Skip to main content

Remembering 'Christmas' Songwriter Hugh Martin

Songwriter Hugh Martin, who co-wrote the classic song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for Judy Garland's 1944 movie, Meet Me in St. Louis died on Friday. He was 96. Fresh Air remembers Martin with highlights from a 1989 interview.

20:41

Other segments from the episode on March 15, 2011

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 15, 2011: Interview with Tom McCarthy; Review of Anne Roiphe's memoir "Art and Madness"; Obituary for Hugh Martin.

Transcript

*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20110315
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
'Win-Win': Tom McCarthy Wrestles With Morals

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, filling in this week for Terry
Gross.

You might recognize Tom McCarthy from any number of his film or
television roles. On the HBO series "The Wire," he played the ambitious
newspaper reporter who made up stories in the show's final season. He
also appeared in "Boston Public," "Law & Order" and the films "Flags of
Our Fathers," "Syriana" and "Good Night and Good Luck."

But McCarthy's also written and directed two films which won critical
praise. "The Station Agent," starring Peter Dinklage and Patricia
Clarkson; and "The Visitor," a story about a man who encounters two
immigrants in New York, which featured Richard Jenkins in his first
starring role.

Critic David Rooney(ph) says McCarthy has a rare ability to shape
unexpected connections among very real people, guiding them towards
gently uplifting outcomes that are neither manipulative nor sentimental.
That, Rooney adds, might make him one of the least cynical filmmakers in
America.

McCarthy's new film is "Win Win," starring Paul Giamatti as a small-town
lawyer who's a high-school wrestling coach on the side. Struggling to
support his family, the lawyer takes an ethical shortcut which involves
him in the life of an elderly client. And things get complicated when
the old man's teenage grandson shows up, a refugee from his drug-
addicted mom.

In this scene, Giamatti is talking to the teenager, played by Alex
Shaffer, who's shown a special talent and become the unexpected star of
the wrestling team. The team has just broken its season-long losing
streak, and player and coach are walking down a school hallway, their
down coats rustling as they speak.

(Soundbite of film, "Win Win")

Mr. PAUL GIAMATTI (Actor): (As Mike Flaherty) I'm proud of what you did
today. That win meant a lot to the guys.

Mr. ALEX SHAFFER (Actor): (As Kyle) Yeah.

Mr. GIAMATTI: (As Flaherty) Let me ask you something, Kyle. What's it
like to be as good as you are? What's it feel like?

Mr. SHAFFER: (As Kyle) I don't know. I guess it just feels like I'm in
control of everything, you know?

Mr. GIAMATTI: (As Flaherty) Yeah, I do. It must be nice.

Mr. SHAFFER: (As Kyle) It is.

DAVIES: Well, Tom McCarthy, welcome to FRESH AIR. Let's talk about "Win
Win," the new film. At the heart of this story is this small-town lawyer
who has a struggling practice dealing mostly with older clients. The
story kind of begins with this lawyer and his family and then gets more
complicated. How did this script begin to you?

Mr. TOM McCARTHY (Writer-Director): I think ultimately this whole idea
began with me calling an old high - not even a high school, a grade
school friend, Joe Tiboni, who I've known since I was in fourth grade.
And we started reliving our high school not-so-glory days and just
laughing a lot about it.

And by the end of the conversation, I thought, you know, there's
something in here that's worth writing about. And I actually invited Joe
to develop the story with me. He's actually an elder law attorney who
lives in New Providence and is married with two little girls, a little
bit like Mike Flaherty is in the movie.

DAVIES: This young man who shows up, he is a kid in need of rescuing.
And he becomes a really important character here. And he's played by
Alex Shaffer. Where did you find him?

Mr. McCARTHY: You know, I decided early on in this project we needed to
have a wrestler. There's a wrestling storyline to the movie, high school
wrestling. And it's a really difficult sport to fake.

And so we - my casting director basically did a massive casting call in
the tri-state area, looking for wrestlers under 5'5" and wrestling under
125 pounds, because I wanted a specific type, and we saw a bunch of
young men who came in and read for the role, and Alex Shaffer kind of
came in and just in some unique way connected with it.

He's a non-actor, but he just connected with this character, and we
really put him through the ringer in terms of auditioning him. But he
kept rising to the challenge, and he ultimately gives a great
performance in the film.

DAVIES: Yeah, when you first meet him, I mean, when you see the blonde
hair and that kind of withdrawn affect, you think this is a damaged kid.
I'm not sure - if I were - if he wanted to live with me, I'd want to
have anything to do with him.

And then it turns out there's a lot more going on, and he has this
incredible work ethic and discipline.

Mr. McCARTHY: Yeah, yeah. And more importantly, he has a code. And I
think that's something that the film really deals with, is, you know, we
can only be regulated as adults in so many ways, whether that's on a
city, state or federal level. Ultimately it's(ph) got to come about a
sense(ph) of personal responsibility and regulation.

And this young man shows up with that, that he's obviously derived from
wrestling, and it's this code that he brings with him of what's right
and wrong and how to proceed through life, and he makes his way.

Now, he makes mistakes. He does dumb things. We see and hear about them
in the film. He's a young man. Of course he's going to do that. And he
comes from a tough background, so - but he still - you have a sense,
again, he has this sort of moral compass, which you can kind of - you
just kind of get from Alex.

