Friday, 1 December 2006

One song, I have but one song

...One song, only for you… Thus warbled the handsome prince in Disney’s Snow White.

There were others who had only one song. In most cases they were people famous for something else, and one can see why a singing career did not follow: Lee Marvin growled along under a wandrin’ star, Walter Huston didn’t have time for the waiting game (the recording he made of Weill’s song become famous after his death twelve years later), and there was Bette Davis who pouted her way through a 1943 song complaining about the lack of eligible men:
They're either too young, or too old,
They're either too gray or too grassy green,
The pickings are poor and the crop is lean.
What's good is in the army,
What's left will never harm me.

I'm either their first breath of spring,
Or else, I'm their last little fling.
I either get a fossil or an adolescent pup,
I either have to hold him off,
Or have to hold him up……

But my favourite one-hit singer is Conrad Veidt. He had a distinguished film career in Germany from 1916 but his widely-known contempt for the nascent Third Reich meant that he had to leave in 1933, and he spent the rest of his life in England or Hollywood, often playing a Nazi like those he despised. Here he is in Casablanca; he was the highest-paid actor in the film.

In his last German film he recorded a song called Where the Lighthouse Shines Across the Bay, and it was later issued in an English version in which he was accompanied by what sounds like a chorus of tipsy Leuchtturm-Wächter. Actually he doesn’t really sing it, but does it in sprechstimme, in a softly menacing voice and with his highly imitable accent. It is about a girl who lives in a cottich thetched vis stroh and waits for her lover to come back from the sea. While she waits she does a bit of stair-gazing (or possibly stare-gazing), and when the record became a hit many years later its fans formed a Stair-Gazing Society in homage to the great actor. You can listen to him not singing HERE.

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