casablanca” was a triumph for everyone involved, it ultimately did not have a major impact on Wilson’s career, thanks to the limited scope of parts being offered to African-American performers in mainstream features.
BTW, Wilson’s piano sold at auction for $3.9 million in New York in 2014. Auctioneers had declined to estimate the Casablanca piano’s likely price, saying only that they expected it to fetch “the low to mid-seven figures.” Bidding opened at $1.8 million and escalated rapidly before closing three minutes later at $3.9 million including taxes. Most likely made in 1927, the piano also has only 58 keys, 30 fewer than a classic piano.
The piano was offered for sale with a signed photograph of Wilson and a copy of “Casablanca,” and even came with a wad of petrified chewing gum found stuck beneath the keyboard. A faint outline of a fingerprint could be seen on the gum, but its owner was unknown.
Now listen to the background…
Eight years later, Doris Day and Kirk Douglas…
That song was originally recorded in 1934.
Our next selection dates back even further, 1924. Dooley Wilson sang it in “Casablanca.”
Still popular, almost 100 years later.
Just before Sam launches into the most famous song of the picture he noodles this number on the piano about a resort community in California.
In 1973 Harry Nilsson (“Everybody’s Talkin’”) released “A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night,” an album comprising standards from the Great American Songbook. Nilsson appeared on this studio concert produced by the BBC.
Harry Nilsson died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack in 1994. He was 52.
To close we’re going uptempo with maestro Barry White.