July 27th, 2008

carole lombard 07
  • vp19

"Made For..." a theme song?

We've occasionally shown examples of Carole Lombard appearing on the cover of sheet music...but here's something I never thought I'd see, because I never knew this existed. There are several reasons this is a fascinating find:

* The film it's from is not a musical.

* It's a title song from the movie, but I've never heard it. Nor could I track down the lyrics (which didn't appear in the film).

* Neither Lombard nor her co-star have much of a singing background (although I will note that said co-star did introduce a standard from a very well-known composer about two years before this was issued).

* The person who composed the music is also well-known, and in fact had previously worked on a Lombard film.

Have I given you enough hints? Piqued your curiosity?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the title song from...

..."Made For Each Other"!

Surprised to find out this film had a theme song? So am I. Of course, it was common practice for many movies, even those that weren't musicals, to have one, and that was true even in silent days. A notorious example came in 1928, when the Norma Talmadge film "The Woman Disputed" led to the creation of the theme "Woman Disputed, I Love You":

Of course, "Made For Each Other" didn't go anywhere, and perhaps it's as banal as the song above. Chances are it isn't, however, if only because of its pedigree.

The lyrics were by Harry Tobias, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame who died in 1994 at age 99. His compositions include "At Your Command," an early Bing Crosby hit, and "It's A Lonesome Old Town," which Frank Sinatra did so masterfully on his 1958 album "Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely."

And the music was composed by someone who had written the soundtrack for Lombard's 1937 hit "Nothing Sacred" (a Selznick-International film, as was "Made For Each Other"), so he presumably knew Carole. He's also someone whose talent and life story is worth discussing for a bit. His name? Oscar Levant.

Levant (1906-1972) figuratively wore many hats -- you could say he was a haberdasher of talent (and at times, he was indeed a mad hatter).

* He was a world-class concert pianist, arguably the prime interpreter of the work of close friend George Gershwin.

* He was a composer and film arranger of some renown. His best-known popular song is probably "Blame It On My Youth," recorded by many artists, including Frank Sinatra on what is arguably his most underrated album, the 1956 ballad collection "Close To You."

* He was an unlikely radio star, first on the quiz show "Information Please," then later as Al Jolson's foil on his late 1940s program (their chemistry is remarkable). In the 1950s, he had a local program on Los Angeles TV, then became a regular of sorts on "The Tonight Show" in its Jack Paar years. (This was a time when guests came on to provide lively conversation, not push their latest film or album.)

* He acted on occasion, most notably in the 1947 Joan Crawford-John Garfield drama "Humoresque" and the '53 Fred Astaire classic "The Band Wagon."

* He was an acerbic social commentator, whose best-known quips include "Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you find the real tinsel underneath" and "I'm a controversial figure: my friends either dislike me or hate me." He also once said of Doris Day, "I knew her before she was a virgin." (Kind of unfair to Doris, whose film characters were more well-rounded, and sexual, than people believed them to be -- but if he was knocking perceptions of Day's image and not the lady herself, then he was dead on.)

Anyway, that's the story behind the composers of "Made For Each Other." If you're of a musical bent and would like the sheet music, it's being auctioned on eBay at http://cgi.ebay.com/Carole-Lombard-sht-music-Made-For-Each-Other-Selznick_W0QQitemZ180268323838QQihZ008QQcategoryZ1453QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem. (And I love the name of the town of the seller: Woy Woy, New South Wales, Australia.) Bidding starts at $7.99 U.S., but you only have until about 8 p.m. Monday Eastern to bid, so hurry.

If any of you win it, I have one request: play the song on your piano at home and send me a version, either with your vocals or a copy of the lyrics. I eagerly want to hear what this song sounds like.

Oh, and what I wrote at the top about the singing co-star? It's true. In 1937, James Stewart appeared in the film "Born To Dance" with the great tap dancer Eleanor Powell, and with her introduced Cole Porter's "Easy To Love." (Powell's singing is dubbed; Stewart's isn't.)

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