And you know, that's something that you can't - it's tough to play.
Either a character has that or he doesn't.

DAVIES: I read that you were a wrestler in high school, along with your
friend Joe, right?

Mr. McCARTHY: I was. I was a killer, Dave. I'm not going to lie.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: I was just going to ask you: Were you good?

Mr. McCARTHY: I was 101 pounds of mean. That's what I wrestled. I
wrestled 101 and 108. I was okay. I was fair, maybe slightly above
average. And Joe also wrestled. He wasn't quite as successful. And it's
one of those sports you look back on, you sometimes think: Why did I do
that? It was so much pain.

And - but it's just, you know, you get into it. I got into it at an
early age, and it kind of stuck.

DAVIES: Do you think wrestling gave you something, like a work ethic, a
discipline that helped you get where you are?

Mr. McCARTHY: Yeah, it probably did. I think sports in general provide
that and I think wrestling specifically, because it's such a tough
sport. Just to get through a season, you feel like you accomplished
something.

And there really is this thing about just going out onto a mat and
taking a guy on, just one-on-one, within - with a set of rules applied,
but ultimately it is that. I think it toughens you up and gives you that
sense of: I can king of take on any problem.

DAVIES: Well, I wanted to talk about "The Station Agent," which you
wrote and directed in 2003, won a bunch of awards. And this is a story
of a man named Fin, who is played by Peter Dinklage.

He's a dwarf, as it turns out, who is a train buff and worked for years
in a model train store. But when the owner dies and the shop closes, he
discovered he's inherited a defunct train station in a remote part of
New Jersey.

And he goes there and settles in, and I thought we'd listen to a clip
here, where he is befriended by a guy who has a hot dog stand nearby,
named Joe, played by Bobby Cannavale, and Joe really wants to make
friends, Fin not so sure. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of film, "The Station Agent")

Mr. BOBBY CANNAVALE (Actor): (As Joe Oramas) Hey, Fin. So you live here?

Mr. PETER DINKLAGE (Actor): (As Finbar McBride) Yes.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) Wow, we're neighbors, nice. Hey, what happened
to you?

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) Nothing.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) Listen, you want to go down to the mill and grab
a beer later?

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) No, thanks.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) You don't drink?

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) I do.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) Oh, you just don't want to have a drink with me?

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) I don't like bars very much.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) Oh. Well, hey, how about I go get a six, and we
can have it right here?

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) No thanks.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) Well, what are you going to do?

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) I'm going for a walk.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) Oh, cool. Do you mind if I come along then? I
need the exercise. I'm turning into a fat (bleep) here.

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) I usually go alone.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) I'm a good walker.

Mr. DINKLAGE: (As Fin) I prefer to go alone.

Mr. CANNAVALE: (As Joe) Okay. Maybe next time, all right? You know where
to find me.

Mr. McCARTHY: And the irrepressible Joe. That's Bobby Cannavale and
Peter Dinklage in the film "The Station Agent," directed and written by
our guest, Tom McCarthy.

Mr. McCARTHY: I haven't heard that in a long time.

DAVIES: It's fun, isn't it?

Mr. McCARTHY: It is fun. Those two guys are really fun to watch
together. And as you were kind of laying out the storyline, I was
thinking to myself: Boy, I keep making these movies that are really hard
to define in a story.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McCARTHY: They sound very inaccessible the way they lay out
sometimes. But anyway, I was getting a kick out of that as you were
trying to make your way through it.

DAVIES: And the lead, Peter Dinklage here, I read that you did not
envision him in the role. You saw yourself in the role. Is that right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McCARTHY: I think at some time - look, I was like an actor trying to
get roles, and I started to write a script, and who better to play it
than me?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McCARTHY: And then halfway through it, I thought I'm not really
right for this, which probably tells you a little bit about my acting
career. Really, I almost finished an entire draft without envisioning
Pete or a dwarf playing that role, and then I ran into Pete just
randomly on the street in New York one day.

I had directed him in a play a couple years prior to that and thought he
was a terrific actor. And as soon as - right after our conversation, I
was walking away. I was like: There's my guy. There's a guy, just
visually we'll understand, someone who might want to disconnect a little
bit from society, which ultimately is what the movie deals with.

And that – that idea stuck. I called Pete the next day and I sat down to
write it, and it really informed the script thematically in a really
wonderful way.

DAVIES: Right, and how much of it was because of his particular...

Mr. McCARTHY: Ultimately it didn't change things that much. Literally,
it was like bit by bit. It was just almost like I didn't need
exposition. I didn't need a back story about, you know, with this
character. And that's something I'm always trying to avoid.

You know, ultimately I'll just let the audience fill in the blanks
because it's probably more interesting to some degree than having it
preached to them.

And with Pete and Bobby, of course, and Patty Clarkson, who played the
other role, a lot of their back story, we just get little bits and
pieces of it. I'm much concerned with how these three people move into
the present together and form this sort of odd triumvirate.

DAVIES: I wanted to talk about "The Visitor," which was your second
film, also very well-received and a terrific movie. It deals with a,
kind of a lonely economic professor and his encounter with two illegal
immigrants.

You know, Richard Jenkins got a lot of attention for this role, got an
Oscar nomination. He's been an actor that people would recognize from a
lot of roles over the years. He was the deceased dad on the HBO series
"Six Feet Under." Why did you come to cast him for this role?

