Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

We note the passing of legendary actress Shirley Temple yesterday at age 85. Despite her countless starring roles in major motion pictures, she is today best-known as the inventor of the non-alcoholic cocktail. Nonetheless, she has a Raymond Scott connection—or two. The first she knew about. The second, probably not.

A young (age 9) Shirley tap-danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson to Raymond Scott's "Toy Trumpet" in the 1937 film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (YouTube clip here.) The scene was apparently captured in one continuous take. The Raymond Scott Quintette performed the tune, but do not appear on camera (though they do appear in costume in the above publicity still).

After their breakout radio and recording success in New York in 1937, Raymond and his band were signed to 20th Century-Fox and whisked off to Hollywood. They provided music for and sometimes appeared in a half-dozen or so films with such major stars as Carole Lombard, Fred Allen, Eddie Cantor, and Sonja Henie. Scott reportedly disliked the film industry, which he found shallow. About studio execs he once griped, "They think everything is wonderful." The costumes in the above photo were no doubt another reason for Scott to despise Tinseltown. "We are musicians," he groused, "not comedians."

The Marr Archives, which houses the Raymond Scott collection, includes a disc with an unfinished composition entitled "Shirley's Tune." It dates from the RSQ's Hollywood sojourn, but the unreleased work never made it into the film and its purpose remains a mystery. However, it was sampled by The Bran Flakes on the forthcoming remix album Raymond Scott Rewired, on the track "Shirley's Temple Bells," which you can hear on Soundcloud.

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