I just thought I would clear up things about me and musicals, well I like most do like a good musical, and was brought up on the likes of MY FAIR LADY, OKLAHOMA, THE KING AND I, etc. So, I just wanted to say I do like musicals but I prefer film scores, which got me to thinking maybe a feature every so often on musicals or a musical. Its another section of film music in some cases as the movies often have scores as well as songs, so like soundtrack supplement, I am going to post maybe once a month something on shows, musical films etc. Starting with a handful of musicals that I have to admit I often turn to when I need a little bit of cheering up and also when I am feeling nostalgic.
There are a number of partnerships when it comes to musicals as in lyricists and composers of music, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Lloyd Webber and Rice, Sondheim, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Brock and Harnick, the list is really endless. I think my memories of musicals were mainly from Hollywood, in films such as AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, SINGING IN THE RAIN, CAROUSEL, SOUTH PACIFIC etc, big titles all iconic. In later years films such as THE SOUND OF MUSIC, PAINT YOUR WAGON, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, OLIVER and others became LP.s that I added to my collection . So, it is in this era the 1960’s mainly that I begin with OLIVER which has to be my favourite of them all,
I remember seeing the movie when I was around thirteen, and shortly afterwards was admitted to hospital for an operation to remove my appendix, things did not go well and I ended up with an infection and a stay of six weeks four of which were in isolation. When I eventually got home I was given the soundtrack from OLIVER which was a gatefold album on the RCA red seal label,
I literally played it all day and the song WHO WILL BUY soon became my most played, I loved the song but also listened intently to the background score, the music, I think even then I realised that even musicals had incidental scores for moments of drama etc when there were no musical numbers being performed. The LP which I still have was later replaced with the CD and it’s been a soundtrack that I have listened to off and on for the past 42 years.
I did not realise then that the man behind the musical numbers and the actual stage show which I had not seen was born into a Jewish family, Lionel Begletier was the youngest of seven children who were brought up in Stepney in the East End of London, His Father was a tailor. Lionel Bart as he was to become known as received no real formal musical education apart from a few violin lessons, but he soon became disinterested in these and his Mother very quickly literally threw out the violin he was practicing upon.
However because of the young Lionel’s interest and aptitude for music his teacher declared that he was a genius and at the age of sixteen he won a scholarship to St Martins school of art and began to be involved not just in music but in set decoration painting sets for plays etc. Whilst at the school he saw a notice advertising for song writers and it was this decision to make a career change that altered his life forever, it was during this period that he also decided to change his surname name to Bart, apparently this was inspired by a bus journey that took the young lyricist and composer past ST BARTHOLOMEWS church every day, the Church which was known by locals as St Bart’s attracted Lionel’s attention and he decided to become Lionel Bart. Bart’s first foray into writing a musical came in 1958 when he came up with WALLY PONE OF SOHO, this was not that successful and although it did attract some attention it was not a runaway hit for Bart. It was at this time in his career that he began to write songs for a number of British rock and roll artists of the day, Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Cliff Richard and Tommy Steele among them. Many of these such as LITTLE WHITE BULL, ROCK WITH THE CAVEMAN, LIVING DOLL were to become iconic and enduring favourites worldwide. The latter reaching number one in the hit parade of 1959 and staying there for six weeks. His first success in the world of musicals came in 1958/59 with FINGS AI’NT WOT THEY USED TO BE and after this he teamed up with composer Laurie Johnson to bring LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS TO London’s West End. It was also at this time that Bart began to develop more fully an idea he had for a musical which was based upon a classic tale written by Charles Dickens, OLIVER which Bart decided to set to music after seeing the David Lean film version of the story eventually came to the stage in the June of 1960, this was after numerous promoters and companies turned it down, resulting in Bart financing the production himself. Bart was convinced that the show would be a flop and apparently did not stay in the theatre on the first night instead taking himself off elsewhere with actress Barbara Windsor only to return at the end of the musical to receive no less than sixteen curtain calls, and soon the show had advance sales of 30,000 in its first week. Because of the success of OLIVER Bart began work on another musical but this was not successful, and sadly he sold off the rights for OLIVER to finance his new project.
