Mario Lanza in literature

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Steff

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Jan 29, 2012, 5:35:48 PM1/29/12
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Hello everyone,

Well, my idea to open this thread "Mario Lanza in literature" started a while back. Whenever I browse the WEB about anything Mario Lanza, I come across some books  that mention his name.  I do not mean books that are written about Mario Lanza in particular or about singers or music in general, but books (e.g. novels, short stories etc) in which people tell a (sometimes trivial) story, maybe even a lifetime story, in which Mario plays some (important) role, either in a special moment of their lives or even for much longer than just moment.

Well, I thought about quoting such relevant, entertaining and Mario Lanza related book excerpts here from time to time.
Although these may not all be spectacular stories I hope you will like them nevertheless. I am afraid but I think they give not much ground for forum discussion, so they are rather meant to be something to just lean back and enjoy reading.

Steff


Steff

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Jan 29, 2012, 5:38:15 PM1/29/12
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The first excerpt is from the book  "For Two Pins" by Bill Flannigan (born 1936)

These are recollections from the Elswick born author about growing up during WW II.


"One fine Spring Sunday morning I was helping my Dad to decorate our living room. Wallpaper was almost unobtainable so we were using the stippling method to create a pattern similar to wallpaper. Dad had painted a background colour onto the four walls and he and I were dabbing colours onto it with a piece of old lace curtain. It was quite effective sometimes but I had seen some awful results in the past.

The Redifusion was going full blast and Dad was humming or singing along to the records on "Two Way Family Favourites." I was waiting patiently in the hope of hearing Jussi Björling or Caruso being requested, just as I did every Sunday. After half of the programme went by I thought I was going to be disappointed this time.

I heard Jean Metcalf say something about a new "American sensation", but I wasn't able to make out the name. When the record started I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It was Mario Lanza singing "Be My Love." My Dad was mesmerised. We both just stood on our ladders, not moving until the final strains of that top 'C' faded away.

"Bloody hell, who was that?" Dad exclaimed. "What a bloody voice. I've never heard anything else since Caruso. What is his name?"
The question was aimed at me but I couldn't reply. I could feel the lump of emotion in my throat. What a voice. He would be able to sing anything. OK, I loved Jussi Björling, Caruso, John McCormack and several other tenors, but this voice was new, young and sensational.
Then Cliff Michelmore said ... "well, that was for Lance Corporal Roberts of the Royal Green Jackets from his fiancée Brenda. Mario Lanza singing 'Be My Love,'
Now who could fail to respond to that?"

"How much would that record cost then?" Dad enquired,
"About six bob," I replied.
"Bloody hell, six bob, they're not getting any cheaper are they?" Dad remonstrated."


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Derek McGovern

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Jan 31, 2012, 3:32:14 AM1/31/12
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This is a nice idea for a thread, Steff.

In the book you quoted above, the father's reaction to hearing Lanza's singing for the first time was exactly the same as my own father's! He often tells us that story, with the only difference being that he was just eleven at the time. 

Cheers
Derek

Steff

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Feb 1, 2012, 4:50:58 AM2/1/12
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From the book "Every Person is Worth Understanding" by Dr. Clyde M. Narramore


"[...] Although Ruth, as a child, had traveled to China and back, there were many parts of the United States she had never seen, It was delightful to watch Ruth and Gordon become so enchanted with the beauties of aour American West [...]

Next, we drove along the spectacular California coastline to San Luis Obispo to see my sister, Lela, and her family. From there we continued on to the Los Angeles area where we stayed with my brother Earl an his wife. They showed us many sights.

I remember one special evening at the Hollywood Bowl. The tenor soloist was a man I had never heard of - around thirty years of age. It was a spectacular night at the bowl, with its beautiful natural setting. However, the bowl was only about one-third full. I presume the crowd was not large because the singer was not well known, so we were able to move down front into choice seats.

The tenor soloist was sharp looking, and when he sang his first aria, we were totally thrilled. What a voice! We knew we were listening to one of the nation's finest tenors. The crowd stood and applauded enthusiastically after his first group of songs.

My brother said, "Let's look at the program again and see what this fellow's name is - he's tremendous!" It was Mario Lanza! He sounded much like I suppose Enrico Caruso would have. He was young, vigoros, and in excellent voice. Having studied voice ourselves, we were thrillled. His rendition of "Una Furtiva Lagrima" by Donizetti still rings in my ears! He was gracious with his encores, and the report in the Los Angeles papers the next day read something like: "Mario Lanza takes the bowl by storm!" And he did! Soon he was known everywhere [...]."

