Jerry Herman (1931-2019)

I was sorry to hear of the death of famed Broadway composer and lyricist, JERRY HERMAN  .

I’m sure Jerry Herman didn’t know that when he wrote HELLO DOLLY  in 1964 and MAME in 1966 that he would be providing employment for many vintage Hollywood  stars.

Carol Channing was the original star of Hello Dolly  and Angela Lansbury was the first Mame . The two shows had such long runs, both on Broadway and on tour that many stars played the roles, including Ginger Rogers, Jane Russell,  Celeste Holm, Ethel Merman, Pearl Bailey, Dorothy Lamour, Eve Arden, Betty Grable, Ann Miller, Mary Martin, Martha Raye, Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Sothern.

 

Ginger Rogers as Dolly.

 

Betty Grable

 

Mary Martin………Martha Raye

 

Eve Arden

 

Ann Miller……….Ethel Merman (for whom the role was originally intended, but she turned it down).

 

Carol Channing

 

Dorothy Lamour

 

Pearl Bailey

 

Gower Champion

  • Well known for his  MGM musicals with his wife, Marge Champion, Gower Champion had  become a  stage director/choreographer, and was responsible for directing Hello Dolly.

 

Yvonne De Carlo

 

Hello Dolly was based on Thornton Wilder’s 1955 play, THE MATCHMAKER which was filmed with Shirley Booth as Dolly Levi.

Paul Ford, Shirley Booth.

 

My Dolly was Dora Bryan who was very good but I did long to see one of the Hollywood stars!

For all things Dolly, there is a fine website, callondolly.com

 

 

Oh to have seen Susan Hayward as MAME.

 

Celeste Holm, who took over from Angela Lansbury as Mame  on Broadway.

Jerry Herman wanted Judy Garland  to take over from Angela , and he rehearsed with Judy but the producers decided Judy couldn’t sustain a Broadway run.

Jerry said, “Whenever I’ve had to write a real hit-em-in-the-gut show tune, I always pictured it in the voice of Judy Garland.”

The dramatic highlight of MAME  was the lovely song “If He Walked Into My Life”. Jerry said,

“I didn’t write ‘If he walked into my Life’to be a popular song hit. I was amazed when I heard Eydie Gorme sing this exquisite torch song – she didn’t change one note or word that Angela Lansbury was singing every night on  stage.”

 

The “Mame” I saw in London 1969, GINGER ROGERS. What a thrill that was.

 

Angela Lansbury was deprived of the opportunity of memorialising her performance as ‘Mame’ when Lucille Ball was cast in the film version in 1974 which wasn’t well received.

There was a rumour that Bette Davis wanted to play the acid-tongued Vera Charles in the film .

 

And the original ‘Auntie Mame’, Rosalind Russell. (1958).

 

MACK AND MABEL, written in  1974 ,  was the Herman show that never quite made it. It was a love story about the beginning of Hollywood, with Robert Preston as Mack Sennett and Bernadette Peters as Mabel Normand. The score is amazing , with beautiful songs like “I Won’t Send Roses” and “Time Heals Everything.”

  • As with Hello Dolly, Gower Champion directed Mack and Mabel.
  • Robert Preston, Bernadette Peters

Of the show’s failure on Broadway (only 65 performances) Jerry said, “It was heartbreaking for me to have it not really work.”

Musical historian Miles Kreuger commented, I think MACK AND MABEL , with a totally different book, could be a triumph.”

I was lucky enough to see a London revival of the show, and found myself sitting in the row behind Jerry Herman at a preview. When I tapped his shoulder at the interval and said how much I loved his songs, he gave me a hug!
I agree  entirely with Miles Kreuger. With a much lighter plot, Herman’s score deserved as much success as his three great successes, Hello Dolly, Mame and La Cage Aux  Folles.

“Mack and Mabel “ had quite a sombre  mood, with the heroine on drugs and dying at the end.  Being faithful to the real life characters didn’t sit well with audiences.

I bet folk remember Torvill  and Dean winning the 1982 World Ice Dance Skating Championship using Herman’s  music from Mack And Mabel.

Christopher Dean, Jayne Torvill

 

 

 

I also attended MACK AND MABEL IN CONCERT at Drury Lane London in 1988. Another opportunity to see Jerry Herman in person as he helped introduce all the performers.
Highlights were Georgia Brown singing “Time Heals Everything”; Denis Quilley’s “I won’t Send Roses” and Tommy Tune in a spectacular “Tap Your Troubles Away.”

The concert was captured on record. Great memories.

 

George Hearn, Gene Barry in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (1983).Jerry saw the French film, La Cage Aux Folles and decided, “That’s going to be my next musical”

I was fortunate to see George Hearn in La Cage  in London, with Denis Quilley in the Gene Barry role.

 

 

On his own musical back ground, Jerry said, “I was so fortunate to have parents who loved musical theatre. I saw Ethel Merman in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN belting out those Irving Berlin songs, and I was able to come home and play 3 or 4 songs , that I had never heard before, on my mother’s piano.

It really changed my life.”

 

I love the lyrics of a song Jerry wrote for a  musical revue, A Day in Hollywood, A Night in the Ukraine” (1979)

Need to relax, need to escape,

Go see Fay Wray in the paw of an ape,

     Watch Errol Flynn shooting his bow,just go to the 

Movies, just go to a picture show……

 

The melodies live on. A great talent.

 

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