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Betty Hutton's Life Filled with Drama

Actress Betty Hutton died last weekend at the age of 86. Hutton was a singer and actress who starred in classic musicals and comedies of the 1940s and 1950s.

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Other segments from the episode on March 16, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 16, 2007: Interview with Mick Moloney; Commentary on Betty Hutton; Interview with Charlie Louvin; Review of the film "The Host."

Transcript

DATE March 16, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Musician and folklorist Mick Moloney discusses album
"McNally's Row of Flats"
DAVID BIANCULLI, guest host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, TV critic for the New York Daily
News, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, so we're starting today's show by visiting
with Mick Moloney. He's the singer, guitarist and Irish folklorist who
released a CD last year covering the songs of lyricist Ed Harrigan and his
writing partner, composer David Braham. You may not be that familiar with the
music, but you may know Harrigan from a tribute song sung by James Cagney as
vaudevillian George M. Cohan in the movie "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

(Soundbite of "Yankee Doodle Dandy")

Mr. JAMES CAGNEY: (Singing) H...

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) A...

Mr. CAGNEY: (Singing) ...double R, I...

Woman: (Singing) ...G, A,N spells Harrigan.

Mr. CAGNEY: (Singing) Proud of all the Irish blood that's in me, and never a
man can say a word agin' me. H...

Woman: (Singing) A...

Mr. CAGNEY: (Singing) ...double R, I...

Woman: (Singing) ...G, A, N, you see.

Mr. CAGNEY and Woman: (Singing in unison) Is a name that a shame never has
been connected with. Harrigan, that's me. H, A, double R, I....

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Harrigan and Braham plied their trade and wrote their Irish
American songs in New York City in the 1870s and '80s, predating Tin Pan
Alley. Moloney was born in Limerick and lived in the US since 1973. He has
recorded and produced more than 40 albums of traditional music. His latest
CD, the one Terry spoke to him about last year, is called "McNally's Row of
Flats: Irish American Songs of Old New York by Harrigan and Braham."

TERRY GROSS, host:

Mick Moloney, welcome to FRESH AIR. I would like you to introduce the first
track on the new CD, which is called "McNally's Row of Flats." Would you
describe this as one of the really early songs about city life in America?

Mr. MICK MOLONEY: It is, indeed, one of the early songs about city life in
America, and it comes out of the context of Lower East Side Manhattan where Ed
Harrigan lived along with David Braham. And this was a time in the early
1880s, when this song was written, when Irish immigrants were living beside
Italian immigrants, and they were also living beside African-Americans and
Chinese immigrants, Eastern European immigrants were arriving, mostly Jewish,
from Russia and Ukraine. And the whole thing was a real multicultural mosaic.
And this song gives a very good flavor of that.

GROSS: OK. A song about multiculturalism long before anybody invented the
word. Here it is, "McNally's Row of Flats."

(Soundbite of "McNally's Row of Flats")

Mr. MOLONEY: (Singing) Down in Bottle Alley, lived Timothy McNally, at days
a politician and a gentleman at that. Beloved by all the ladies, the gossims,
and the babies, and occupied the building called McNally's Row of Flats.

Mr. MOLONEY and Unidentified Man: (Singing in unison) And it's Ireland and
Italy, Jerusalem and Germany, Chinese and Africans and a paradise for rats.
All jumbled up together in the snow and rainy weather, they constitute the
tenants in McNally's Row of Flats.

Mr. MOLONEY: (Singing) That great conglomeration of men from every nation,
the tower of Babylonian it couldn't equal that. A peculiar institution where
the brogues without dilution, they rattle down together in McNally's Row of
Flats.

Mr. MOLONEY and Man: (Singing in unison) And it's Ireland and Italy,
Jerusalem and Germany, Chinese and Africans and a paradise for rats. All
jumbled up together in the snow and rainy weather, they constitute the tenants
in McNally's Row of Flats.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Mick Moloney from his new CD "McNally's Row of Flats: Irish
American Songs of Old New York by Harrigan and Braham." Would you just place
us musically here? I mean, this is an era--we're talking like 1870s to 1890s,
and so it kind of precedes Tin Pan Alley.

Mr. MOLONEY: Mm-hmm. It does, yes.

GROSS: So what are the entertainments of that time?

Mr. MOLONEY: Well, you would think of Gilbert and Sullivan around that era.
That's the late 1870s. Actually, Harrigan and Braham started writing songs
about six or seven years before Gilbert and Sullivan. Some of the songs have
somewhat of the same feel to them. Of course, Gilbert and Sullivan went to
opera and operetta, and Harrigan and Braham and Hart, they stick with musical
comedy, musical theater. But say a song, like say the "Mulligan Guard," which
was their first big hit, if you look at it, the sheet music, it would go
something like this...

