My friend Beth over at V is for Vintage (who, with her husband, makes one of the best dancing teams this side of creation) posted a clip of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Frank Sinatra playing "Blue Skies." This great song got me to thinking about Tommy Dorsey. My grandma always had a radio in the kitchen and when it wasn't blasting talk radio it was humming with the mellifluous melodies of music makers from the swing/big band era. From my earliest days I was hooked! As a kid, one of my very first tapes was a compilation of Tommy Dorsey tunes. I wore the cassette out by rewinding and playing "Snootie Little Cutie" over and over and over again.
There is something magical and transporting about the combination of The Pied Pipers' harmonies, the vocals of Frank (who has never really been one of my favorites), the charm of Connie Haines, the horn section and the silly slang lyrics. I wish I still had that tape! Known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing," Tommy Dorsey had a reputation as anything but sweet and sentimental. Even playing a whitewashed version of himself in The Fabulous Dorsey Brothers you could see that he had a red-hot temper. There are legendary stories of him being a stern task-master with his band members, even charging fines for misbehavior. Despite - or maybe because of - his reputation, he had a great sound and made his trombone sing and swing! Hearing that beautiful noise, I couldn't help but think of another magical Dorsey moment - this one from the 1943 film DuBarry was a Lady.
|DuBarry was a Lady (1943)|
I have made mention of this film before in a previous blog post, but only in reference to the amazing high-Hollywood style. The film stars Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly and Red Skelton. The first time I saw this movie I was blown away at just how beautiful Lucy was. I think the iconic, zany "Lucy" character made me forget that she was actually a stunning woman.
Overall, the film is pretty lame. In its adaptation from stage to screen, much of the Cole Porter music was cut and the the plot serves mostly as a vehicle for the slapstick antics of Skelton. Again, it is worth watching for the fashion and for the amazing musical sequence toward the beginning of the film that begins with The Oxford Boys (performing a mostly a cappella impersonation of several famous bandleaders/bands) and culminates in The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra performing a medley of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" and "Well, Git It!"
This footage is wacky tacky excellence! Any time you can make a realistic trumpet noise using just what God gave you (from the waist up), you are alright by me! The impersonations are spot-on and the ability of the performers is incredible. "Well, Git it?"