Welcome to another Wildcard Wednesday! Today’s post will feature rare audio and video clips of Ethel Merman. We’re three-and-a-half weeks into That’s Entertainment! and I’m genuinely surprised that this is my first Merman post. So we’ll have to make up for lost time!
First, I want to share one of the best recorded interviews that Merman ever gave. It was shot in January of 1983 for the Museum of the City of New York and conducted by Gene Shalit. In this 28-minute interview, Shalit tells Merman that he’s going to have her share memories from each individual show. (Though they skip a few of shows – Something For The Boys, for instance – almost every show is covered in some manner.) Done a year before she died, this is one of my favorites.
Secondly, I want to share what I think is the best televised concert that Merman ever performed. Entitled An Evening With Ethel Merman, this hour-long concert was filmed by the BBC in 1964 and broadcast in 1965. Though the concert is unreleased, the audio can be found on the second volume of Mermania! A classic example of her famous act, she is in excellent voice and sings all the favorites.
Now, I’m dipping into my collection to bring you some treats. Here I proudly present rare audio/video clips from Ethel Merman’s first nine shows, starting with Girl Crazy and ending with Something For The Boys.
Girl Crazy (1930)
Ethel’s first show skyrocketed her to stardom. She had three Gershwin numbers, the most famous being “I Got Rhythm.”
Here is an audio only recording from film footage of Ethel Merman singing “I Got Rhythm” live at the “Evening Graphic” dinner in April of 1931. This audio has never been released but video clips have been included in several documentaries. This is the first surviving record of Merman singing the song that made her famous.
George White’s Scandals of 1931 (1931)
Ethel’s second show was her only revue and costarred her alongside Ray Bolger and Rudy Vallée. Her big number was “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries.”
Here is a short silent home movie taken by Rudy Vallée of Merman singing “Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries” during a live performance of the Scandals. This footage has never been released.
Take A Chance (1932)
Ethel costarred alongside Jack Haley in this labored musical originally entitled Humpty Dumpty. Her two biggest songs were “Eadie Was A Lady” and “You’re An Old Smoothie.”
Here is Ethel’s 1961 solo recording of “You’re An Old Smoothie.” This was released on CD for the first time this past year.
Anything Goes (1934)
This was the first teaming of Porter and Merman and yielded many, many hit songs. In 1934, she recorded both “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and “You’re The Top.” She would record these and her other numbers many times over the years.
Here is my favorite TV performance of Ethel singing “I Get A Kick Out Of You.” This is from a 1949 episode of Milton Berle’s Show, The Texaco Star Theatre. She looks and sounds great here in this video clip from one of her first televised appearances.
Red, Hot, And Blue! (1936)
This was her second Porter show and found her teamed with Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope. The most famous number to emerge from the score was a duet she had with Hope, “It’s De-Lovely.”
Here is a video clip of Merman and Hope recreating their duet on his television show in 1962. Never before released.
Stars In Your Eyes (1939)
This forgotten Schwartz-Fields vehicle again paired Ethel with Jimmy Durante. This is a great largely unknown score.
Here is a radio recording of Merman and Durante performing their duet “It’s All Yours” live in 1939. This has been released on CD.
Du Barry Was A Lady (1939)
Merman’s third Porter musical featured both Bert Lahr and Betty Grable. The biggest hits included “Do I Love You?” and “Friendship.”
Here is a live recording of Merman and Lahr performing “Friendship” IN THE THEATRE. This track has only been released on a special LP entitled Cole Porter (Music & Lyrics).
Panama Hattie (1940)
Merman’s next show also featured a Porter score. Ethel would later recall that this was the first show where she had her name billed above the title.
Here is a live recording of Merman performing “I’m Throwing A Ball Tonight” IN THE THEATRE. This track has only been released on a special LP entitled Cole Porter (Music & Lyrics).
Something For The Boys (1943)
Merman’s final Porter show was performed live on radio, yielding an unofficial cast album that has been released on CD.
The least rare clip of the bunch, here is Merman’s duet with Bill Johnson, the catchy, “Hey, Good Lookin’.”
Merman’s next four shows – Annie Get Your Gun, Call Me Madam, Happy Hunting, and Gypsy – all got full cast albums. Her stint in Hello, Dolly!, though not officially recorded, has been preserved by many adoring fans.
Well, that’s all the Merman stuff for now. Tune in next Wednesday for another Wildcard post and be sure to tune in tomorrow as we continue counting down the best episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess.