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Kritzerland Celebrates “Summer” With Jerome Kern and Alfred Newman, Goes “Hollywood” With Neal Hefti

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Centennial Summer OSTAt first blush, Kritzerland’s two new releases don’t have much in common – though one celebrates the Golden Age of Hollywood and one is actually from The Golden Age of Hollywood. But both titles hail from celebrated and influential composers, and both of these scores are making their first-ever appearances on soundtrack albums. The composers are the legendary Jerome Kern and the big band great-turned-swinging sixties theme titan Neal Hefti, and the films are Centennial Summer and Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, respectively. And since two Heftis are better than one, the label is pairing the latter title with another treat from his pen: his score to the screen adaptation of (are you ready?) Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad.

1946’s Twentieth Century Fox musical Centennial Summer turned out to boast the final score by Jerome Kern (1885-1945). By the time of the film’s production, Kern had already advanced the art of the musical theatre with his groundbreaking work on musicals such as Show Boat. His work on Broadway and in Hollywood with a variety of talented lyricists turned out a catalogue of standards still performed today, including “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” “I Won’t Dance,” “A Fine Romance,” “Pick Yourself Up,” and “All The Things You Are.” Though the first part of his career was largely dominated by writing for the stage, Kern had spent several years in California before permanently settling there in 1937 and concentrating on motion pictures. He penned his final Broadway score in 1939 with Very Warm for May but continued to write for the movies.

Centennial Summer, based on Albert E. Idell’s novel, was intended to capitalize on nostalgia in much the same escapist manner as MGM’s Meet Me in St. Louis had two years earlier, in 1944. Otto Preminger directed Jeanne Crain, Cornel Wilde, Walter Brennan, Linda Darnell and William Eythe in the story of one Philadelphia family’s exploits at the city’s 1876 Exposition. Kern was tapped to write the score, with lyrics from luminaries Oscar Hammerstein II, E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, and Leo Robin. He died in November 1945 the age of 60, but not before completing a score that would net him a posthumous Academy Award nomination for the song “All Through the Day,” written with Hammerstein. The film’s underscore and musical direction were both handled by the studio’s chief music man, Alfred Newman, who also received an Oscar nomination for his work on the picture.

Kritzerland’s Centennial Summer, featuring both Newman’s score and Kern’s songs including “Cinderella Sue,” “In Love in Vain” and “Up with the Lark,” is the first authorized release of the Centennial Summer soundtrack. The score has been transferred from original ¼” elements housed at Fox and newly restored by Mike Matessino. Kritzerland’s release is limited to 1,000 units, and is scheduled to ship by the first week of September, though pre-orders placed directly through the label usually arrive three to five weeks early.

Won Ton Ton OSTNeal Hefti (1922-2008) didn’t come to Hollywood from Broadway but rather from the big band world. Serving in the mid-1940s in Woody Herman’s First Herd, trumpet player Hefti became a prolific composer and arranger, moving on to the Count Basie band in 1950. With Basie, Hefti came into his own. He composed and arranged Atomic Basie, considered the great pianist’s finest record, and scored at the Grammy Awards for the album. Hefti’s great gift during this period was the ability to tailor inventive arrangements to the identities and skills of the band’s members, and earned the praise of Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra for his ingenious work. Hefti diversified his efforts working on television with stars like Kate Smith, and when The Chairman enlisted him to arrange and conduct at his Reprise label, he answered. By the mid-1960s, Hefti was in demand in Hollywood as a soundtrack composer, turning out his arguably his two most memorable themes – for the soon-to-arrive-on-home-video Batman television show and for both the movie and sitcom The Odd Couple.

Kritzerland has the first-ever soundtrack release of Hefti’s final film score, for Paramount’s 1976 satire Won Ton Ton, or the Dog Who Saved Hollywood. The label’s Bruce Kimmel explains, “Won Ton Ton seems almost the end of an era. The cast included a huge number of cameos by an amazing array of Hollywood veterans, over fifty of them. The leading cast featured Bruce Dern, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr and Art Carney, and a brilliant performance by Augustus von Schumacher as Won Ton Ton. To the filmmakers, it must have seemed like a film that could not lose. The film came out, received middling reviews, and disappeared until the advent of home video and cable allowed people to find it and enjoy it for what it was – a fun, celebrity-filled lark with some truly amusing sequences. And the producers could not have made a better choice of film composer than the great Neal Hefti.”

After the jump: more on Won Ton Ton, plus the full track listings and pre-order links for both CDs!

Indeed, Hefti’s score to director Michael Winner’s movie accompanied a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood’s days gone by including Phil Silvers, Ethel Merman, Yvonne DeCarlo, Joan Blondell, Dorothy Lamour, Rudy Vallee, Johnny Weissmuller, Ann Miller, Alice Faye, and Tab Hunter…to name a mere few. Though critics and audiences alike didn’t take to the comic story of the titular dog’s ascent to stardom, Hefti’s work was one of its chief strengths. Kimmel writes, “Hefti’s style was breezy and melodic, but he was also an expert dramatic composer – even in his comedy films – and such is the case with Won Ton Ton. The flavor of the main title music, which evokes the 1920s, continues throughout the score for the upbeat cues, but Hefti also has several beautiful themes running throughout the film to underscore the sweet affection the dog feels for the Madeline Kahn character. It’s a truly delightful score, both in and away from the film, and it’s classic Hefti all the way.”