Mr. McCARTHY: You know, it's a similar reason for why I cast Paul
Giamatti in "Win Win." I think both of these actors present a face and
just an essence that audiences can relate to immediately as a neighbor,
you know, as a family member, as the guy next door, the guy on the
street, and this everyman quality. I know that's a bit of an overused
term, but they really have that. Maybe there's something that they're
not conventional leading men in that sense. So I feel like there is - it
makes them more accessible to audiences.

Plus, you know, Richard was just overdue. He's this tremendous actor.
He's done so many movies. Audiences have seen him for years. And I just
felt like he certainly had the range.

And in both the case of Richard Jenkins and Paul Giamatti in "Win Win,"
and even Peter Dinklage in "The Station Agent," there's - all those men
have this tremendous sense of vulnerability, which I always find very
appealing in male characters.

DAVIES: One of the things about this film, a lot of what we're seeing is
actors...

Mr. McCARTHY: Acting.

DAVIES: I was going to say reacting and reflecting. A lot it's not what
they're saying. It's what you're seeing in their faces. Does that
require a different kind of directing?

Mr. McCARTHY: The stillness between lines, it creates tension. It
creates its own kind of tension. And I think that doesn't always - there
doesn't always have to be words there for a scene to work. Again, you
have to have the actors who can pull that off.

I don't think it's any coincidence at all three of the leading men we've
talked about today have tremendous stage experience in terms of the
theater.

Richard - Richard didn't even do his first film until I think he was 43
or 44. He was up at Trinity Rep, running the Trinity Rep and acting as a
main company member up there.

It means these men have a tremendous sense of filling space in the
subtlest ways. You know, certainly Paul Giamatti, same thing. Paul and I
met at the Yale Drama School. He came out, he was doing Broadway and
theater before he got into movies. And you just - you can feel that with
these guys.

They just - they're very comfortable. Once they're in their bodies,
that's it. They lock in, and it just makes them incredibly compelling to
watch.

DAVIES: Because when you're on stage, you're listening, and you're...

Mr. McCARTHY: You're completely involved. There are no breaks. You're
just up there. So, you know, yeah, and I think listening is a great
thing to pick up on. I think that's what great actors do almost better
than anything else.

You mentioned reacting. I think part of that is listening. A big part of
that is listening and being a good listener. And I think you can always
tell a great actor because no matter what's happening in the scene,
they're dialed in, and they're responding, and it's informing not only
the moment but the moments down the line. It's fun to watch.

DAVIES: We're speaking with actor, writer and director Tom McCarthy. His
new film, which he wrote and directed, starring Paul Giamatti and Amy
Ryan, is called "Win Win." We'll talk more after a short break. This is
FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, our guest is actor, writer and
director Tom McCarthy. His new film, which he wrote and directed, is
called "Win Win."

Well, you've done a lot of acting, and you had a major role in the fifth
season of the HBO series "The Wire." This is the last season, where the
series hones in on the flaws of urban journalism. And why don't you
describe your character, Scott Templeton. He's a reporter at the
Baltimore Sun.

Mr. McCARTHY: Greatly misunderstood reporter.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McCARTHY: You know, he's probably ambitious before all else, and I
think he's very career-minded. And you know, I think David Simon beat
into me during the - when we were shooting "The Wire," the fifth season,
this guy is not a bad guy. He's not a bad guy. He's done nothing wrong.
He's done nothing wrong.

And of course he was just pushing me to play against type and to play
the reality of the moment, which is a young man who's trying to further
his career by any means necessary. Unfortunately in doing so he crosses
a few journalistic lines.

DAVIES: Like making things up, right?

Mr. McCARTHY: The old making things up. So shoot me. But you know, it
was such an enjoyable experience playing that character because every
week, you know, I had no idea - David just called me. He offered me the
role. We had a brief conversation, and he said: I just think you're
going to be really right for this character.

Well, you know, as the season develops, and I realize the guy is the
biggest creep in all five seasons of "The Wire," and - I don't know if
there's a more disliked character than Scott Templeton. It makes me
reflect back on just what it is David Simon saw in my own character that
he so connected with.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Yeah, I was just going to ask that: What made you right for
that? Do you know?

Mr. McCARTHY: I do not know. I have thought about it long and hard since
that. But yeah, you know, the great thing about it, as the season's
unfolding, you got more and more of a sense of just like - just what
happens to the character. It just starts to build. And it was a lot of
fun to play, to watch this guy desperately try to hang on and ultimately
succeed in doing so, which is classic Simon. Never goes where you think
he's going to go.

DAVIES: Right. Well, let's listen to one scene, and this is one where
your character, Scott Templeton, has gone to a homeless encampment under
an interstate in Baltimore, where of course the series is set, and
spoken to an Iraq war vet and written about his experiences.

And the scene we're going to hear is where the Iraq war vet has come
storming into the newspaper, claiming that your character, Scott
Templeton, has gotten parts of it wrong. And this is a meeting with the
Iraq war vet, who's played by Aubrey Deeker, and you as the reporter,
Scott Templeton. It's mediated by your editor, who's played by Clark
Johnson. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Wire")

Mr. AUBREY DEEKER (Actor): (As Terry Hanning) I never said I was in a
firefight, not on that day.

