Thursday, January 21, 2016

"I Just Had To Watch It"

I don’t know.  I guess I’m old-fashioned.


I know, “Duh”.  But I needed to start somewhere.  So…

I don’t know.  I guess I’m old fashioned.

Here’s what I mean.  This time.

I am channel surfing the other day and I come across a 1953 movie musical (based on the original stage show) called Call Me Madam, songs by Irving Berlin, and starring brassy, Broadway belter Ethel Merman.  And Donald O’Connor.

Call Me Madam is eminently fluffy, something about a Washington socialite appointed ambassador to a fictional European country – I have never seen the entire movie, and I didn’t this time.  I might have watched it if there was nothing else on.

“Something happened and it’s Call Me Madam or nothing.”

“Okay, I’ll give it a try.”

But with nineteen hundred channels, there is a chance I can do better.  Though a surprisingly smaller chance than the number of alternatives suggests.

The thing is, when I happen to arrive at the Call Me Madam channel, Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor are about to go into “You’re Just In Love.”

And I feel compelled to watch it.


Because I know “talent” is about to explode on the screen right in front of me.   

I have this saying.  I don’t use it much, but it’s there when I need it, like my one suit that comes out for celebrations and funerals but otherwise stays in the closet wondering if it will ever be used again.

The saying I have is this:                                                                                       

“I like it when it’s good.”

This may well be idiosyncratic, but expertise is irresistible to me.  It could be expertise at anything.  I have been known to enthusiastically applaud when a pilot make a particularly smooth landing.

In the creative realm, I do not even have to understand what’s going on.  It could be opera or ballet or painting or figure skating – four of a shamefully plentiful number of arenas of which I am totally ignorant. 

But even an ignoramus, when I see it in front of me, there is this sense of exhilarating excitement, realizing that a human being – generated from the same species as myself – was capable of pulling that magnificent miracle off.   

For me, “You’re Just In Love” –

“I hear singing…”

………..”You don’t need analyzing….”

one of Irving Berlin’s patented two-melody counterpoint songs, performed in Call Me Madam by Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor, falls unequivocally into that category.

When it shows up, I find it impossible to turn away.   

(I react similarly to the counterpoint collaboration of “Little Drummer Boy” sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie.  I am a sucker for counterpoint collaborations.)

Two people singing different things at the same time, and they never get confused.

“Hey, you’re singing my part!”

That never happens.

The thing is, I am far from certain that my reaction to this performance is in any way universal.  It could be a “To each his/her own” situation.  What I find mesmerizing might, to you, be a duet sung by an overly-loud middle-aged woman and the co-star of Francis, The Talking Mule.  Or some similar construction of “Who cares?” 

So maybe this is a test.

Watch this. 

And tell me what you think.

Is it indisputably special?

Or merely a subjective reaction that is intrinsically not there?


Or the other thing.

Or the other thing


Anonymous said...

it's not just you..when i see pure talent i have to stop and watch..i got caught up in "that's entertainment - dancing" last week..the Busby Berklyness of the whole thing had me watching with rapt attention. i will also always watch Bing and Bowie....fascinating.

Rebecca said...

I totally get it. I always thought I didn't like a certain kind of music or architecture, then I'd come across a really good example which would open my eyes to other good examples. I thoroughly enjoy seeing a thing done well, whether in art or athletics or just everyday life.