Oh Dad Poor Dad OSTWon Ton Ton has been paired with Hefti’s music for Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad, the 1967 comedy based on Arthur Kopit’s 1962 play. For the movie starring Rosalind Russell, Barbara Harris, Robert Morse and Jonathan Winters, Hefti wrote another memorably tuneful score typical of his work during this period. Won Ton Ton is derived for this first-time release from the multi-track tapes stored in the Paramount vault and newly mixed in stereo sound. Oh Dad, Poor Dad has been taken from the original three-track album master for the original RCA Victor soundtrack album.

Won Ton Ton/Oh Dad, Poor Dad will arrive, like Centennial Summer, by the first week of September, but pre-orders will likely arrive three to five weeks early. It, too, is a 1,000-unit limited edition. Both titles can be ordered below from Kritzerland!

Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II, E.Y. Harburg, Leo Robin and Alfred Newman, Centennial Summer: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Kritzerland, 2014)

  1. Main Title – “Centennial” / “Long Live Our Free America”
  2. Richmond Street
  3. “Railroad Song”
  4. The Carrier Letter / The Stairway
  5. “The Right Romance”
  6. Train Station
  7. Two Dachshunds
  8. “Up With the Lark” / “Centennial” (Reprise) / French Pavilion
  9. The Clock
  10. All Through the Day (Instrumental)
  11. “In Love in Vain”
  12. Café
  13. “All Through the Day”
  14. All Through the Day (Waltz)
  15. Photographs
  16. In Pavilion
  17. Ballroom Fanfare
  18. Square Dance
  19. Waltz L’Amour
  20. Sur Le Balcon / La Tentateur / Solitaire
  21. Up With the Lark (Waltz)
  22. In Love in Vain (Waltz)
  23. “The Right Romance” (Reprise)
  24. “Cinderella Sue”
  25. Jesse and Phillipe
  26. “Up With the Lark” / “All Through the Day” (Reprise)
  27. Up With the Lark (Instrumental)
  28. End Title
  29. In Pavilion (Alternate)
  30. In Love in Vain (Alternate Waltz)
  31. Up With the Lark (Alternate Instrumental)

Neal Hefti, Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood/ Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad: Music from the Motion Pictures (Kritzerland, 2014)

  1. Paramount on Parade/Main Title
  2. Bad Day for Dogs/Pound Break
  3. Gramophone #1
  4. The Won Ton Ton Rag/Love at First Sight/ Theme from Won Ton Ton
  5. Won Ton Ton Loves Estie
  6. Get Lost/Invitation to the Dance
  7. Return Home/The Wild Bus/Death March*/ Won’s Name
  8. Success Montage
  9. Won Ton Rescues Again/Consolation/ Rhoda’s Play On
  10. Won’s Won/Won Ton’s Fanfare/Won Ton Gives Estie Oscar/ Morning Promises/Drive to Santa Barbara
  11. Arabian Switch/Return of the Sheik/Rudy the Star/ Estie’s Grand Entrance
  12. The Ritz Ramble/Mafia Chord/Won’s Indian Rescue/ Won’s Rescue Attempt**/The Custer Disaster
  13. Sunset Beach/Gramophone #2
  14. Cielito Lindo (Traditional, arr. Hefti)
  15. Sad Parting
  16. Star Rising/Chaotic Walk
  17. Dog Act Part 1/Dog Act Part 2/The Stripper/Reward/ Won Chases Estie
  18. Rejected/Reunited
  19. What a Story/Finale/End Credits
  20. Oh Dad, Poor Dad (Main Title)
  21. Boy-Girl Calypso
  22. Like Heaven (Prologue)
  23. Home Movies
  24. The Revolt of Jonathan Rosepettle III
  25. Theme for a Boy and Girl
  26. This Is Mother
  27. Oh Dad Calypso
  28. Spooky Coffins
  29. Into the Sunset (Epilogue)
  30. Oh Dad, Poor Dad (End Title)

Tracks 1-19 from Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, previously unreleased

Tracks 20-30 from Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad, originally released on RCA Victor LP LSP-3750, 1967

* Incorporates “Attack” by J. Trombey

** Incorporates “Comedy Cocktails No. 11” by Paul Gerard

“Paramount on Parade” by Jack King and Elsie Janis

Written by Joe Marchese

July 21, 2014 at 10:22

One Response

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  1. A reminder that Judy Garland’s version of “All Through the Day,” recorded on August 17, 1946 with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony and Alfred Newman conducting, can be heard on the 4-CD set LOST TRACKS (JSP Records, 2010).


    July 26, 2014 at 08:20

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