Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Where Does Love Go (1965) : Charles Boyer Sings!

Good morning!!

Long time no see! How've ya been? I'm peeping back in from the BLAZING, SCORCHED EARTH of Nashville, Tennessee to update you with a celebrity oddity I ran across the other day. Yep, the kind of thing only you and I would enjoy.

Confession: I cancelled my Spotify premium subscription the other day in a bid to cut down on some of the superfluous digital services we seem to mindlessly become entwined with (it's so easy to do!). As much as I love commercial-free listening, I figured with all the things out there, there had to be somewhere else I could get my music (legally, semi-legally, whatever) for free. And, in my spendthrift haze, I had completely forgotten that Freegal, a service provided by my local library, totally allows unlimited music streaming from something like 10,000 music labels, including Universal Music Group (which has subsumed SO. MANY. OLD SCHOOL. LABELS). While the user interface is barest of bare bones, hey, it's free! And no commercials. And so....many....weird things.

Such as? A contender for the prize of "Weirdest Midcentury Spoken Wordish Singing Record by a Celebrity" (the mantle formerly held by Dirk Bogarde alone)... this compilation of Gallic import Charles Boyer speak-singing, in French has flipped my wig to where it is completely on backwards.

Let's talk!

It's funny, but as with a lot of classic Hollywood stars, you don't get the full picture of Charles Boyer's movie impact in a still photograph. His receding hair and average stature, coupled with even but unprepossessing features, are nothing to write home about at first glance-- and yet put him in a movie and you're sure to be swept away by his suave, continental bearing, his smoldering glances, and above all, his dreamily pronounced French accent. Also, ascots. Boy, all the ascots. A heady combination for old school romantic movie-lovers such as ourselves.

Born in the Pyrénées in 1899, Charles Boyer became famous in America for a line from the trailer of the Pépé le Moko remake, Algiers, that never even made it into the finished film. "Come with me to the Casbah", pronounced trippingly on Boyer's tongue, became the "Come wizz meee to de Cazzbaaah" of a million celebrity impressionists, as famous in its day as "I vant to be a-lone". The sonorous, deep quality of his voice, combined with the rakish French accent, is pretty much irresistible. The year before his catchphrase was born, he played in a romantic weepy that won my heart, opposite Irene Dunne in Love Affair. That film would later be remade as the four-handkerchief classic An Affair to Remember... and if you'd have told me, pre-screening, that the person in the photograph on the left would give Cary Grant of all people a run for his money in a romantic who-played-it-best, I would have been skeptical to say the least. However! Boyer carries with him an urgency verging on pathos in most of his good scenes-- while he may start a movie haughty and remote, arch and distant, it seems as if there's always some turning point along the course of the filmplay where the music swells and you realize he's been torturing himself trying to suppress his love for you  his onscreen lady love for the better part of the movie. AND THAT, my friends, is what makes a truly indelible heartthrob in the Mr. Darcy mold. I've seen plenty of movies that were just "eh" (see: The Garden of Allah, in spite of its jawdropping Technicolor gorgeousness) in hopes of capturing one of those true heart-string tugging moments that the best of his movies include (see: All This and Heaven, Too). 

Which brings us to why I would be psyched to see his name next to a record in the Freegal holdings!

Initially, I was like "Whoa, TWO records of...wait, these are the exact same songs." Waaah. 

Is this record perfect? No, it is not. Is it totally fun? Yes it is. Is it weirdly more listenable than the Dirk Bogarde record (which, itself, has kind of grown on me)? Indeed! INDEED IT IS. My favorite part, bless my little beating francophone coeur, is that Boyer slips into French in half the songs-- "Autumn Leaves" and "La Vie Rose" both feature passages of the original French lyrics, a real treat for French speakers. I love the series of ideas that sprung to mind as I listened and sighed a swoony sigh:

  1. Do old-time French actors have a specific accent that is dated by its age/time period, in the way that 1940's actors (Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, etc) have a very specific way of talking even outside of their individual idiosyncracies? People in 1940's movies, stylized or not, have a very identifiable way of speaking specific to that era, which made me wonder: if a native French speaker listened to Boyer speaking in French, would they get a sense of old-fashionedness from his in-French accent that misses us for not being born francophones?
  2. Imagine going back to some dude's apartment in 1965, and he puts THIS on the hi-fi as a "mood setter"/possible makeout music? I think that's technically the intended audience for this and the Bogarde record, as a swoony-romance-y dim-the-lights music, but I would have fallen into a fit of giggles at the preposterous nature of the whole endeavor I'm pretty sure from Minute One. "Bolero" is obvious enough, but a record of a French actor speaking his way through love songs would just advertise subtlety as NOT being one of your strong suits, sixties' Mad Men era would be lothario.
  3. Also, think of Charles Boyer himself giving a "I'm game" go-ahead for this album, though professing to possessing no great vocal ability. Record company: "Charles, we're going to bring you in here to do a record." Charles Boyer: "And whhhy nawt?" with an insouciant toss of his diminutive shoulders. Go on, get your life, Charles Boyer.
Give it a listen yourself, and see what you think-- you can catch a lot of these songs on Youtube or Spotify or even Freegal, if your library subscribes.


And if you won't take my word it being good, did you know that no less a shining star than Our Elvis Presley who art in Heaven expressed a deep love of this record around the time of his Las Vegas performances? Read for yourself:

Whaaaat. You heard it here first! Or possibly second, if you've read those two Elvis books I just grabbed pull quotes from (the latter of which, Peter Guralnick's epic two-volume bio, is essential reading). My favorite part of that passage is that no one else liked the record because of its melancholy nature-- I guess there is a kind of sad undertone to the music, but that's about the only way I like it-- dramatic, romantic, BIG!

Anyway, it's good to get a chance to check in! I've definitely missed writing and interacting over here, and as always, hope to make good my promise to return to a more regular blogging schedule as time permits. In the in-between-time, I hope you're finding lots of great stuff out at the sales and enjoying the summer months as best you can for all this oppressive heat! Stay cool, and see you again soon! Til then. :)

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