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I was present at a screening of this TV special in London in 1964, when
I was a teenager working as an intern for the Grade Organisation. More
than a year after its original Stateside transmission date, one of the
American producers of this programme hoped to convince my employer Lew
Grade to buy the UK broadcast rights. I whole-heartedly voiced my
approval, but my voice had very little influence on Mr Grade at that
time. (He wasn't Sir Lew yet, much less Lord Grade.) I recall enjoying
this special very much; this IMDb review -- written more than 40 years
on -- is based on my memories of that screening and some notes I took
at the time. Those of you hoping to see this programme for yourselves,
please note: I've no idea where to get hold of a copy of the recording,
nor even if it still exists. Here's hoping it does, though.
The show is titled 'The Broadway of Lerner and Loewe', but that title's very misleading; this special concerns itself almost entirely with that team's two most recent shows at this time: 'Camelot' and 'My Fair Lady'. Those two musicals are pretty much joined at the hip, since they had the same creative team: librettist Lerner, composer Loewe, leading lady Julie Andrews, director Moss Hart, choreographer Hanya Holm and production designer Oliver Smith. The only other L&L score which gets even a brief look-in here is 'Gigi', entirely down to the presence of compere Maurice Chevalier, who memorably appeared in the film version of that score. (When 'Gigi' became a Broadway musical -- after the film version, reversing the usual process -- Chevalier's role was played by Alfred Drake.)
This special contains a brief tribute to Moss Hart, who had died unexpectedly (and much too young) while the special was in production. When I attended the screening in 1964, I had only the vaguemost notion of who Moss Hart was, and I wondered if he had something to do with Moss Rose or Moss Bros. I now know, of course, that he was a major Broadway figure, although he only ever worked with Lerner & Loewe on these two musicals.
This show has a general air of cheapness about it, and was clearly produced on a very low budget. In 1964, I had not yet seen any version of 'My Fair Lady' or 'Camelot', so it was a real delight for me to see the great Stanley Holloway here performing his two numbers from the former. He does them solo here; apparently the production budget wouldn't stretch far enough to give him a supporting chorus, plus costumes and rehearsals. I recall thinking that both numbers would have worked better with a back-up chorus: I didn't realise at the time that this was indeed how they were originally staged.
The wonderful Julie Andrews sings material from both her L&L roles here. She teams with Richard Burton on 'What Do the Simple Folk Do?' Being very unsophisticated at the time, I was somewhat confused by this song because it seems to turn into an entirely different song ('Arise, My Love') after the second verse. I later saw a clip of Andrews and Burton performing this same number on the Ed Sullivan show; that version is better than this one ... or maybe I was just more sophisticated when I saw the second version.
Alan Jay Lerner's roommate at Harvard was some guy named John F. Kennedy, who was still alive and in politics when this special was produced and transmitted. JFK attended 'Camelot' during its Broadway run. Shortly after his death, his widow commented about how much he'd liked the show: as a result, 'Camelot' -- while it was still running on Broadway -- underwent a radical change in the public's perception, being seen as a symbol of the Kennedy years and what Kennedy might have achieved. However you feel about JFK, it's unfair to dump that burden on a simple little Broadway show. Fortunately, none of that metaphysical stuff taints this special, since JFK hadn't died yet.
Despite its low budget, I enjoyed this special at the time ... and in hindsight, now that I've seen full-blown productions of 'My Fair Lady' and 'Camelot', I would probably still enjoy a second viewing of this cheapjack special. I do recall being annoyed at the time by the spoken insertions of two alleged "theatre goers" who -- painfully obviously -- are clearly actors speaking scripted lines. At the time, I didn't recognise them; seeing both of them again later, giving better performances in other productions, I recognised them as Frances Sternhagen and Charles Nelson Reilly. Sternhagen has become one of my favourite character actresses. As for Reilly ... well, I never much liked him as an actor, but I admire his professionalism and his achievements as a director. Their segments here are badly written and poorly performed, and really should have been left out altogether.
