Saturday, November 25, 2006

Betty Comden, R.I.P.

One of the greatest Broadway and Hollywood lyricists in the world died on Thanksgiving Day - Betty Comden. She and her partner Adolph Green, were my heroes. Singing and dancing are great, but they were writers, and that was more glamorous to me than any kind of performing could ever be. I loved 'Singin' In The Rain', but I loved even more 'The Bandwagon', which also had two lead characters based on them - Lily and Lester Martin. They weren't married, but 'The Bandwagon' turned them into a husband-and-wife writing partnership, because they figured the public wouldn't really believe in two people who worked that well and closely together who weren't also married.

Mark Steyn was lucky enough to have met them both, and wrote this article about 'Singin' In The Rain'. I remember seeing them both being interviewed by Andre Previn. It must have been in the '70s, for 'Previn and the Pittsburgh'; they seemed incredibly old to me then, but now I realize they could only have been in their 50s. I don't know just where the Pittsburgh Symphony was for that episode, because I only remember the 3 of them with a piano. At one point Previn asked them about a song called "Mabel" that he'd heard they'd written, but had never been able to find. They laughed, and said it was a sort of a joke song, and then they both started singing very fast some totally ridiculous nonsense, full of accompanying musical sound effects. "Diddle-diddle-dum! Mabel, I love you! Diddle-diddle-dee!" Previn turned to the piano, and tried to follow them, but they were going so fast, he couldn't catch up and finally just broke down laughing as they rattled away. It was like trying to catch Chinese firecrackers. They were the best.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn has written a retrospective on both Comden and Green here, and it's very good.


Blogger Min O'Pause said...

Nice post. Comden was a class act. I always wanted to meet them, ( I loved them, along with Mike Nichols and Elaine May), and it's rare that a partnership lasted as long as Comden and Green. Truly genius. I'll be in NYC over the holidays, and I will think of " New York, New York," as I wander around the Big Apple. For once, I agree with your opinions and sentiments. Hmm...that must be some sort of sign that the Apocalypse is near.


12:26 am  

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