(Singing) We crave your condescension. We'll tell you what we know from
marching in the Mulligan Guard and the Sligo Ward below. Our captain's name
was Hussey, a Tipperary man. He shouldered his sword like a Russian duke
whenever he took command. We shouldered guns and marched and marched away.
From Baxter Street, we marched to Avenue A. Our fifes and drums so sweetly
they did play as we marched, marched, marched in the Mulligan Guard.

Now, when I went and listened to that in sheet music, it didn't sound like
that much of a big deal. And I knew that it needed something as a window into
the past to make it more evocative of the original feel of the music in its
context. This was the year of marching bands, of course. So I went to Vince
Giordano who has a band, the Nighthawks, and they played for 15 years up in
48th and Broadway at Charley O's. A big fan of their music...

GROSS: Didn't they do swing tunes and early jazz?

Mr. MOLONEY: Yeah, early jazz. And Vince has a great knowledge of early
American music, especially 20th century music. This was little bit before his
time. With him and his arranger, John Gill, who plays in the band, we sort of
stepped back another few decades, said, `What might this have sounded like in
a pit orchestra in the Harrigan and Hart and Braham era?' You're talking about
the 1870s. And we did what we felt would be a fairly decent reconstruction of
what it would have sounded like then, with the feel, however, of today as
well. Because the intent was never--from the start of making this CD--the
intent was never to reconstruct anything, but to more or less get the flavor
of what it was like, and then do it as if it would have been done today by
Harrigan.

GROSS: Well, why don't we hear how it sounds on your CD with Vince Giordano's
band behind you.

Mr. MOLONEY: Yes.

GROSS: So this is " The Mulligan Guards."

(Soundbite of "Mulligan Guard")

Mr. MOLONEY: (Singing) We crave your condescension, we'll tell you what we
know, of marching in the Mulligan Guard and the Sligo Ward below. Our
captain's name was Hussey, that Tipperary man, he carried his sword like a
Russian duke whenever he took command. Forward! March!

Mr. MOLONEY and Man: (Singing in unison) We shouldered guns and marched and
marched away. From Baxter Street, we marched to Avenue A. Our fifes and
drums, so sweetly they did play as we marched, marched, marched in the
Mulligan Guard.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Mick Moloney from his new CD "McNally's Row of Flats: Irish
American Songs of Old New York by Harrigan and Braham." And that was Vince
Giordano's band backing him up.

Now, this song is about, what, a neighborhood militia?

Mr. MOLONEY: A neighborhood militia because, after the Civil War, there were
a lot of people dressed up and nowhere to go. And the whole idea of having
militias that will go and do target shooting really proliferated New York.
Dickens wrote a lot about it. He was appalled by the number of people who
clogged up the arterial routes of Manhattan any given Sunday. Basically an
excuse to have a big picnic and drink a lot. And a lot of these "target
companies," as they were called, were ethnically and fraternally based, and
often based in particular neighborhoods. So they were very competitive. So
the whole idea was really to go and do some target shooting. But that somehow
got overwhelmed by the idea of having a big party, lots of drunkenness. It
was very New York, and very urban New York.

So this was satire from the very start. And the strange thing about it was
that the song became the most popular song ever for Ed Harrigan and David
Braham. And it was taken up by all the military bands. John Philip Sousa's
band played it. Gilmore's band played it. It was even played in all the
British regimental bands. And Kipling, in his novel "Kim," even mentions a
regimental British band in India playing the "Mulligan Guard." He even quotes
the first chorus. I doubt if that old imperialist would have known it was
written by an Irish American. It's a send-up of the military.

GROSS: Now, the lyricist for the songs that you do on your new CD, Ed
Harrigan, was part of a duo with Tony Hart.

Mr. MOLONEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: They had an act that they did in minstrel shows?

Mr. MOLONEY: They did. They both started out as minstrels. And if you were
an entertainer in urban America in the 1860s, or really anytime before that,
after 1840, you really didn't have a whole lot of options. You had to black
up if you wanted to be a professional musician, and Harrigan did that. Also
Tony Hart, whose original name was Anthony Cannon, he was an immigrant from
County Mayo. Ed Harrigan was born in Manhattan in 1844 and Anthony Cannon,
who became Tony Hart, was born in 1855 in Massachusetts near Boston. And they
met up in Chicago, and they teamed up and they became known as the team of
"Harrigan and Hart." So they moved from minstrels to variety theater, from
there to musical--to inventing musical theater.

