Wednesday, September 08, 2010
We've been talking this week about how there is no guarantee anywhere in life. and yet some young actors insist upon it before they will commit to anything. The photo you see is of world famous writer Preston Sturges, an Academy Award winner and the guy who made "the screwball comedy" a mainstay in American cinema. In 1953, one of the most notorious Broadway flops of all time was a little gem called "Carnival In Flanders. It opened and closed on Broadway on this day after six performances. It almost destroyed Sturges emotionally. The composer of this notorious flop was Jimmy Van Huesan. Jimmy wrote a few songs you might have heard of that won Academy Awards. Titles like "High Hopes" "Call Mr Irresponsible" and Sinatra's big one "All The Way" Johnny Burke had been an Academy Award winner for the classic song "Swinging On A Star" Together this team of Burke and Van Heusen turned out some of the great hit tunes of the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s. Burke was the only major composer to spend his entire career with just one studio, Paramount Pictures. His primary function as a lyricist was working on Bing Crosby films. Of the 41 films on which he worked, 25 starred Bing Crosby. Seventeen songs were substantial hits, including "Pennies from Heaven" "I've Got a Pocketful of Dreams", "Only Forever", "Moonlight Becomes You" and "Sunday, Monday and Always" and the aforementioned Swinging on a Star from the Bing Crosby film Going My Way. Carnival in Flanders had a big star in the persona of John Raitt and its book was improved by Dorothy Fields an amazing book writer and lyricist in her own career. The big song from the musical was that classic song "Here's That Rainy Day" All of that plus costumes and sets the critics raved over, but a story set far away in what is today the country of Belgium (then Flanders) in the year 1616. The odds that this musical should have been an outstanding hit were overwhelming in its favor. Van Huesan and Sammy Cahn even tried a Broadway musical called "Walking Happy" that flopped so badly it lost twelve million dollars-- which in the 1960's was a colossal amount. Leonard Bernstein and Alan Jay lerner flopped with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a 1970's flop so big and so embarrassing that the Leonard Bernstein estate refuses to this day to allow public performances of the work. And if you listen to this musical's signature song "Bless this House" you will cry -- and that is a guarantee. So all of you young actors who put no faith in things that doesn't have a guarantee, beware--not even amazing legendary talent can make something successful. And don't forget the stigma of being in a flop with so much famous talent is going affect how soon you get hired for another show. Dear Mitch Leigh, the composer of "Man of La Mancha" had that one hit show-- everything else he tried flopped big time! Alan Jay Lerner and Charles Strouse have had more huge flops than any other individuals. There is no guarantee except what dear Ben Franklin said all those years ago-- death and taxes-- and maybe the continued annoyance of politics!