Mr. McCARTHY: (As Scott Templeton) I'm sorry, but you did.

Mr. DEEKER: (As Hanning) I told you the lead vehicle took a hit from an
elevated IED, killed the 50 gunner and blew the hands off the driver.
That's it. That's enough, man. Why'd you go and make the rest of that
(bleep) up?

Mr. McCARTHY: (As Templeton) I didn’t make anything up. We sat there
having coffee...

Mr. DEEKER: (As Hanning) Coffee?

Mr. McCARTHY: (As Templeton) Having doughnuts and coffee, and you
said...

Mr. DEEKER: (As Hanning) What'd I say?

Mr. McCARTHY: (As Templeton) Can I finish?

Mr. DEEKER: (As Hanning) I don't know. I'm hearing about coffee and
doughnuts. I'm not hearing...

Mr. McCARTHY: (As Templeton) Can I finish? If you're not gonna let me
tell my side of the story...

Mr. DEEKER: (As Hanning) The lie ain't a side of the story. It's just a
lie.

Mr. McCARTHY: (As Templeton) I don't have to listen to this.

Mr. CLARK JOHNSON: (As Guy Haynes) Okay, hey, Scott, let's just relax
here. Gentlemen, let's just step back here, please. Now Mr. Hanning,
forgive me, but do you drink much?

Mr. DEEKER: (As Hanning) You think I'd (bleep) sleep under a bridge
sober?

Mr. JOHNSON: (As Haynes) Well, sometimes when I have a few, and I do
like to have a few, I tend to be a little more descriptive in the
telling of a tale. In fact..

Mr. DEEKER: (As Hanning) I know what it is to tell a story. I've told
plenty in my time. But there's some things that happen, you don't even
(bleep) them.

Mr. JOHNSON: (As Haynes) Scott?

Mr. McCARTHY: (As Templeton) I believe you, Mr. Hanning. I believe that
you believe, that you believe you told me one thing. But sir, with all
due respect and gratitude for you and the service you gave to this
country, you didn't tell me that thing. You told me something else. I
wrote what Mr. Hanning told me.

DAVIES: And that's Tom McCarthy, our guest, in a scene from the fifth
season of "The Wire," where he plays a reporter who stretches the bounds
of ethics, shall we say, at the Baltimore Sun.

You know, you've said that in five seasons of "The Wire" there may not
be a more contemptible character than your guy. Does it follow you
around? Do people see you and...

Mr. McCARTHY: Absolutely. People are really vocal about that. That show
has a very - you know, just walking through your offices here, which
feel a little bit like a newsroom, I start to get that itchy feeling
that someone's going to launch a stapler at me or something.

And you know, even on the streets in New York, I have people all the
time who will just walk by me and be like: You're a bad man.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McCARTHY: You know – and I know - the sad thing is, I know what
they're talking about. I was sitting down by the river one day, enjoying
the sunset with my girlfriend, and three guys walked by in suits, and
the one guy just looks at me and goes: Someone should knock you out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McCARTHY: (Unintelligible) he was talking about. And they all kind
of cracked up. And he's like: I'm right. And I'm like: Yeah, you're
right. People really don't like Scott Templeton. It's a lot of fun to
play a character like that, and the reaction continues to be fun.

I mean, even when I'm doing press tours right now for "Win Win," I'm
going around and a lot of people are still putting together that I'm
that guy. And I walk into a room, and the temperature changes a bit when
they realize they're in the presence of Scott Templeton - Pulitzer
Prize-winning Scott Templeton, I should say.

DAVIES: Right, right, right. You know, you've done three movies now, and
the first two highly acclaimed, and I'm confident the third one is going
to be well-received as well. The reviews are good. And you've done three
movies. None of the characters are famous or powerful. Nobody's been
stabbed, shot or blackmailed. Can you keep this up?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. McCARTHY: I don't know. I don't know. It is funny. I do get that a
little bit. I don't know what it is. I definitely am interested in the
ordinary becoming extraordinary in some way and trying to find that and
challenging myself.

Look, I think with "Win Win," specifically I was delving back into
suburban New Jersey. And I knew that was going to be a challenge because
the world is so conventional - by design.

And you know, in many ways this is my most personal film because it's,
you know, set in the town I grew up in, developed the story with one of
my oldest friends, and it deals with issues I care about.

But it was like how to make this compelling for an audience. And you
know, I think our answer to that was: keep it fun. Keep it entertaining.
And that's really why I want to do this film. It's a much busier film
than my other films.

Mike Flaherty is in the midst of his life. You know, he's got his family
he's committed to. He's got his practice. He's a wrestling coach. He's
got more than enough going on. That was the challenge for this script,
how to make that operate and how to make it exciting for audiences.

DAVIES: All right. Well, Tom McCarthy, it's been fun. Thanks so much.

Mr. McCARTHY: Yeah, it's been an absolute pleasure. Thanks, Dave.

DAVIES: Tom McCarthy wrote and directed the new film "Win Win," starring
Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan. It opens Friday. I'm Dave Davies, and this
is FRESH AIR.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
134537960
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20110315
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Anne Roiphe's 1950s Feminism In 'Art And Madness'

DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.