GROSS: What do you mean when you say that they invented musical theater?

Mr. MOLONEY: Before that time, variety theater had presented music and song
and dance, along with sketches, as part of one long evening of sequential acts
and entertainment. What they did, beginning with the expansion of the
"Mulligan Guard" idea, was to create one full-length exposition, a play, if
you want, with music and dance and song woven into the play and adding
characters all the time. So the "Mulligan Guard" starts off with three
people. By the time it's gone through its six different incarnations there is
a cast of over 25 different people. And they represent ethnic New York.
There is Walsingham McSweeney, who owns the saloon. There is Gustavus
Lochmuller the German butcher. There's At Wong, the Chinese laundry man who
also has an opium den. And there's a cast of Irish characters. And it
expands, representing in a sense, I suppose, the first realism in theater in
New York, and that New York was being given itself back onstage for the first
time in a comprehensive way. And Harrigan went and bought--he bought clothes
in second hand stores. He went even to the immigrant ships coming in, and he
bought the clothes off the backs of the immigrants. So you could arrive in
America on a Monday and see your shirt up on stage on a Saturday night. It
was that realistic. And he very deliberately sought to represent New York,
but in a very good-humored way.

GROSS: We're describing Harrigan's music as preceding Tin Pan Alley.

Mr. MOLONEY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: You know, and Tin Pan Alley, in its early years, was really dominated
by a lot of Jewish songwriters, like the Gershwins and Irving Berlin. Is it
fair to say that before there were so many popular Jewish songwriters there
were a lot of popular Irish songwriters?

Mr. MOLONEY: There were a lot of popular Irish songwriters. And also a lot
of very popular Jewish and Irish teams of songwriters. When you hear of
songs, for instance, like the one that was a big hit in Ireland some years
back, "My Irish Molly-O," that was written by Jerome and Schwartz...

GROSS: Really.

Mr. MOLONEY: ...and who also wrote "If It Weren't for the Irish and the
Jews." And you would think with Jerome and Schwartz they were surely two
Jewish songwriters. Well, they weren't. Bill Jerome was actually William
Flannery from County Mayo. And nobody knew exactly how the entertainment
industry was going to go in the 1890s, and people were hedging their bets.
And some people like William Flannery said, `Well, it's definitely going
Jewish. I'm Bill Jerome.' Where Nora Goldberg arrived from Milwaukee, and she
says, `I don't know which way this is going. I'm changing my name to Nora
Bayes, and I'm going to sing "Has anybody here seen Kelly? K-E-double L-Y."'
So it went in both directions, and then after 1900 there was a lot of the
Jewish-Irish songwriting team in the early years of Tin Pan Alley, more or
less supplanted later on by Jewish songwriters. But there was that whole two
decades where there was kind of an ambiguity.

GROSS: It sounds like one of the reasons why Harrigan lost his audience is
that the audience changed, like the ethnic make up of the audience.

Mr. MOLONEY: They did. And Harrigan lost touch with--his biggest asset was
his power as a wordsmith and his sense of humor which was tied to that. And
he became middle class himself, but the old neighborhood stopped being Irish
and African-American and German, and particularly, immigrants come in from
Eastern Europe who were Jewish. And Harrigan complained in his writing that
these people, he said, had no sense of humor. And, of course, he was
completely wrong. He knew nothing about Yiddish theater. He just wasn't--the
humor wasn't available to him because of linguistic reasons and cultural
reasons. So he lost touch with the old neighborhoods, and New York changed,
and the humor changed. And also the recording industry was in now in the late
1890s. And tastes were changing, as they always do, in America. In popular
culture, you hold two options. You can reinvent yourself, which he wasn't
able to do. He was just too old. You can wait until your time comes around
again. And again, he was too old for that. Or you can just fade away, which
is exactly what he did.

BIANCULLI: Mick Moloney speaking to Terry Gross last year. More after a
break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

BIANCULLI: Let's get back to Terry's 2006 interview with Mick Moloney.
They're talking about "McNally's Row of Flats," his CD collecting the period
songs of Ed Harrigan and David Braham.

GROSS: In rediscovering the songs of Harrigan and Braham, did you find
yourself rethinking a lot of songs from early American pop history? And I'm
wondering if there are any songs that you maybe used to dismiss as kind of
commercial or schmaltzy or, you know, silly that, once discovering more about
their history, you decided are actually pretty interesting?