Derek McGovern

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Feb 3, 2012, 5:57:27 AM2/3/12
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Hi Steff: It's nice to read a firsthand account of the 1947 Hollywood Bowl concert, and especially by someone who had studied voice.

Two things struck me as slightly curious about the anecdote: firstly, I've always understood that the Bowl's auditorium was less than 20% full that evening, but Narramore says it was about a third. It would be nice to think he was right! The other thing is that I'm surprised that, of all the things that Lanza sang that night, the "Una Furtiva Lagrima" still rings in the author's ears more than 60 years later! That was the only (slightly) below-par performance of the concert, I've always felt---and I'd have thought the author would have had more thrilling memories of the Improvviso or the Butterfly Love Duet. But each to their own :)

Cheers
Derek
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Steff

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Feb 4, 2012, 12:03:33 PM2/4/12
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Hi Derek,

Honestly, I was not aware at all about the low attendance at the HB 1947 concert, somehow this fact had slipped past me. Imagine, what would have happened, had Mario had the promotion and publicity that went along with Margaret Truman's appearance at HB only few days before Mario's concert.

Steff

Steff

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Feb 6, 2012, 6:52:58 AM2/6/12
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This is not from a book, but I thought it a nice addition to the book excerpts I've already posted.
The article "Fruits in My Mind" originally was published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 13, 2006, and you
can read it completely on

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20061113-32171/Fruits_in_my_mind


"Fruits in my mind" by Corazon M. Oliver

"Though the leaves of memory rustle but faintly in the twilight of one's life, there are those that stick like glue and would not be driven away. In my life, this happens when I see certain fruits which I have come to associate with people dearest to me and places of my childhood [...]

Lychees and Mario Lanza, I cannot remember one without the other. My stepmother simply loved the tenor that was Mario Lanza. Whenever a movie that starred him was showing at the Ideal or Ever or Avenue theaters at Rizal Avenue, she would nudge me and say that we were going to Manila, a trip that took us a good one and a half hours from Biñan via the Zapote Road because there was no expressway then. We would first pass by the Chinese groceries along Quiapo where she would buy two bundles of fresh lychees to eat inside the theater. Of course, I ate more than she did because I took advantage of her being deeply engrossed in the singing of "The Student Prince."
Fresh lychees have remained one of my favorite fruits not only because I like its sweetness but also because I associate it with the cultural persona of this woman who became my surrogate mother [...]"


Tony Partington

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Feb 7, 2012, 8:56:01 AM2/7/12
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What wonderful, magical posts. They can, in reading them, transport
you and therein lies their magic. Thank heaven for these sorts of
first hand accounts which happen to be recalled so tenderly and
written with such appreciation for the amazing gift that was and is
Mario.

Ciao ~ Tony

On Feb 6, 5:52 am, Steff <Stefanie.Walzin...@t-online.de> wrote:
> This is not from a book, but I thought it a nice addition to the book
> excerpts I've already posted.
> The article "Fruits in My Mind" originally was published in the Philippine
> Daily Inquirer, November 13, 2006, and you
> can read it completely on
>
> http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20061113-321...
>
> *"Fruits in my mind"* by *Corazon M. Oliver*

Steff

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Feb 10, 2012, 11:14:15 AM2/10/12
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The following excerpt is from the book: "Altavilla, Sicily: Memories of a Happy Childhood" by Calogero Lombardo. The author describes a child's play, the "Mario Lanza game"


"[ ...] Another game: The Mario Lanza Game. We must have had a lot of free time because we spent a lot of time playing. I don't think the twins were truant from school too often, but I'm sure Toruccio was. He was too smart and too unregimentable for the repetition, the rote of learning. He grasped the concepts too quickly. Easily bored because of this, the downside of an often unchallenging education, schooling made too easy because of unequal abilities of the student, he must have cut school often.

We could form a circle, usually Toruccio, the twins, i gemelli, me, sometimes Rosellina, Vituzzu u Zzimmeddu, Vituzzu Chiovari, Morbacchio, Enzuccio, the doctor's son, Cola and Concetta's kids, whoever was around. Toruccio, of course, would be the leader. He would pretend he was owner of the garden, il giardino. He would begin the rhyming game with a command to someone to go the garden and pick a pumpkin (actually a squash, since we were not familiar with pumpkins, at least I don't remember them before America).
The reply from the commandee was that there was not one pumpkin but there were two. Another would chime in that there were not two but three; another would add that there were not three but four, and so on until one would end the round-robin rhyme by saying that there were not however many the last person said there were, but that indeed there was an entire garden full of pumpkins. That is the best translation I can give with any translatable meaning.

