Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Silent Singing on Sunset

Recently Sam Staggs' book about Sunset Boulevard arrived in the Film Gab library, and among the many interesting tidbits about the film and its aftereffects is star Gloria Swanson's long held desire to recreate the role of fallen silent star Norma Desmond in a Broadway musical.  According to Staggs, she spent thousands on lawyers' fees, promotions, and on the salary of her young composers Richard Stapley and Dickson Hughes, only to have the project fall apart long before it reached the Great White Way.  (Of course Sunset Boulevard did reach Broadway many years later, but with an Andrew Lloyd Webber score.)  

One of the most intriguing remnants of Swanson's quest is her appearance on The Steve Allen Show in 1957, singing what she hoped would be the opening number to the show.  It's strange to see Swanson's Desmond erupt into song, even more strange to hear the tragic movie queen warble in a trilling soprano that seems better suited to Jeanette MacDonald.  It's hard to say whether a singing Swanson would have been a success, but it's fun to imagine what her performance might have been like. 

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