Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our first series on the works of Vernon Duke, a marvelous composer whose contributions to musical theatre and the classic American songbook are not praised as much as their merit warrants. On Musical Theatre Mondays, we’ve covered Duke’s work for Cabin In The Sky (1940) and both the 1934 and 1936 editions of The Ziegfeld Follies. Now, we’re delving a little deeper, featuring some of the composer’s lesser known scores, which are filled with an embarrassment of riches. We began last week with Walk A Little Faster (1932). Today…
II. Banjo Eyes (12/25/41 – 04/12/42)
Vernon Duke paired himself with lyricists John La Touche and Harold Adamson to contribute the score for this Eddie Cantor vehicle, an adaptation of the 1935 play Three Men On A Horse. Cantor played a man who has the uncanny knack of picking the horse racing winners. The comedy team of Mayo and Martin played the titular Banjo Eyes, the horse who visits Cantor in his dreams and tells him the winners. Also in the cast were Lionel Stander, Audrey Christie, June Clyde, the De Marcos, and Bill Johnson. The show, which incorporated plenty of time for patriotism (the US had entered WWII just two weeks before opening) and Cantor speciality, ended up closing due to Cantor’s ill health.
Like too much of Duke’s work, little from the score caught on; the only tune with any longevity was Cantor and Clyde’s “We’re Having A Baby,” which, of course, became famous when Ricky Ricardo sang it to his pregnant wife in the classic “Lucy Is Enceinte” episode of I Love Lucy. Above is the original cast recording by Cantor and Clyde, with lyrics (by Adamson) that are different than those sung by Mr. Arnaz.
A lot of what we have recorded from the score comes from the Ben Bagley albums. Above is the jovial “I’ll Take The City,” which was introduced by Cantor (with lyrics by La Touche), performed by Arthur Siegel and chorus. Below is Siegel again with Christie and the De Marco’s “Make With The Feet,” which features lyrics by Adamson.
Bill Johnson introduced one of the most charming tunes from the score, La Touche’s “A Nickel To My Name,” which is heard below in a period recording (with vocal refrain) by Jan Savitt and His Top Hatters.
And we’ll close today’s post with another number introduced by Bill Johnson, “Not A Care In The World,” which was added to the 1964 revival of Cabin In The Sky. Here’s Dorothy Louden’s rendition…
Come back next Monday for another Duke musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the third season of Soap!