Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday! Today’s entry concludes a month-long series on forgotten and seldom revived shows of the mid-1940s (’44-’46, to be exact). Coming directly in the wake of the new era brought about, in large part, by Oklahoma! (1943), these shows existed during that liminal time where musical entertainment was now expected by some to be more than just entertainment, while others fought back against the recent shift — championing a return to the feel-good fun that typified the earlier era. As a result, each of these four shows is exceedingly interesting; so far we’ve highlighted Follow The Girls (1944), The Day Before Spring (1945), and Billion Dollar Baby (1945). Today…
IV. Call Me Mister (04/18/46 – 01/10/48)
This smash hit was one in a unique genre: the coming-home-from-war musical revue! With a score by Harold Rome, a master who hasn’t been featured on this site yet (but don’t worry, this is just the beginning — stay tuned), and sketches by both Arnold Auerbach and Arnold B. Horwitt, there was a lot of fun to be had in satirizing army life and the gentlemen who were just now coming home from the front lines. The cast included George S. Irving, Lawrence Winters, and Betty Garrett, the latter of whom secured the show’s biggest hit, playing a canteen hostess exhausted from all the entertaining in “South America, Take It Way.” As the only show in this series of posts that got a cast recording, here’s Garrett herself with her hit tune.
Garrett also got another fun turn with the “Surplus Blues,” also known as “Little Surplus Me.”
Another popular tune was “Military Life,” colloquially called “The Jerk Song” for its popular line, “still a jerk.” Here’s the original cast recording. (Note that this was one of three songs — although this one was lyrically revised — to be utilized in the 1951 film adaptation of Call Me Mister, which starred Betty Grable and Dan Dailey and added a plot about a USO entertainer in a love triangle with her captain beau and her ex-husband.)
But it wasn’t all humor; there were some heartfelt moments, and all of them were rendered with needed sincerity, and more importantly, seamless Rome melodies. The best of these is “Along With Me,” performed below by original cast members Paula Bane and Danny Scholl.
My favorite song from the score, and the one with which we’ll close, is “Goin’ Home Train,” which is led by Winters and consists of six contrasting melodies that all come together gloriously. It’s majestic!
Come back next Monday for another forgotten musical! And tune in tomorrow for more Night Court!
Interesting post as always!
The only reason I’d ever heard of “Call Me Mister” before this is because I’m such a huge fan of Jack Benny– for whatever reason, Jack was one of the producers of the film version, which I only know about because there were multiple references made to this on his radio show around the time. I don’t know what possessed Jack to get into producing, nor why this was his first and (I believe) only producing credit. Do you know if there was any family relationship between Arnold Auerbach (co-writer of “Call Me Mister”) and *Artie* Auerbach, who played Mr. Kitzel on the Benny show for decades? “Auerbach” can’t be all that common a name, and both in show biz, but I can’t find anything online to tell me if they were related. If they were, if might explain how Jack got involved in the film version.
Hi, WGaryW! Thanks for reading and commenting.
The possibility of Arnold and Artie being related is something I’ve wondered about myself (and think most likely, even if the connection was distant). Arnold actually wrote for Fred Allen’s program in the late ’30s — during the start of the feud! Speaking of which, stay tuned in August for the first post in my bi-monthly series on the best episodes from THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM, beginning with JELL-O’s 1936-37 season!
That’s fantastic that you’re going to be covering the Jack Benny radio show– and you’re starting with the year I’ve always felt the show really became what we think of the Jack Benny Show. The early 1930s stuff is just dire. Most people who remember the radio show prefer the mid 1940s on, and I love it all, but I think it was at its absolute peak in the late 1930s. But we’ll have plenty of time to bandy opinions about that when you get to those posts. :)
I want to make sure you’re aware of the Jack Benny audio collections I’ve posted about on Facebook? I worked on a set of high quality mp3s of the entire series, from mostly pristine, low generation source material, with unedited copies of shows that were only circulating in butchered form before, plus some shows represented in East Coast and West Coast versions. Because of ridiculous and false copyright claims, all these files were pulled (illegally) from the Internet Archive, where they really belong, so I’ve put it all on Dropbox– 17GB worth of files, 749 shows. If you weren’t aware already, please do take some time to download these– they’re a major improvement on the copies that had been circulating for the prior 10-15 years in mp3 form.
I’ve also got a staggering collection of Jack Benny audio “extras”, interviews, guest shots, tributes, live shows, symphony concert appearances, etc., some incredibly rare stuff. All this stuff is in the public domain and deserves to be as easily accessible– for FREE– as possible. I don’t get anything out of this except the pleasure of spreading around this incredible material. So please, feel free to link to these collections in your future posts if you’d like to. I don’t like knowing that most of the people who listen to Jack Benny mp3s are listening to incomplete, edited, low quality recordings when ALL of this material and much more is available for free to anyone who wants it!
I tried including the links in this comment, but I think it’s causing the comment to be rejected. I can send you the links via Facebook, though. Really looking forward to your Jack Benny posts later this summer!
Thanks, WGaryW! Yes, I saw your links shared on the various Benny Facebook groups last year and have been using your collection as the source for my study. I was excited when you commented here a few months back, as I knew you were responsible for sharing this invaluable resource. Here’s the link to the shows and the link to the extras. (WordPress is fussy when commenters share two links at a time; the site automatically flags the response as spam.)
Additional gratitude for your unspeakable generosity is forthcoming in the bi-monthly posts, along with the above links. The August entry has been written and I am in the process of preparing the October installment now, on the best episodes from ’37-’38. As for my thoughts on the series’ trajectory, I too have a personal preference for the JELL-O years, and while my intent is to cover the entire radio run, my current commitment is simply to complete, over the course of a year, the remaining JELL-O seasons — as those are the ones about which I have the most to say!
Thanks again for your support and all you do in the preservation of this material, and stay tuned for some Benny here in late August…
This was on e of the first 78 rpm albums I purchased at 11 years old. I had a paper route and after buying a wagon to deliver the papers and a two wheeler bike I bought a portable record player and would buy a new record every week. It took me almost a month to save the money for the records.My grandmother had many broadway show albums starting with Showboat the large 78’s.
Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.
Stay tuned next week for another forgotten musical!