Writer and journalist Anne Roiphe made her name as a voice of the
women's movement. Her 1970 novel "Up the Sandbox" was hailed as a
feminist classic. Of late, Roiphe's been writing memoirs on such topics
as marriage and old age.

Her latest memoir, "Art and Madness," is a fierce recollection of her
youth in the literary New York of the 1950s and early '60s. The memoir
includes an introduction by Roiphe's well-known writer daughter, Katie.

Book critic, Maureen Corrigan has a review.

MAUREEN CORRIGAN: Towards the end of her ego-shredding new memoir called
"Art and Madness," Anne Roiphe tells the jaw-dropping story of the day
her first child was born.

It was 1960, and a snowstorm was raging in New York City. Roiphe, nine
months pregnant, has shuffled over to Third Avenue to a repair store to
pick up her husband's typewriter. That husband, a playwright named Jack
Richardson, is snug at home, sleeping off a night out on the town.
Roiphe wants him to have his typewriter nearby, should inspiration
strike when he awakens. So she picks it up at the store, balances its
weight against her swollen belly and starts trudging through the snow,
fifteen blocks back to their apartment.

On the way, her water breaks. She reaches a pay phone and calls her
husband. He doesn't wake up to answer. No taxis are around, so Roiphe
stumbles on all the way to the hospital, typewriter clasped like a
religious relic in her arms.

I say that anecdote is jaw-dropping because it is — viewed through the
feminist-inflected lens of 2011. But here's how powerful a writer that
masochistic young woman came to be. Because even as we contemporary
readers may be tsk-tsking over Roiphe's martyrdom, she also transports
us deep into the mindset of a handmaiden of literature, circa 1960.

Reading that passage, I was anxious at the thought of Roiphe going into
labor in a snowdrift. But because of the way Roiphe draws me into the
scene, I was simultaneously anxious about that damn typewriter and
wondering if maybe she shouldn't have dropped it off with the doorman at
her apartment house for safekeeping before she lumbered on alone to the
hospital.

"Art and Madness" is a particularly hard-boiled addition to a distinct
subgenre of female autobiography: memoirs written by women who came of
age in the 1950s and who sublimated their own ambitions by attaching
themselves to literary men.

I'm thinking of testaments like "How I Became Hettie Jones" by the
eponymous former wife of LeRoi Jones, later Amiri Baraka; "Manhattan,
When I Was Young" by Mary Cantwell; and the especially magnificent
"Minor Characters" by Joyce Johnson, one-time girlfriend of Jack
Kerouac.

Educated at Seven Sisters colleges or their like, these young women
wanted to live for art - which, in the 1950s translated into living for
a man who thought of himself as an artist. They found a place for
themselves in the New York boho scene of the time; pouring drinks or
tending to the other appetites of the resident drunken geniuses.

Roiphe, who married right after graduating from Sarah Lawrence and was
divorced from her playwright about six years later, was a smart party
girl in the Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, literary lion pack.
Analyzing the marriage of Doc Humes - who co-founded The Paris Review -
and his wife, Roiphe coldly illuminates the 1950s allure of the great
man.

He was a writer, a famous writer, with famous writer friends and that
made him special, far more appealing than a banker or a lawyer. He was
an artist and she would bear his children and wash his clothes and care
for him because there lay her own immortality, there lay her own
contribution to the great effort to speak the truth, to shape the words,
to write the novel that by existing would justify the human endeavor. I
know this because I felt it too, all of it.

"Art and Madness" is presented in shards of memories mostly dating from
the 1950s and early '60s. Roiphe evokes the limited courage of her
younger self. She was gutsy enough as a college girl to drive alone into
New York to perch herself on barstools at writers' hangouts like The
West End, but not yet brave enough to respect her own talent.

What especially sets "Art and Madness" apart from its autobiographical
sorority sisters is its mercilessness. After Roiphe describes her
husband leaving her for good, she says: I have no pity for her, the
still-young woman helping her fleeing husband pack his shirts into a
suitcase. I have no pity for that about-to-be-divorced woman who had
been ready to live off the written words of someone else.

Searing words that attest to the courage Roiphe eventually did discover
in herself, thanks, in part, to the second women's movement. And yet,
reading Roiphe's tough comments, I can't help but feel that she's still
lugging around more than her share of the historical burden.

DAVIES: Maureen Corrigan teaches literature at Georgetown University.
She reviewed "Art and Madness" by Anne Roiphe.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
134393883
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
..DATE:
20110315
..PGRM:
Fresh Air
..TIME:
12:00-13:00 PM
..NIEL:
N/A
..NTWK:
NPR
..SGMT:
Remember Christmas Songwriter, Hugh Martin

DAVE DAVIS, host:

We've made it an occasional holiday tradition on FRESH AIR to visit with
Hugh Martin, and play his song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Hugh Martin died Friday at his home in California. He was 96.

Martin is best known for that song and two others, "The Trolley Song,"
and "The Boy Next Door," all from the 1944 MGM musical "Meet Me in St.
Louis."

Martin shared credit on his songs with long-time collaborator, Ralph
Blane, who died in 1995. They met in the late '30s as performers singing
in Broadway musicals.

Besides composing melodies and lyrics, Martin did arrangements for stage
and movie productions, including Judy Garland's 1954 film, "A Star is
Born."

He continued working into the 1980s when he and Blane teamed up for a
Broadway revival of "Meet Me in St. Louis" with several new songs.

