Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957) & A Breath of Scandal (1960)/May and Cicognini
May 1, 2012
When I first became interested in music my father let me listen to an album he purchased called Sorta May released on Capitol Records and still available on CD for a reasonable price. What I remember most was the biting brass as mentioned in the liner notes by Bruce Kimmel but also the unusual saxophone sound called “slurping saxes” by some. He was arranger for the Frank Sinatra album Come Fly With Me an album played over and over by my mother. I’m not sure but I think my father replaced it because unlike a CD you could wear out vinyl. As an avid listener I enjoyed May, Hefti, and Riddle immensely in this time era and had a lot of their material.
The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown (1957) starred Jane Russell and was a predictable plot of a movie star who is kidnapped with everyone thinking it’s a publicity stunt. It’s not. Co-starring Keenan Wynn, Ralph Meeker, Fred Clark, and Una Merkel this was the last featured film that Jane Russell starred in. It was also the first score that Billy May did. He would go on to do Green Hornet and Naked City among many. The “Introduction” offers an exotic dance theme with Saxes and Brass, a melody that will stay with you. There are strings but they play a secondary role in this arrangement. “Travelogue” like Billy May but a Hawaiian sounding theme ideal for elevator music or a travel advertisement. “Beach House” begins with a rare dissonant passage in a tension situation. It switches back to the main theme in a romantic style featuring sax and muted brass with lush strings. “Malibu Beach Mambo” is a straight dance number with piano solo all backed by sax and brass. “Coming Next Week” has a frantic silent movie sound played while the hero is saving the heroine. “Dandy” offers a solo violin which leads to comical bars before the solo violin plays the main theme again. “Fuzzy Pink Nightgown” returns to the exotic dancer style music. The theme is a variation of the main theme. “Patio” is muted brass in a two step dance tempo before it switches to a chamber size string arrangement of the main theme with muted brass and sax complementing. “Laurel’s Theme,” the longest track and the favorite of this reviewer begins with a solo clarinet offering a variation on the main theme with strings offering harmony. The track shifts to yearning strings and back to the clarinet one more time before it finally plays the main theme again. “End Title” is a reprise of the main theme with and without the exotic dance drums. The mono recording is a nice clean re-master with surprisingly good separation between the different sections of the orchestra.
Compared to the Billy May score A Breath of Scandal (1960) is truly a study in contrasting musical styles. Directed by 76 year old Michael Curtiz and based on the play Olympia, the light comedy starred Sophia Loren, John Gavin, Maurice Chevalier, and Angela Lansbury. With a Vienna setting it is filled with waltzes, marches, accordions, and very light music played by a string orchestra with selective use of brass for the marches and can cans. Alessandro Cicognini, composer of over a 100 films between 1936 and 1965 retired from film composing and taught music for the rest of his life. He was classically trained and this soundtrack certainly brings this out. While the main title dominates the score with (4) vocals of Chevalier singing it in his unique style as well as the “Prelude” and “Finale” this is not a monothematic score. The stereo master will remind you in some sections of the recent Oscar winner The Artist. “Austrian March No. 1,” “Hapsburg Waltz,” “Austrian Dreams Waltz,” “Prince Phillip Waltz,” and Austrian March No. 2” also dominates the score. For being recorded in 1960 the tracks have a full sound making one wonder have we really come that far in 50 years. The Chevalier vocals overdue the stereo with guitar left side, organ right side, and Maurice in the middle but that was the thing to do in that era. The mastering is exceptionally clean with no glitches I could hear.
Total Duration: 01:04:06