Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The audience will never notice

There's a lovely baritone solo in the delightful movie, Calamity Jane, and its stage version: Higher than a Hawk. The music is by Sammy Fain, and the words by Paul Francis Webster, both men much respected in their line. Howard Keel sang the song with all his usual charm and conviction in the movie version. And it was just as well he brought conviction to the song because it has a strange metaphorical error in it, one that, when you notice it, won't let itself be unnoticed.

The song starts: My love is higher than a hawk, my love is deeper than a well. All good so far, in a loose metaphorical sense. But you get the picture without problem. And the chorus goes on quite happily for a few more lines before there's a little verse that, on returning to the end of the chorus again, ends with the same words I've quoted above.

The only problem is that when they return they follow these lines: I said that I would never fall; I laughed at others when they fell, and here I'm fallin' - higher than a hawk, and deeper than a well. 

If you're not listening, it rounds out the song very nicely before it goes off onto another verse. But the problem is, how do you fall higher than something? And why is the hawk fallin' - or falling, as the case may be?

It's a kind of 'it doesn't really matter' situation. Plainly Cain, Webster and Keel, and the rest of the Calamity Jane participants didn't get bothered by it. They probably said, the audience will never notice, because audiences don't. And I agree: there is story after story about movies where the audience doesn't notice things that are wrong, and didn't get put right, or where something's gone wrong on a particular night in the theatre and the audience has gone home just as happy as the audience to whom the same thing didn't happen. If you're still with me. I could tell a few of my own, things I've been involved in. But I won't, because I've probably already told you before.

At the end of the day, the baritone will go on stage and sing about a love that's fallin' higher than a hawk, and the movie will carry on showing Howard Keel singin' the song without blinkin' an eyelid, and 99.9% of people won't notice.
Post a Comment