Terry spoke to Hugh Martin twice. The first time was in 1989 with his
collaborator, Ralph Blane.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

TERRY GROSS, host:

Can you tell me the story of how you both teamed up together?

Mr. HUGH MARTIN (Songwriter): Yes. Ralph, you tell it.

Mr. RALPH BLANE (Songwriter): I'll tell you the most wonderful thing
that ever happened to me...

Mr. MARTIN: Mm-hmm, me too.

Mr. BLANE: ...I was hired by Kay Thompson, the fabulous Kay Thompson.

GROSS: Oh, she is wonderful.

Ms. BLANE: She is wonderful.

Mr. MARTIN: Oh, the greatest.

Mr. BLANE: And she put us together in her rhythm singer group that was
going to be in "Hooray for What!" She was starring with Ed Wynn in a
Broadway musical called "Hooray for What!" And we were in the chorus
together, and we met there. That - the greatest thing that ever happened
to me was in Boston, Kay left the show and Hugh got to finish the vocal
arrangements that had to be done, and it started a whole career of vocal
arrangements for Broadway shows.

Mr. MARTIN: We were actually devastated that Kay was - that they let Kay
go because she was marvelous.

Mr. BLANE: Oh, I thought so too.

Mr. MARTIN: And they were crazy to let her go, because she was one of
the great ladies. Kay taught me everything I know about music and
arranging. She's just marvelous.

Mr. BLANE: And Hugh Martin taught me everything I know.

GROSS: "Meet Me in St. Louis" the film was directed by Vincent Minnelli.
Did he have any suggestions about how we wanted to get into the songs,
and...

Mr. MARTIN: Oh, boy he sure did.

Mr. BLANE: He was a very - he's a perfectionist.

Mr. MARTIN: And they were very brilliant suggestions too.

GROSS: Can you give an example?

Mr. MARTIN: The best example I think is that when we wrote "The Trolley
Song," and everyone loved it, Vincent came up with the idea that he
wanted it sung by the chorus before Judy sang it, which sounded terrible
to me. I couldn't understand why he wanted that. It just seemed wrong to
me.

But now seeing the movie, I can see how beautifully that idea worked
out, of having the chorus kids come in on the car and set up the whole
melody and lyric idea.

Mr. BLANE: And John Truett, the boy next door, dashing and trying to
catch the trolley and she's so thrilled that he's trying to make it, and
does finally at the end.

Ms. MARTIN: He masterminded all of that and he was just wonderful -
wonderful director.

GROSS: Now, I want to play a version of "The Trolley Song." Now, this is
a song that's kind of owned by Judy Garland in a way as a singer. But on
this version, we're going to hear you, Martin, singing it. And this is
from an album that you, Martin, and Ralph Blane made together in 1957.

Mr. MARTIN: I'm very flattered, thank you.

GROSS: Let's give it a listen.

Mr. MARTIN: Okay.

(Soundbite of song "The Trolley Song")

Mr. MARTIN: (Singing) With her high-starched collar, and her high-topped
shoes, and her hair piled high upon my head, she went to find a jolly
hour on the trolley and found my heart instead. With my light brown
derby and my bright green tie, I was quite the lonesomest of men. I
started to yen, so I counted to ten then I counted to ten again. Clang,
clang, clang went the trolley, ding, ding, ding went the bell, zing,
zing, zing went my heartstrings, for the moment I saw her I fell. Chug,
chug, chug went the motor, bump, bump, bump went the brake, thump,
thump, thump went my heartstrings, when she smiled I could see the car
shake.

GROSS: Martin, I like your signing a lot.

Mr. MARTIN: Oh, bless you, Terry.

GROSS: Do you still sing?

Mr. MARTIN: You know, just your playing the record has given me the old
itch to sing again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARTIN: I'm going to go home and do my vocal eases. Thank you for
playing it.

GROSS: Oh, it's a pleasure. How did you come up with the - the clang
clang lyric?

Mr. BLANE: Well, after we had written three different songs for Arthur
Freed, which we thought would be corny to be about a trolley, I mean, we
thought we'll write something wonderful for Judy to sing on the trolley.
And we did three different songs for which he said, I know, oh, I love
it, it's a beautiful song, but I've got a better place for it. I'm going
to use in the "The Follies."

Mr. MARTIN: Which he never did. It was a tactful way of throwing them
out, and I'm so glad he did.

Mr. BLANE: And finally he says, now about "The Trolley Song," I want you
to try again for me. And I said, Hugh, he's not going to take anything
less than a trolley - a song about the trolley.

So I went to the public library in Beverly Hills and was rummaging
through some old turn-of-the-century newspapers, and found a picture of
a double-decker trolley, which they incidentally used in the movie. And
under the trolley picture it said, clang, clang, here comes the trolley.

And I said, Hugh, look at this. And Hugh said, clang, clang, clang went
the trolley, and about - it was very few minutes, he had the whole thing
going. In fact, in didn't take long to write that song at all once we
got the first line.

Mr. MARTIN: It was exactly three hours. Can you believe it?

Mr. BLANE: We were in Freed's office demonstrating it in three hours.

Mr. MARTIN: Yeah.

Mr. BLANE: And he says, now, that's what I wanted all the time. He knew
what he wanted.

