I like the island Manhattan

Sunday, December 10th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Film

Radio City Music Hall

The Rockefeller Center Tree (and two special guests) — NYC holiday tradition since 1931:

Rockefeller Center Tree

Across the street, velvet-roped crowds admired the Saks holiday windows. This year’s six-frame display tells the story of five misfit ice crystals (Allie, Tay-Tay, Chip, Winnie and Timmy) as they journey and dream of becoming part of the perfect snowflake. The Art Deco-inspired windows glitter with thousands of Swarovski crystals against shades of white, silver and pastels. The final tableau shows the five new friends merging into one snowflake, over animated, sparkling replicas of the Rockefeller Center, Empire State and Chrysler buildings — the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Saks Christmas Window

Saks Christmas Window

Saks Christmas Window

Saks Christmas Window

Walter Mirisch produced six decades of Hollywood films which combined have earned eighty-four Academy Award nominations and twenty-eight Oscars. For the month of December, the MoMA is screening a selection of Mirisch’s productions, including Some Like It Hot (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), and the Best Picture Oscar winners The Apartment (1960), In the Heat of the Night (1967) and this afternoon’s feature West Side Story (1961).

West Side Story is one of my favorite musicals. My parents have the 1957 Original Broadway Cast recording — with the original, uncensored Stephen Sondheim stage lyrics — on vinyl. As a girl, I listened to that record over and over, eventually committing all the songs to memory.

I had picked up three tickets to the MoMA screening, so after Mom and Dad dropped out that morning, SYB stepped in for the matinee.

Director Robert Wise opens the movie with that famous establishing overhead shot of Manhattan, a helicopter effect he would repeat over the Alps for the opening of The Sound of Music (“The Hills are alive….”) The elaborate opening dance numbers, with their snort-inducing depiction of street gang tensions (“Sharks!” “Jets!”) were filmed on location among the dilapidated tenements that once stood over the current site of Lincoln Center. The demolition of those buildings was delayed to accommodate the filming of the musical, which went on to win an almost-record 10 Academy Awards. (The Broadway show lost all the major Tony awards to the lighter and far more traditional The Music Man.)

The familiar Romeo and Juliet story, the athletic Jerome Robbins choreography, the eminently singable score by Leonard Bernstein — it all came flooding back. Most know that Natalie Wood’s singing was actually dubbed by Marni Nixon, who also recorded the songs for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964) and years earlier, for Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956). As a singer, Nixon was famous in Hollywood for being invisible, earning herself the nickname “Ghostess with the Mostess.” She did not begin to be fully credited or widely acknowledged until the movies’ subsequent release for home viewing audiences decades later.

In addition to dubbing Wood’s singing, Nixon stepped in to dub Rita Moreno’s high-register part in the Tonight”  quintet, effectively dueting with herself in the two female roles. That dubbing assignment prompted Nixon to request payment of film royalties. When the movie and record producers refused, Bernstein generously ceded one quarter of one per cent of his own royalties to her.

Fun trivia fact (for SC): Nixon’s son, Andrew Gold, wrote “Thank You for Being a Friend,”  perhaps best known as the theme song to The Golden Girls.

Radio City Music Hall

There's 1 comment so far ... I like the island Manhattan

December 22, 2006

…with songs they have sung for a thousand years. I recently heard part of the billy goat song (from TSoM) in a dance remix.

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