Mr. MOLONEY: Well, yes. And I think the more you learn about the social
context of the songs and the more you learn about why people bought into an
idealized notion of a homeland, because, I mean, the horrors of the real story
were too much to deal with in day-to-day life. You can't just relive trauma
all your life. Life would literally be hell. It wouldn't be worth living.
So Tin Pan Alley specialized in creating these sanitized images of homelands
for so many immigrant populations in America.

I think once I started to realize that, once I started to talk to people who
loved the songs and realized that their grandparents had at least something
positive to say, even if it was an invented reality, I started to feel very
sympathetic towards the songs, some that I might have dismissed completely.

This is one in case. And, in fact, this is actually--this was the classic
Jewish-Irish Tin Pan Alley song sung by the team of Dugan and O'Brian. I'll
see if I can remember this now.

Mr. MOLONEY: (Singing) Oh, you should have seen the sights I saw, 'twas just
the other night. Oh, you never saw the likes of it, it was such a pleasing
sight. I was happy for a moment, ah, but now I'm feeling blue. For what I
saw I'll see no more, 'twas too good to be true. Oh, the shamrocks are
blooming on Broadway. Every girl is an Irish Colleen. And the streets of New
York are the County of Cork, all the buildings are painted green. Sure the
Hudson is just like the Shannon. Oh, how good and how real it did seem. I
could hear mother singing, the sweet Shannon bells ringing. 'Twas only an
Irish man's dream.

And I see a beauty in that now that I would not have been able to see some
years back.

GROSS: When did you rediscover the song?

Mr. MOLONEY: I always knew it, but I started to feel differently about it
when I started to delve into the story of immigrant song on Tin Pan Alley and
when I started to ask myself the question, `Why did this resonate with so many
Americans for so long?' And I realized this was a time of extraordinary social
transition from an old country to the new country, an old way of life to a new
way of life, from the countryside to the city. And this was a time when
America was urbanizing at a tremendous rate. It wasn't just American
foreign-born people who identified with these songs, anybody from the
countryside, songs about that which you left behind which was idealized.

GROSS: Harrigan starts off as a minstrel performer. He performed in black
face, as you mentioned. Is he still performing in black face when he's
writing his own shows and performing them in New York? And if so, like,
what's the context of a black face?

Mr. MOLONEY: Well, he is, and all the way through his career he continues to
perform in black face. In fact, the "Mulligan Guard" was his most famous set
of characters. And right parallel to the "Mulligan Guard" and all the
"Mulligan Guard" series was the "Skidmore Guard," which was an
African-American target company. And they would come in contact often with a
lot of what they called "knockabouts," brawling on the stage. Of course it
was the same cast, in black face. And that never stopped. One of the reasons
Harrigan said in his own comments later was that he admired African-American
music, and he admired their capacity for singing and dancing. But, of course,
it was still the minstrel representation. There were no African-Americans at
all on the stage.

GROSS: Do you know any of the songs that he wrote for--any of the black face
songs that he sings?

Mr. MOLONEY: I know a lot. I know of them. And, in fact, there's a
wonderful book with 200 Harrigan songs that are now edited by Josh Svenson,
and I wouldn't touch most of those songs. They're very racist by the
standards of today. It would be considered quite the norm at that time in the
minstrel tradition.

GROSS: Now, does that bother you? Does that get in your way of enjoying
Harrigan's songs?

Mr. MOLONEY: It does to some degree. When you look at the whole body of
work, there's such a strong minstrel component in it. And, of course, that's
bothersome because it's racist. There's no two ways about it. It was of its
time. And I think minstrelsies (see?) is a very complex chapter in American
musical and social history. And I certainly would find it very, very
difficult to sing any of those songs.

GROSS: I want to close with another song from your CD, and this is really a
lovely waltz called "Danny by My Side." Would you tell us about this song?

Mr. MOLONEY: Yes, it was written just a few years after the Brooklyn Bridge
was built by the Roeblings, designed one of the great structures in late 19th
century America. In a sense, it's a symbol of what American ingenuity could
create. And it was, as well as being highly utilitarian structure, you know,
it increased the traffic flow between Brooklyn and Manhattan exponentially.
It was just a beautiful sight, and people came from all over America to look
at it, indeed, from all over the world, to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
It was the talk of the day. And Harrigan, of course, grew up just a few
hundred yards from there. He didn't miss the opportunity to write, I think,
one of his most beautiful songs "Danny by My Side." And Bill McComisky came up
from Baltimore, Donna Long, who is originally from Los Angeles played the
fiddle. Brandon Dolan played the piano. We had a great time.

GROSS: Mick, thanks so much for being here.