GROSS: That's great.

Mr. MARTIN: And you know - oh, this is interesting about the verse,
remember Ralph? I called up Irene Sharaff, who had done the costumes for
the film, and I said, Irene, could you tell me what Judy might be
wearing in this scene? And she said, why do you want to know? And I
said, well, we're working on this new song for the trolley, and I might
be able to work in some of those phrases if I know what they wore in
those days.

And she said, well, it might be - she might have on a high-starched
collar, she might have on high-topped shoes. And I said, might her hair
be piled high up on her head, and she said yes, it might.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARTIN: And I said what is - might the boy be wearing? And she, you
know, I practically set her words to music from the costume
descriptions.

Mr. BLANE: Right. And then when the picture was made, her hair was
hanging down, not piled up on her head.

Mr. MARTIN: Yeah.

GROSS: That's right.

Mr. MARTIN: He was wearing a straw hat and not a brown derby.

Mr. BLANE: They screwed us up again.

Mr. MARTIN: Didn't do a thing that the lyrics said. They weren't doing
it in the show.

Mr. BLANE: But it made a nice verse.

Mr. MARTIN: Yes.

GROSS: Well, I want to play you, Ralph Blane, singing something from the
Martin and Blane album, again recorded in 1957. And why don't we listen
to you singing "The Boy Next Door," one of the songs that you both wrote
for "Meet Me in St. Louis?"

Mr. BLANE: Oh, wonderful.

Mr. MARTIN: He does that beautifully.

GROSS: Do you want to say anything about writing the song before we hear
it?

Mr. MARTIN: No. It was just one of those melodies that really I'm so
grateful for, because it - it really just came out of the blue and then
we put lyrics to it. There's nothing really special - oh, there is one
little special thing about it.

After it was more or less finished, I asked Ralph if he thought it
needed any finishing touches, and he said, why don't you work the
address into it, Sally's address, 5135 Kensington Avenue. So we added
that, and I think it's a nice touch.

Mr. BLANE: It's a wonderful touch. I love that verse.

Mr. MARTIN: That was her real address.

Mr. BLANE: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: We were going to skip the verse and start with the melody...

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: ...because we're so - just because we're so limited for time.

Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. I really messed you up. That's okay.

Mr. BLANE: I live at 5135 Kensington Avenue, and he lives at 5133.

GROSS: Hit it.

(Soundbite of song: "The Boy Next Door")

Mr. BLANE: (Singing) How can I ignore the girl next door, I love her
more than I can say. Doesn't try to please me, doesn't even tease me,
and she never sees me glance her way. And though I'm heart-sore, the
girl next door, affection for me won't display. I just adore her, so I
can't ignore her, the girl next door.

DAVIES: Ralph Blane singing "The Boy Next Door." Or in - in that version
"The Girl Next Door."

We're remembering composer, Hugh Martin, who died Friday at the age of
96. The conversation we heard earlier was recorded in 1989. Terry spoke
again with Hugh Martin in 2006 as the Christmas holidays were
approaching.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

GROSS: Now you once told a story on our show about how you and your late
partner, Ralph Blane, wrote "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Can I ask you to tell it again?

Mr. MARTIN: Well, first of all, I feel rather self-serving admitting
this, but Ralph didn't really write it, honey. We wrote our songs
separately, so that it's words and music by me.

GROSS: Oh, well. Good. So now you're really able to tell the complete
story of how you wrote it.

Mr. MARTIN: I can really tell the complete story. Ralph was working in
one room, and I was working in another on "Meet Me in St. Louis." And I
played the first 16 bars of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
over and over and over, and got stuck. I could not get - I couldn't find
a bridge for it. And so I just put it aside and decided not to work on
it.

And Ralph, who had heard it through the walls came to me the next day
and said, whatever happened to that little madrigal sounding melody that
you were playing? And I said, well, I couldn't make it work, Ralph, and
so I discarded it. And he said, well, you find it and finish it, because
I have a big feeling about it.

And so we did find it and I did finish it, but the original version was
so lugubrious that Judy Garland refused to sing it. She said, if I sing
that to little Margaret O'Brien, they'll think I'm a monster.

So I was young then, and kind of arrogant, and I said, well, I'm sorry
you don't like it, Judy, but that's the way it is, and I don't really
want to write a new lyric. But Tom Drake, who played the boy next door,
took me aside and said, Hugh, you've got to finish it. It's really a
great song potentially, and I think you'll be sorry if you don't do it.

So I went home and wrote the version that's in the movie.

GROSS: Now, I should explain that in the 1944 movie musical, "Meet Me in
St. Louis," when Judy Garland sings this, you know, she and her younger
sister are very - it's Christmastime, but she and her younger sister are
very unhappy because their father's job is taking him from St. Louis to
New York. And he's going to move the whole family to New York and they
don't want to go and leave their friends behind.

So the younger sister, played by Margaret O'Brien, is crying and Judy
Garland tries to comfort her by singing the song. Now, you said that the
first version was lugubrious. What made the lyrics lugubrious?

Mr. MARTIN: We'll I'll sing it for you.

Mr. MARTIN: (Singing) Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be
your last. Next year we may all be living in the past.

Mr. MARTIN: Pretty sad.

GROSS: But you changed that lyric, didn't you?