Things never really got better for Bart although he was involved on various projects that had mild success. But nothing that ever really rivalled the interest that was generated by OLIVER. It is for me the ultimate musical story, and yes since those early days I have seen it on stage, and the theatre experience although different was just as affecting as seeing the movie version, in fact maybe more so. There are so many songs and musical numbers within the show or film adaptation that it’s very hard to not like it.
From the lilting and sentimental WHERE IS LOVE? to the big production on both WHO WILL BUY and CONSIDER YOURSELF, the raucous IT’S A FINE LIFE and OOM PAH PAH and the heart-breaking AS LONG AS HE NEEDS ME plus the songs performed by the Fagin character as in YOU GOT TO PICK A POCKET OR TWO, REVIEWING THE SITUATION and lets not forget, BE BACK SOON, I’D DO ANYTHING, FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD, OLIVER! and BOY FOR SALE, I think that covers about everything. OLIVER is a musical fan’s dream it is overflowing with catchy songs and glorious music. It is in short, a classic and a feelgood totally uplifting experience.
Ron Moody who played Fagin in the movie version of OLIVER and the 1983 Broadway revival of the musical was an English actor, singer, composer and writer. Moody earned a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award nomination for the film, as well as a Tony Award nomination for the stage production. Other notable projects include The Mouse on the Moon, Mel Brooks’s THE TWELVE CHAIRS, and FLIGHT OF THE DOVES, in which he was re-united with OLIVER co-star Jack Wild.
The character of Nancy in the film adaptation of the musical was played by Shani Wallis who is a British actress and singer, she worked in theatre, film, and television in both the United Kingdom and in the States. She was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and it is true to say that she is perhaps best known for her roles in the West End, and predominately for the role of Nancy in the film OLIVER.
Oliver Reed, attained something of a bad boy reputation, the English born actor was known for his upper-middle class, macho image and “hellraiser” lifestyle. He was much in demand as an actor and starred in numerous movies the most notable being, THE TRAP, CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, CASTAWAY,WOMEN IN LOVE, HANNIBAL BROOKS, THE DEVILS,THE THREE MUSKETEERS,TOMMY, THE BROOD, LION OF THE DESERT. THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, FUNNY BONES and GLADIATOR Which was one of his last appearances on screen before his death, he portrayed the Bill Sykes character in OLIVER under the direction of his Father Carol Reed.
Mark Lester is an English former child actor who starred in a number of British and European films in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1968 he played the title role in the film adaptation of OLIVER.
Lester also made several appearances in a number of British television series and was co-star in the movie RUN WILD RUN FREE. In 1977, after appearing in the action adventure film The Prince and the Pauper, he decided to retire from his acting career. And in the 1980s, he trained as an osteopath specialising in sport injuries.
Jack Wild, was an English actor and singer, probably best known for his debut role as the Artful Dodger in OLIVER for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. Wild is also known for his roles as Jimmy in the NBC children’s television series H.R. Pufnstuf (1969) and in the accompanying 1970 feature film as well as Much the Miller’s Son in ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES (1991).
Sir Harry Secombe had a varied career as a singer, actor, and comedian, he was one of the Goons alongside Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, playing many characters but most associated with Neddy Seagoon. Sir Harry Donald Secombe CBE was born in Wales and was an accomplished tenor, he also appeared in musicals and films –and portrayed the character of Mr Bumble in the film version of OLIVER. In his later years he was a presenter of television shows incorporating hymns and other devotional songs.
Peggy Mount also featured in the big screen version of OLIVER, in the role of Mrs Bumble, Margaret Rose Mount OBE was an English actress. As a child she found acting an escape from an unhappy home life. After playing in amateur productions, she was taken on by a repertory company and spent nine years in various British towns, learning her craft. In 1955 she got her big break in the comic play SAILOR BEWARE!: she created the leading role in a repertory production and, though unknown to London audiences, was given the part when the play was presented in the West End. She became known for playing domineering middle-aged women in plays, films and popular television shows from the 1960’s.
John Waldo Green (Johnny Green) was an American songwriter, composer, musical arranger, conductor, and pianist. His most famous song was one of his earliest, “Body and Soul” from the revue, Three’s A Crowd. Green won four Academy Awards for his film scores and a fifth for producing a short musical film, and he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. He was also honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was musical director on OLIVER and provided additional music cues and score.
In Part two, JETS, SHARKS and Leonard Bernstein.