I shan't give this special a rating, since my memories of it are spotty. Fans of Broadway musicals will enjoy it ... but there's not much going on here that isn't also on offer (much more impressively) in the full movie versions of 'Gigi', 'My Fair Lady' and 'Camelot'. As your consolation prize, I'll give you a piece of movie trivia: In the film version of 'Camelot', when Lancelot gets his first view of King Arthur's castle, director Josh Logan decided that the grass wasn't green enough ... so he paid one of the locals to hand-paint the grass!
Got quite a surprise last night when I was surfing through Youtube and found excerpts from this program, which I didn't know existed. Reading the comments from the writer from North Wales, I rushed to find this on IMDb. There was Julie strutting her stuff with Goulet, Burton, Chevalier and Stanley Holloway (didn't expect to see the irascible Rex Harrison, and wasn't disappointed). The first clip I found had all the principals joining Julie for a jubilant version of "I Could Have Danced All Night." Julie sang "With a Little Bit of Luck" with a gaggle of chorus boys in a jazzed-up version. I believe there is also a clip from the opening scene and song from "Camelot," which is arguably the best part of the show, but I didn't see it. Quality was variable, but it was in color, and quite watchable. Items come and go on Youtube, and there's no way to download them, so I suggest you find it quickly and enjoy it fleetingly. When oh when will we be able to download these amazing moments from Youtube? Yes, I am grateful that they even exist, but copyrights or whatever stop them from appearing for any length of time, and each one is a thrilling time capsule. More, please, more!
I just viewed a very rough copy of this special thanks to a collector and can confirm all of Jeffquis' clarifications. The poster from Wales may be confusing memories of this special with excerpts from The Ed Sullivan Show wherein Burton and Andrews DO perform "Simple Folk." I'd also like to add that Stanley Holloway's "Get Me to the Church" is actually quite a large production number with chorus. And finally, although the production may appear "low budget" to today's audiences who are saturated with "over-production" values, I can say whole heartedly that this production most assuredly cost its producers some big money. The stars' salaries alone would warrant a big budget. However, I am pleased to say that the art direction and costumes are in the highly stylized, streamlined fashion so popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I am a devotee of "Television Spectaculars" of this era and they all have similar design styles. It wasn't cheap--rather it let the audience focus on the performers and the material (unlike today's music videos and concerts which have so much pyrotechnics that the audience is wowed into thinking they've seen something marvelous!). How I long for those simpler, sophisticated days. Sadly, a special like "The Broadway of Lerner & Loewe" would never be broadcast on the major networks of today. We would find it only on PBS which is where its audience has retreated in these times.
There are many rare videos "for trade" out there in the modern world,
and this special has surfaced among them.
Having just viewed the complete 51 minute (minus commercials) color special, let me clear up some facts:
The majority of the special is carried by Maurice Chevalier, who has the duties of host, and many of the songs. It seems purposely to be the kind of special that lets the stars do numbers that are lesser known, or not usually sung by them.
Goulet does a snippet (two lines) of "If Ever I Would Leave You", but his main moment is a medley from PAINT YOUR WAGON.
Stanley Holloway does one of his numbers, "Get Me to the Church", during which the lyrics are changed to "For Pete's Sake", rather than "For God's sake". Julie and Richard sing nothing...absolutely nothing, from CAMELOT. (Despite a poster's dim memory above, they do NOT sing SIMPLE FOLK here). The moment which is included is the knighting scene in the grand hall, with the two of them and Robert Goulet. The bulk of this scene is devoted to RIchard Burton's monologue, "Resolved!", etc. Strangely, it is Maurice Chevalier who sings "Camelot", "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face", and it is Richard Burton who sings, "Gigi".
Julie gets to do "Show Me", in costume from My Fair Lady, and she does a very contemporary medley that includes "Witha Little Bit of Luck", and later, "I Could Have Danced All Night", with Burton, Chevalier, Holloway and Goulet.
It is a very pleasant special, and Julie looks gorgeous. But it is the sort of special that leaves you wanting more, and wishing they had allowed the cast to do the numbers they are famous for.
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