What was that again?!
The saying goes that Britain and America are separated by a common language. Nowhere is there a better example of this than in the wacky world of movie titles. British distributors of American films were often very good at anglicizing the descriptive names of their product. For instance, W.C. Fields’ 1940 comedy classic “Never Give A Sucker An Even Break” was given the dreary title “What A Man” in the UK. Similarly, the 1951 Susan Hayward fashion industry-based drama “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” was saddled with the title “This Is My Affair” when it reached British cinemas. Then there were some title changes I could never understand such as Anthony Mann’s 1952 James Stewart western “Bend Of The River” which became “Where The River Bends” overseas (if they were going to change it, at least be a little more inventive!) and in 1967, Delbert Mann’s minor Dick Van Dyke comedy “Fitzwilly” was re-titled “Fitzwilly Strikes Back” for UK audiences, although he hadn’t even struck before!
Of course, folks across the water grew up learning all kinds of Americanisms and not just from the cinema. Song lyrics often referred to people, places and things which were totally foreign to us British! I remember trying to track down a lyric sheet for Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” to find out what a rotogravure was! I was probably not familiar with Dorothy Parker when I first heard Cole Porter’s reference to her in the opening verse in “Just One Of Those Things” and though I always figured that ‘Mimsie Starr’ was a fictious character created by the same Mr. Porter in “Well, Did You Evah!”, the fact that ‘she got pinched in the Astor Bar’ obviously made reference to the legendary New York Hotel!
Indeed, songwriters familiarized us with America’s cities long before some of us ever set foot here. For example, Betty Comden, Adolph Green & Leonard Bernstein etched a descriptive memorable picture of the Big Apple in “On The Town” when the song opens “New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down”! That lyric comes from the song “New York, New York” and incidentally, when John Kander & Fred Ebb wrote their title song (the one that begins “Start spreadin’ the news”) for Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” movie in 1977, it was officially titled “Theme From New York, New York” so as to avoid getting confused with the earlier title.
Have you noticed?
Maybe it’s just me, but look at the image that Verizon is using for their latest ad campaign…
Doesn’t it remind you of the old RKO Radio logo?
Classic Rock Songs
#3: “Ain’t Got No Home” (Clarence Henry)
R&B novelty song written and recorded by singer/pianist Clarence Henry; this was the first occasion on which he injected his croaking ‘frog’ voice, hence his nickname. On the track, Clarence also used his own voice plus an imitiation of a female vocal. Born in Algiers, Louisiana, he was influenced by New Orleans native Fats Domino and initially sang with the Bobby Mitchell band. His signature song was later revived by The Band on their “Moondog Matinee” album in 1973.
Clarence Henry ‘Frog Man’/Produced by Paul Gayten (Argo: 1956) US R&B and Pop (in 1957)
The Band/Produced by The Band (Capitol: 1973) US Pop
Other versions include: Bruce Channel (Smash), Buddy Holly (Coral), Sleepy LaBeef (Rounder), Carl Mann (Sun), The Outlaws (Kaygan), Sylvain Sylvain (RCA), The Vindictives (Liberation).
“I Found A Home” (Clarence Henry/Paul Gayten) by Clarence Henry ‘Frog Man’ (Argo: 1957)
#4: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”(Nickolas Ashford/Valerie Simpson)
All-time classic Motown song. Though originally planned to be a solo Tammi Terrell recording, it became the first of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s glorious string of duet hits and was produced by Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol. It was later chosen for the second single of Diana Ross’ solo career after she left The Supremes and writers Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson produced her version. Memorably performed by Chaka Khan & Montell Jordan in the documentary film “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” (Artisan: 2002)
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell/Produced by Harvey Fuqua & Johnny Bristol (Tamla: 1967) US R&B and Pop
Diana Ross/Produced by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson (Motown: 1970) US R&B, Pop and AC, UK
Boystown Gang (in a medley with “Remember Me”) (WEA: 1981) UK
Jocelyn Brown (Incredible: 1998) UK
Whitehouse (Beautiful Noise: 1998) UK
Other versions include: Ashford & Simpson (in a medley w/”You’re All I Need To Get By” & “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”) (Warner Bros), Sandra Bernhard (Enigma), Odell Brown & The Organ-izers (Cadet), Al Green (Hi), Inner Life (Salsoul), Chaka Khan & Montell Jordan (“Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” s/track) (Hip-O), K.X.P. featuring Ceybil Jeffries (Slam Jam), Stacy Lattisaw & Howard Hewett (Motown), Claudine Longet (A&M), Manzanilla (Crescendo), Hugh Masekela (Uni), Michael McDonald (Motown), The Moments (Stang), Meisha Moore (Iamshe), Debelah Morgan (Motown), Scherrie Payne (Motorcity), Diana Ross & The Supremes And The Temptations (Motown), The Spirit Traveler (JVC), The Sugar Beats (Sugar Beats), The Temptations (New Door/Universal), Stanley Turrentine (Blue Note), The Pete Waterman Orchestra (Universal), Young-Holt Trio (Brunswick)
Song was also performed by Whoopi Goldberg in “Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit” (Buena Vista: 1993) and by Michael McDonald on the soundtrack of “The 40 Year-Old Virgin” (Universal: 2005). Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s original recording was heard in various pictures including being featured three times on the soundtrack of the Julia Roberts/Susan Sarandon movie “Stepmom” (Columbia: 1998).
(Updated entries from my book “Who Sang What In Rock ‘n’ Roll” published by Blandford/Cassell, London in 1990)
Movie Quote of yesteryear:
“If I’d been a ranch, they would have named me the Bar Nothing”
Spoken by Rita Hayworth as the voluptuous casino singer Gilda in the movie bearing her name (Columbia: 1946)
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