Mr. MARTIN: Yeah, I did. The one in the movie was - let's see. Have
yourself a merry little Christmas, oh, until then we all be together if
the fates allow. Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow. That
was the one that was in the movie.

Then I got a phone call from Frank Sinatra saying I'm doing an album
called, "A Jolly Christmas," and I love your song, but it's just not
very jolly. Do you think you could jolly it up a little bit for me? So
then I wrote the line about have your - hang a shining star upon the
highest bow. And Frank liked that and recorded it, and people - they do
- sometimes they do that line and sometimes they do the muddle through
line somehow.

GROSS: I like the muddle through one.

Mr. MARTIN: I like the muddle through one better too.

GROSS: My guest is songwriter, Hugh Martin. And here's Twisted Sister
from their album, "A Twisted Christmas." As you'll hear they use the
line Martin wrote for Sinatra.

(Soundbite of song, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas)

TWISTED SISTER: Ho ho ho, let's go. Have yourself a merry little
Christmas, let your heart be light. From now on our troubles will be out
of sight. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, make the Yuletide gay.
From now on, our troubles will be miles away. Here we are as in olden
days, happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who are dear to us,
gather near to us once more. Through the years we all will be together,
if the fates allow. Hang a shining star upon the highest bough. And have
yourself a merry little Christmas now. Ho ho ho, let's go. Ho ho ho,
let's go.

DAVIES: Twisted Sister and their cover version of the Hugh Martin
Christmas classic. Hugh Martin died on Friday at the age of 96. We'll
hear more of 2006 interview with him after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: Let's get back to Terry's interview with the late composer Hugh
Martin. They spoke in 2006 as the holidays were approaching.

GROSS: Let me ask you to share with us your favorite Christmas memory
since we all have your song playing in our soundtrack of Christmas.

Mr. MARTIN: My favorite Christmas memory was of being six or seven years
old, and my mother decorating the tree. And she was a very artistic
woman, and she did sensational Christmas trees. So it was a real joy
every year when she would decorate it, and it was a very wonderful
moment. That was my favorite Christmas memory.

GROSS: And what's Christmas like now?

Mr. MARTIN: Oh, do I have to say?

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: You don't.

Mr. MARTIN: I'm really upset by Christmas now. I just hate Santa Claus
and the jingle bells and reindeer and the wrapped packages and the
holiday push. I hate all of that. I just loved it when it was, well, all
my life ago, 90 years ago.

GROSS: You liked it when it was less commercial?

Mr. MARTIN: Oh, yes, didn't you? Well, of course, you're not old enough
to remember when it was so beautiful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Yeah. It's always pretty commercial.

Mr. MARTIN: But I loved it when it was old fashioned. We didn't even
have electric lights on our tree? We'd have candles.

GROSS: We're about to hear a version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little
Christmas" that you recorded a year ago...

Mr. MARTIN: That's right.

GROSS: ...and was released earlier this year in a CD that's called "Hugh
Sings Martin."

Mr. MARTIN: Right.

GROSS: And this features recordings that you've made, you know,
throughout your career, particularly like in the - I guess in the '40s
and '50s.

Mr. MARTIN: That's right.

GROSS: But it has this new recording from a year ago. You made this
recording when you were 90.

Mr. MARTIN: I was 90 years old. I don't know how I got through it.

GROSS: And you're at the piano playing and singing. It's quite
beautiful. Do you want to say anything about making this recording
before we hear it?

Mr. MARTIN: Well, I just want to say, Terry, that I never would have
continued singing at all if it hadn't been for you. Because you did an
interview with Ralph and me in 1989, I think it was, when "Meet Me in
St. Louis" opened on Broadway. And you played a little recording of me
singing "The Trolley Song," and I was just about to stop singing because
I wasn't getting all that much encouragement.

But when - at the end of the cut, you said, oh, I like you're singing. I
like it a lot. And that thrilled me so that I kept on singing.

GROSS: Well, it thrills me to hear you say that.

Mr. MARTIN: I mean it.

GROSS: And I still really like your singing.

Mr. MARTIN: Thank you.

GROSS: And I want to wish you a merry Christmas, and I want to thank you
for writing such a great Christmas song. Some of those Christmas songs
tend to wear thin.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MARTIN: Well God really blessed me.

GROSS: Your song is so enduring. It's just one of the most beautiful and
moving I think of all the Christmas songs. So thank you so much, and
thank you for talking with us again.

Mr. MARTIN: Oh, thank you deeply for saying that. Bye-bye.

(Soundbite of song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas")

Mr. MARTIN: (Singing) Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of
yore. Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more.
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

DAVIES: Composer and singer Hugh Martin. He spoke with Terry Gross in
2006. He died Friday at his home in California. He was 96.
..COST:
$00.00
..INDX:
134531533

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.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?

Advertisement

Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR

21:41

Remembering Michael Apted, Creator Of The 'Up' Documentary Series

The documentarian, who died Jan. 7, spent decades following the lives of a group of British citizens, updating their stories with a new episode every seven years. Originally broadcast in 2013.

08:40

Remembering Neil Sheehan, Vietnam War Correspondent Who Revealed The Pentagon Papers

Sheehan, who died Jan. 7, broke the story of the Pentagon Papers and wrote A Bright Shining Lie, a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Vietnam War. Originally broadcast in 1988.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.

Playing

Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue