Thursday, August 13, 2009

So Little Time and So Little to Do

Friday is, sadly, the 37th anniversary of the passing of one of the wickedest wits of the west--Oscar Levant. Piano-playing pal of the Gershwins, wise-cracking sidekick to Gene Kelly in An American in Paris and Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon, Levant said lines like, "“A pun is the lowest form of humor--when you don't think of it first,” and therefore is sort of an idol of mine. How can one forget his cameo in The Cobweb as a psychiatric patient in a straitjacket singing "Mother"? Here are some other choice Levant quotes:

"The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too."
“I'm a study of a man in chaos in search of frenzy.”
“Underneath this flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.”
"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left."
"I only make jokes when I am feeling insecure."
“I envy people who drink--at least they know what to blame everything on.”

Following from that last quote, here's a clip from The Band Wagon that occurs after the initial show they're trying to put on is a huge disaster. There's not a ton of Levant, but the song 2 minutes in is one of my favorites from the Hollywood musical canon, as light on its feet as Astaire himself.

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Blogger Hank said...

As a teenager, I spent many days at Oscar and June Levant's house on Roxbury Drive. I was friend's with his daughter Amanda. Oscar could be heard upstairs playing Gershwin. He hated whistling, so I had to control the urge. I was at the front door once when he was opening the mail. There was a copy of Time Magazine with Thelonious Monk on the cover. He knew I played jazz and asked to me explain Monk's music. I was tongue-tied.

Hank Allen

9:51 AM  
Blogger George said...

Great reminiscence, Hank. Thanks for posting!

10:08 AM  

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