Hidden vintage soundtrack
Aug 5, 2020 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
I watched Take Me Out to the Ball Game for the first time this weekend. It’s a delightful addition to my growing vintage musical collection. I’m a big Esther Williams fan and any time Betty Garrett is on-screen I’m always smiling! Whenever I get a new film I always dig into the special features. Like any vintage enthusiast, I am eager to learn more about the “behind-the-scenes” history. The special features for this cinematic classic did not disappoint. I know that the editing process is of vital importance to the art of film making. But I never fully appreciated the catalog of songs that ended up on the cutting room floor. Allow me to present a hidden vintage soundtrack and please share your favorite overlooked tunes in the comments…
“I’ve Got a Crush on You” – An American in Paris
This song by the Gershwin brothers isn’t exactly hidden – it was already familiar to Broadway audiences of the 1930s and beloved by Frank Sinatra fans, but I was intrigued to learn that Gene Kelly recorded a version for this hit film. Considering the plot (especially the sweet way the romance with Leslie Caron’s character unfolded), I don’t know why these lyrics weren’t included. The scene sounds like it would have played perfectly. Picture Gene Kelly in his pajamas, following his meet-cute with Lise, singing about his newfound love. But this wouldn’t be the first time editors weren’t thrilled with Gene singing in his nightclothes because a year later a similar scene was cut from Singin’ in the Rain.
“Traveling Light” – Guys and Dolls
Guys and Dolls is one of my favorite musical films. The tunes are catchy, the set design is pure mid-century magic and I love watching Marlon Brando find his footing during those big dance sequences. This song was all about the Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson philosophy of avoiding the perils of commitments. The tune was cut from the original production due to its intricate styling, but I’m not sure why it wasn’t reintroduced for the cinematic version. The aesthetic is a bit more whimsical than the rest of the soundscape, but it could have been a fun Brando and Sinatra duet.
“Say a Prayer for Me Tonight” – My Fair Lady
Audrey Hepburn fans know the scene where she first glides down the stairway in her amazing gown for the Embassy Ball. Her stoic expression seems to hide a thousand emotions. That pause as she waits for Professor Higgins to escort her feels never-ending. The entire story has been leading up to this climatic moment. The musical numbers are a big reason the audience becomes so invested in Eliza Doolittle’s success and just imagine if we’d had a chance to peek behind the curtain just before the big reveal. The song “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight” was meant to be our ticket to descending the staircase with Eliza. The composers were worried it made the sequence too long, but I disagree. This was a point in the film when Eliza was finding her voice. We see her strength in the number “Without You” and in my view the vulnerability of “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight” would have enhanced her bravery. The song was ultimately featured in Gigi and I must admit the Leslie Caron version is wonderful…
“Baby Doll” – Take Me out to the Ball Game
This quirky tune was meant to showcase Gene Kelly’s and Esther Williams’ budding romance. In watching the dance outtakes I can see why it wasn’t a fit for the film. The choreography is darling – Kelly & Williams take the doll theme quite literally – but it feels a bit too much like a sequence from Babes in Toyland. I found it interesting that in the special features, they mention that Kelly thought the sequence didn’t play because of their proximity in height. But the song found its home a few years later in The Belle of New York. As much as I love Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire’s elegant charm is a better fit for this tune. I could watch Astaire and Vera-Ellen dance all day. Their natural charisma is mesmerizing (and fun fact they are very close in height and it did not diminish from the beauty of the scene!).
“Boys and Girls like You and Me” – Take Me out to the Ball Game
I’m saving the best for last. Frank Sinatra filmed this flick during the late 1940s while his voice was at its prime and this melody was the perfect vehicle to showcase the power of his croon. (Especially as this song made Betty Garrett swoon!) The ballad, which was meant to be performed after their first kiss, predicts the endurance of their new love. In my view it could have been a fantastic counterpoint to the high-powered dance numbers. But the producers felt the number was too slow and distracted from the energy of this part of the film. It took a while for this melody to find its home. It was originally written for Oklahoma!, then it was supposed to be included in Meet Me in St. Louis. After it was cut from Take Me out to the Ball Game it would take nearly fifty years before it sashayed onto the stage in a production of State Fair. Once you give it a listen I’m sure, like me, you are glad it finally found the spotlight.