Mr. MOLONEY: Thank you very much. It was an honor.

BIANCULLI: Mick Moloney speaking to Terry Gross in 2006. His CD collection
is called "McNally's Row of Flats: Irish American Songs of Old New York by
Harrigan and Braham." I'm David Bianculli, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of "Danny by My Side")

Mr. MOLONEY: (Singing) The Brooklyn Bridge on Sunday is known as Lovers
Lane. I stroll there with my sweetheart, oh, time and time again. It's then
I love to ramble. Oh, yes, it is my pride, dressed in my best each day of
rest with Danny by my side.

Mr. MOLONEY and Man: (Singing in unison) Then, oh, my, do try taking the
bridge on a Sunday. Laughing, tramping, happy the lovers go by. Moonlight,
starlight, watching the silvery tide, dressed in my best each day of rest with
Danny by my side.

(End of soundbite)

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Commentary: Lloyd Schwartz remembers Betty Hutton
DAVID BIANCULLI, guest host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli.

Betty Hutton was one of Hollywood's most popular musical comedy stars of the
1940s and '50s, but she wasn't happy in Hollywood, and, at the height of her
success, essentially she stopped making films. She died this week, having
just turned 86. Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz remembers her fondly.

(Soundbite of "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief")

Ms. BETTY HUTTON: OK, fellas, hit it. (Singing) There's a doctor living in
your town. There's a lawyer and an Indian, too. Neither doctor, lawyer nor
Indian chief could love you any more than I do. There's a barrel of fish in
the ocean. There's a lot of little birds in the blue. And neither fish nor
fowl, says the wise old owl, could love you anymore than I do. No, no, no.
It couldn't be true that anyone else could love you like I do. I'm going
to...

(End of soundbite)

Mr. LLOYD SCHWARTZ: I loved Betty Hutton when I was a kid. Her uninhibited
overflowing exuberance probably made up for my own shyness. I thought she was
wonderful as the silent movie serial star Pearl White in "The Perils of
Pauline" and as the aerialist hopelessly in love with Charlton Heston in Cecil
B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth." I was sure it was her performance
that got the film its best picture Oscar. She blew me away as sharp-shooter
Annie Oakley in the movie version of Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun,"
though, seeing it again recently, she seems badly directed. She was called
the blond bombshell because she virtually exploded every time she appeared on
screen. She was a good singer, too, and had a number of hit songs, mostly
specialty numbers written for her like "He Said Murder He Said" and "I'm a
Square in the Social Circle" and Hoagy Carmichael's "Doctor, Lawyer, Indian
Chief." But she could also really deliver a slow ballad, like Frank Loesser's
too little known "I Wish I Didn't Love You So" and Berlin's "They Say It's
Wonderful."

(Soundbite of "They Say It's Wonderful")

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) They say that falling in love is wonderful. It's
wonderful, so they say. And with the moon up above it's wonderful. It's
wonderful, so they tell me. I can't recall who said it. I know I never read
it. I only know they tell me that love is grand, and the thing that's known
as romance is wonderful, wonderful in every way, so they say.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: She was right in considering her best movie Preston Sturges'
brilliant rule-breaking wartime comedy "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek." She
plays Trudy Kockenlocker, a small town girl who wants to do something for the
boys in uniform. She goes out on a date with a soldier, gets married that
night and, when she learns she's pregnant, can't remember who it was she
married. After Hutton left Hollywood, her career sputtered out as did her
four marriages. She became addicted to painkillers. Years later, she was
discovered working as a cook and housekeeper in a Rhode Island rectory and
credits the priests there with saving her life. She actually went back to
school, got her degree and even did some college teaching. She got her start
as a band singer and on Broadway and occasionally returned to live theater.

It must've been in the mid 1970s that I saw her in Cole Porter's "Anything
Goes" at a dinner theater called The Chateau DeVille in a distant suburb of
Boston. A couple of friends and I got tickets for the opening night. It
wasn't much of a production and it was especially disappointing that she
wasn't in very good voice. She actually stopped the show, twice, literally.
Once when she inserted a medley of her greatest hits, which was fun. But the
second time was more painful. She was trying to do a Fred Astaire bit in
which she tapped a cane against the stage and caught it as it bounced up. But
she missed it, so she tried it again. `I'm going to do this until I get it
right,' she announced. And repeated the shtick seven or eight more times
until she finally caught the cane. The evening was beginning to seem like a
disaster until, at one point, she sat down at the edge of the stage and,
completely out of the context of the show, said she was dedicating the next
song to her ex-husband. At a very slow tempo, she almost whispered the most
moving version I've ever heard of "I Get a Kick Out of You." She ended in real
tears and, as they say, there wasn't a dry eye in the house either. After the
show, my friends and I decided to go backstage. She was very welcoming and
was eager to talk about her career and the ex-husband who mismanaged it and
undermined her confidence. The next day the run of "Anything Goes" was
canceled. It was a sad end, but that irrepressible personality is still there
for us in her best numbers and in her marvelous comic performance in "Miracle
of Morgan's Creek," her one movie masterpiece.

BIANCULLI: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix and
teaches English at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

(Soundbite of "Anything You Can Do")

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do
anything better than you.

Mr. HOWARD KEEL: Oh, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, can.

Mr. KEEL: No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can. Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) Anything you can be, I...

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Earlier this week, we played a recording of "Anything You Can Do"
from Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun," which we believed was performed by
Betty Hutton and Howard Keel, thanks to an erroneously attributed track on the
compilation we used. However, we heard from a few attentive listeners who
were sure that was not Betty Hutton singing, and they were correct. One of
our listeners helped solve the mystery. What we played was a Judy Garland
performance. This recording, the one we're listening to now, is with Betty
Hutton and Howard Keel. Thanks to our attentive listeners.

(Soundbite of "Anything You Can Do")

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Anything you can wear, I can wear better. In what you
wear, I'd look better than you.

Mr. KEEL: In my coat?

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) In your vest.

Mr. KEEL: In my shoes?

Ms. HUTTON: In your hat.

Mr. KEEL: No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can. Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) Anything you can say, I can say faster.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) I can say anything faster than you.

Mr. KEEL: No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: Can.

Mr. KEEL: Can't.

Ms. HUTTON: Can.

Mr. KEEL: Can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Can!

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) I can jump a hurdle.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) I can wear a girdle.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) I can knit a sweater.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) I can fill it better.

Mr. KEEL: I can do most anything.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Can you make a pie?

Mr. KEEL: No.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Neither can I.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) Any notes you can sing, I can sing sweeter.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) I can sing anything sweeter than you.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) No, you can't.

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can.

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) No, you can't, can't, can't!

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can, can, can!

Mr. KEEL: (Singing) No you can't!

Ms. HUTTON: (Singing) Yes, I can!

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Coming up, country singer Charlie Louvin. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Charlie Louvin discusses his years in the country
music duo the Louvin Brothers
(Soundbite of song)

LOUVIN BROTHERS: (Singing) ...stop dreaming, that's when I'll stop loving
you. The words...

(End of soundbite)

DAVID BIANCULLI, guest host:

The Louvin Brothers are considered one of the great vocal harmony duos of
country music. Their song writing and tight harmonies inspired countless
country acts as well as musicians that straddle the country rock line. They
were popular at the Grand Ole Opry and well-represented on the country music
charts from the late '50s until the mid-'60s when the act broke up. Brother
Ira was killed in a car accident soon after. But Charlie Louvin has continued
to record. The Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Country Hall of Fame in
2001. Charlie Louvin, who turns 80 this year, has a new CD out simply called
"Charlie Louvin," his first in a decade. It finds him in duet with the likes
of George Jones, Elvis Costello, Will Oldham and Jeff Tweedy. Terry spoke to
Louvin back in 1996 when he released his CD "The Longest Train." She asked him
if he missed singing harmony with his brother.

Mr. CHARLIE LOUVIN (Country Music Performer): I'd always believed that any
song worth singing is worth putting harmony on. And, of course, I had grown
used to that for the 23 years that my brother and I had worked together. And
even today, 34 years after he's gone, when it comes time for the harmonies to
come in, I will move to my left because my brother and I always used to use
one microphone, and so you had to share the mike. And, even today, I will
move over to the left to give the harmony room, knowing in my mind that
there's no harmony standing on my right. But it's just old habits are hard to
break.

TERRY GROSS, host:

Your early recordings were gospel tunes. Many of them were originals. In
fact, why don't we hear one of those originals that you co-wrote with your
brother Ira. This was made in 1952, and the song is called "The Family Who
Prays."

(Soundbite of "The Family Who Prays")

LOUVIN BROTHERS: (Singing) The family who prays will never be parted. Their
circle in heaven unbroken shall stand. God will say, `Hither, my good,
faithful servant, the family who prays never shall part.' Satan has parted
fathers and mothers, filling their hearts with his envy and hate, heading
their pathways down to destruction, leaving their children like orphans to
stray. The family who prays will never be parted.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: The Louvin Brothers from 1952. Chet Atkins featured on electric
guitar?

Mr. LOUVIN: Yes, Chet recorded our first Capitol record with us. And Chet
is a big part of the Louvin Brothers sound, from "The Family Who Prays" right
on through to the end of the Louvin Brother career.

GROSS: You were singing a lot of gospel songs early in your career, but I
know your brother Ira had the reputation of being a heavy drinker and of
having quite a temper. Did you share the same religious convictions? Did you
live with the same kind of values, or was there a big difference there?

Mr. LOUVIN: No. You know, a lot of us know better, but we don't do better.
He knew better. He is extremely well-versed on the good book, as far as
knowing what was right or wrong. He just wasn't able to conquer the devil, I
guess. But we didn't have any major problems with the drinking until, I'd
say, end of 1958. The Louvin Brother records, the sales slowed down, as all
other country artists did, in 1958 because the music was changing. And so our
producer told my brother, `I believe that it's the mandolin that's keeping the
Louvin Brother records from selling,' which had always been a featured part.
My brother worked hard to become proficient on the mandolin. And when this
producer, namely Ken Nelson, said this to my brother, and my brother feeling
that Mr. Nelson was a close friend and a trusted friend, he believed him.
And so he would never play his mandolin again on a recording after that
statement. If it would come up, somebody would say, `I think this would sound
good with a mandolin,' my brother would say, `No, let the piano do it' or `Let
the guitar do it. Anybody, but I'm not doing it.' And it caused him to drink
extremely heavy. And he went--between then and the time he passed away, he
went through three wives and just lots and lots of problems that he never
could whip.

GROSS: I want to play another original gospel song that you recorded called
"I Like the Christian Life." Now, this is really a beautiful song. Gram
Parsons loved this song and used it on The Byrds album "Sweetheart of the
Rodeo." Do you remember writing this?

Mr. LOUVIN: No, I don't. Things went and come in the Louvin Brothers'
career. Sometimes my brother would be a totally good man. He could've been a
preacher if he wanted to. He was that knowledgeable of the good book, and he
had the gift. But my brother was the gifted songwriter. I came up with the
ideas. If I could give him a title and a few words of the story, he could
write it in five minutes. So this is the way we worked. I don't specifically
remember the day that that song was wrote, but I remember that my brother was
attempting, with all of his might, to live a Christian life. So, at that
time, when the statement was made, `I like the Christian life,' he thought
that might make a song. So what you're about to play is what he got just from
that title.

GROSS: Let's hear it. And this is from Charlie Louvin's new album called
"The Longest Train."

(Soundbite of "I Like the Christian Life")

Mr. LOUVIN: (Singing) My buddies tell me that I should have waited. They
say I'm missing a whole world of fun, but I am happy and I sing with pride I
like the Christian life. I won't lose a friend by heeding God's call. What
is a friend who'd want you to fall? Others find pleasure in things I despise.
I like the Christian life.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Charlie Louvin from his new album "The Longest Train." Did
friends ever mock you for trying to live the Christian life?

Mr. LOUVIN: No, but--I wouldn't say they mocked. When you're not living the
Christian life, you have one set of friends. And if you're going to profess
to live a Christian life, it's obvious that you're going to have to change
friends. You're going to have to change a lot of habits. Old habits being
hard to break, sometimes it can't be done. So if you prefer to hang around
with your old friends, there's a good chance that you'll drift right back into
doing exactly what you are trying to get out of doing.

GROSS: You and your brother broke up the Louvin Brothers and went your
separate ways in 1963, and it was, I think, just about a year later that your
brother and his wife were killed in a head-on road collision. And I think it
was the driver in the other car that was drinking and that was responsible for
the crash. Is that right?

Mr. LOUVIN: Yes, that's true. It happened in Missouri, halfway mark between
Kansas City and St. Louis. My brother was coming home from an engagement
that they had been on in Kansas City. And the other two people was going from
St. Louis to Kansas City to celebrate Father's Day. They just started
celebrating it too early, that's all. They didn't wait till they got out of
that car.

GROSS: How did it change your life when your brother was killed?

Mr. LOUVIN: Well, I'd already become a solo artist, so to speak, Terry, and
I had released--or Capitol Record people had released "I Don't Love You
Anymore," which went to the number one spot. And I believe the second song
was "Think I'll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep," and it was doing good
at the time. And my brother kind of felt that somebody had done him wrong,
but I hadn't. Music is the only thing I knew, and so, naturally, I would try
to stay in the business because he had sworn to me that he was getting out of
the business. However, he was making attempts to get back in the business,
had a couple of records released for Capitol Records. Neither one of them had
done anything, but I'm sure that, if he would have been given time, he'd have
figured out what the public wanted, and that's what he would have gave them.

