February 4, 2007
Brooks and I must have learned from the same songbook.
thought occurred to me while watching, on HBO, the movie version of
the musical version of The Producers. Mel wrote all the
songs, both words and music.
tunes are not bad, by the way. For example, the friendship
duet "'Til Him" near the end is one of those versatile
Broadway melodies that can be taken out of context and sung as a ballad.
my thought occurred while I was listening to Hitler sing "Heil
Myself!" It begins:
was just a paperhanger,
No one more obscurer.
a phone call from the Reichstag,
Told me I was Führer!
oh, what to do?
Hitched up my pants
And conquered France;
Deutschland's smilin' through!
through? Why end the verse with a preposition?
Isn't the expression usually something like "smiling through the
tears?" Why use the preposition "through" at
all, besides the fact that it completes the rhyme?
I remembered a sentimental 1918 waltz song by Arthur Penn called,
coincidentally enough, "Smilin' Through." It goes
a little brown road
over the hill
To a little white cot by the sea;
a little green gate
whose trellis I wait,
While two eyes o' blue
Come smilin' through
a gray lock or two
the brown of the hair,
There's some silver in mine, too, I see;
in all the long years
the clouds brought their tears,
Those two eyes o' blue
Kept smiling' through
found that song in one of the Hits through the Years albums
that my parents bought me when I was a young boy learning to play the piano.
book contains about 30 songs that were published by a particular Tin
Pan Alley firm in the early 20th century. This one was Witmark
Hits through the Years, from M. Witmark & Sons.
Mel Brooks remember the phase "smilin' through" from
Arthur Penn's words on page 29, where blue eyes were smiling through
the trellis of the gate?
A still stronger connection
And this oldies collection.
page 2 we find "Ma Blushin' Rosie," by Edgar Smith and
John Stromberg from the year 1900. It's written in a minstrel
blackface dialect, beginning thus:
a colored bud ob beauty
Dat I longs ter call ma bride,
dis coon am neber happy
Les' his baby's by his side.
course, those lyrics could never be sung that way today, so we need
to translate them into standard English, continuing thus:
baptismal name is Rosie,
But she puts the rose to shame;
'most any night you'll hear me
Call her name:
you are my posy,
You are my heart's bouquet.
out here in the moonlight;
There's some fine sweet love I want to say.
honey man is waiting
Those ruby lips to greet.
be so aggravating,
My blushing Rosie,
My posy sweet.
Brooks sang this odd old song, in the character of odd old Uncle
Phil, on a television sitcom. It was during the final season of Mad
About You, in an episode that first aired on March 1, 1999.
the scene, he was dancing. He was singing to his dance
partner/girlfriend, who was of course a character called Rosie.
Rosie was played by none other than my classmate at Syracuse, Edie
Edie in a more recent guest role, in an episode of Campus Ladies that
aired just this past Tuesday on the Oxygen network.)
why did Mel choose to sing the odd old song? Where had he
learned it? Who's to say he didn't find it on the pages of Witmark
Hits through the Years?