November 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Lovely to Look At  M-G-M Musical from 1952
Music by Jerome Kern
starring Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson Red Skelton and Marge and Gower Champion
  bonus tracks from Texas Carnival M-G-M musical from 1951
Music by Harry Warren, June Hershey, Don Swander & Maurice Vandair
  Available On: RHINO RHM2 7842
Running Time: 68:08

lovely to look at

This 1952 M-G-M musical brims with wonderful evergreen Jerome Kern melodies; besides the title number Lovely to Look At, there are: the autumnal, nostalgic Yesterdays, the immortal Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and the equally popular comic-romantic I Won’t Dance. Add to all these other lovely ballads ‘You’re Devastating’ and The Touch of Your Hand, and the exuberant high-spirited marching song, Lafayette (sung by Messrs Keel, Skelton and Champion) and you have one of the most tuneful musicals of the 1950s. Then there is the rousing outtake for the male leads ‘Opening Night’. (For younger fans who may not be familiar with the actors, Red Skelton was popular M-G-M comic and Marge and Gower Champion were a husband and wife dance team who featured in many M-G-M musicals in the 1950s.)

The contrived story about three Americans trying to save a Parisian fashion business and losing their hearts to Misses Grayson, Miller and Champion in the process is best forgotten, the music is the thing with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel in top form.

Lovely to Look At had previously been filmed as Roberta by RKO Radio Pictures, after the successful stage production of 1934 of the same name. That film had Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in supporting roles to Randolph Scott and Irene Dunne. Subsequently M-G-M bought the property and released it in colour with additional songs and some revised lyrics. Soon after the 1952 release of the M-G-M film, an LP was released but this new CD includes much new material, principally instrumental versions of the songs and full musical coverage of the fashion show that is the climax of the film.

Five bonus tracks are devoted to music from Texas Carnival another, but less worthy musical from 1951. It also starred bathing beauty Esther Williams and Howard Keel with Anne Miller and Red Skelton. The only number besides the old chestnut Deep in the Heart of Texas that makes any sort of impression is the irrepressible Anne Miller’s It’s Dynamite.

Lovely to Look At is Lovely to Hear.

Ian Lace

***(*) 31/2

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