BIANCULLI: Charlie Louvin, speaking to Terry Gross in 1996. Here he is on
the new CD called "Charlie Louvin" singing the Bluegrass classic "My Long
Journey Home.

(Soundbite of "My Long Journey Home")

Mr. LOUVIN: (Singing) Lost all my money but a two dollar bill, two dollar
bill, boys, two dollar bill. Lost all my money but a two dollar bill, and I'm
on my long journey home. Cloudy in the west, and it looks like rain, looks
like rain, boys, looks like rain. Cloudy in the west and it looks like rain,
but I'm on my long journey home.

(End of soundbite)

BIANCULLI: Coming up, "The Host." Not me, the movie. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: David Edelstein discusses "The Host"
DAVID BIANCULLI, guest host:

In the year 2000, a US military civilian employee in Seoul, South Korea,
ordered a Korean subordinate to dump a large amount of formaldehyde into a
sewer pipe leading to the Han River. The incident aroused violent
anti-American sentiment in Korea and led to the birth of a monster--a monster
movie called "The Host." Film critic David Edelstein has a review.

Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: The Korean hit "The Host" is built like your standard
issue grade B giant monster attacks a city picture, but it's tone is all over
the map. Now it's a horror movie, now a dark political satire, now a
dysfunctional family psychodrama that's like a grisly reworking of "Little
Miss Sunshine." I have friends who are bugged by its mad shifts in tone, but
that's what I enjoyed, the switchback ride from pathos to farce to gut-bucket
exploitation. It turns out that the marauding giant monster genre is
fabulously elastic. You can learn a lot about a society by how it copes with
a marauding giant monster. Describing this particular monster is a challenge.
It's kind of a slithery, bounding, mandibled squid-like reptile with nasty
fangs. It seems to relish gobbling people down. It also seems to relish
regurgitating their bones in front of horrified onlookers. One more thing,
it's American, in so far as it was born of formaldehyde dumped into the Han
River on the orders of a military officer played by Scott Wilson. The
kirector and co-writer, Bong Joon-ho, does not depict the US military presence
on the Korean peninsula with affection. Not only does the American-spawned
creature wreak havoc on Korean leisure activities, the virus it apparently
hosts triggers a secondary chamber of horrors. People who've been exposed are
rounded up and quarantined, with American Army doctors leading the charge.
But the heart of "The Host" is a family saga. The monster carries off an
adolescent girl named Hyun-seo, and please forgive my Korean pronunciation.
The creature is pissed off at the girl's father, Gang-Du, a pudgy
ne'er-do-well with dyed blond hair and narcolepsy, who nonetheless clobbered
it with a heavy pole while it was chomping some sunbathers. The beast keeps
the girl alive amid the corpses, future meals, in its sewer lair. But she
gets hold of a cell phone and calls her dad, who's, unfortunately, in medical
quarantine. In the unstable society of "The Host," family is the only thing
you can rely on. The problem is that Hyun-seo's family is nuts. Much of "The
Host" revolves around the father's effort to escape his American captors and
rescue his daughter, but he and his brother and sister are borderline inept.
The brother is a perpetual student who's never gotten over the ineffectual
pro-democracy riots of his youth. The sister is a near champion archer,
brilliant, until it's time to let the last arrow fly, when she's paralyzed.
This family, along with the elderly father and their looney tunes passions,
which are staged to look both genuine and ridiculous, nudges the movie out of
the B monster class and into weirder territory. As scary as the monster is a
demented American surgeon played by Paul Lazar, who, for political cover-up
reasons, wants to give Gang-Du some kind of lobotomy. I've made "The Host"
sound like a romp, but it's actually pretty grim. People we care about don't
survive, and it's hard to shake off the first sight of the creature in the far
distance, hanging from the side of a bridge like a pupa, then sliding into the
water and gliding toward the shore of the riverfront park to the oohs and ahs
of the people on their picnic blankets who rush over and throw food to it, not
realizing they're about to become its food. But the reason "The Host"
transcends the genre is that it's a fun house mirror reflection of its
country's deepest anxieties, a cauldron in which resentment of the US, a
younger generation's feeling of powerlessness and a zest for monster movies
mingle and give birth to a mandibled, slithery, squid-like carnivorous
reptile. It's utterly absurd, but it has the tang of social realism.

BIANCULLI: David Edelstein is film critic for New York magazine.

(Credits)

BIANCULLI: For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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