This game is spoken in Italian, not Sicialian, except for the word for pumpkin, cucuzza. By the time the fourth or fifth person has spoken the music of the rhyming sets in and by the end the game has become a chant. Sometimes everyone would chant together by the end, when one of the loudest would signal that he was going to end the chant. We would sometimes play this game indoors with Mammé as a leader, a reaction to the boredom of having nothing to do.

The reason I now call this the Mario Lanza Game is because the rhyme centers on the word for pumpkin, cucuzza, which would be the Sicilian pronounciation of cocozza, if Italian had such a word. I don't know that it does, but it should. Mario Lanza, the popular tenor from Philadelphia, was born Alfred Arnold Cocozza. That's the connection I will try to show in words how this game sounded. I hope the meter will show what I mean.

Commander: Vai nel mio giardino e coglimi una cucuzza.
Response: Non è una la cucuzza, sono due le cucuzze.
Response: Non sono due le cucuzze, sono tre le cucuzze.
Response: Non sono tre le cucuzze, sone quattro le cucuzze.
Response: Non sone quattro le cucuzze, sono cinque le cucuzze...
Ender: Non sono sei le cucuzze, e tutt'u cucuzzan' i zabbarra!

This must have been a lot more fun than memorizing multiplication tables and learning geometry [...] I know I'd rather sing and laugh than sit in a schoolroom yawning. Like my brother Toruccio did [...]."

Steff




Steff

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Feb 19, 2012, 8:28:57 PM2/19/12
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From the book "The Practice of Perfection" by Mary Frances Coady

"[...] She [note from Steff: Sister Lucy] looked back at her letter now, turning her pen over in her hands. She was wasting time. Soon the bell would ring and the novices would have to hand in their letters and then scatter to do the rest of the day's chores. It was easier to think, to reflect, than it was to write.

Then She remembered one more thing about the feast of St. Stanislaus and once more began to write. "We had a record of songs by Mario Lanza while we played games in the afternoon." The songs had been an unusual intrusion of worldliness in the silence of the novitiate. Sister Lucy now remembered how Mother Alphonsine had moved smoothly over to the record player as Mario Lanza was belting full throttle, "Be my lo-o-ove, for no one else can fil-l-l this year-r-rning..." and had lifted the needle and turned the record over, saying in a bland voice, "Perhaps we'll hear the other side now." Something had lurched inside her chest at that moment, and for no reason she could explain to herself, her eyes had burned with sudden tears. Then the moment had passed and she had returned her attention to the Scrabble board as in the background familiar organ music swelled and Mario Lanza's voice burst into the "Ave Maria [...]."

Steff





Steff

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Mar 7, 2012, 4:09:34 PM3/7/12
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Here are three excerpts from the book “Behind the 'Colored' Sign – A Journey to Success”by Samuel L. Chatam

[…] „Jack, it’s about time for your radio program,” Mother said.

I looked at the clock on the kitchen stove. It was almost seven-thirty. That meant Mario Lanza was about to begin his twenty-minute show. He was the greatest American tenor I had ever heard, and the only one with his own radio show. His voice was rich and full. He made musical sounds that I could not believe. He hit high notes that sounded rich and colorful. As far as I was concerned, he practiced with angels – his voice was heavenly.

I placed my chair in front of the radio as close as possible. I turned the radio up so Mother and Daddy Buddy could hear it too. Mario Lanza always sang with a big orchestra. I had learned about the instruments from our fourth and fifth grade music books. It was interesting to hear which instrument took the lead as each musician took his turn glorifying the vocal.

Mario began each show with “Be My Love.” As he sang, I felt full of joy. His voice was my surprise at the beginning of each week because he brought freshness to the radio. As I listened to his exalting “Maria, Maria,” I wondered if the powerful sense of happiness and joy that his show created in me would be the way I would always feel in heaven. He drove dull cares away, and he made my heart blossom with happiness. His show was like being caught up in a shower of bliss where joy reigned supreme, and music massaged the soul. By the end of the show I knew I had been invigorated by the splendor and warmth of a rich vocal talent.

I stood and walked into Daddy Buddy’s room, stretched both arms out as if I were flying, and said. “Daddy Buddy, how did you like that!” He smiled and moved his lips but no sound came out, however, I knew he was happy. I leaned down and hugged him, and then got ready for church. The beautiful voice, along with the string, wind, and percussion instruments would continue to entertain my mind long after the show ended […].

[…] Sunday morning was always very special because Mario Lanza gifted us with a radio visit. He christened each Sunday morning with his alluring, magical voice. Whenever his radio show came on, Daddy Buddy, Mother and I would stop our activities and listen for the full twenty minutes. We were together in Daddy Buddy’s bedroom: Mother’s favorite spot was the rocking chair. Daddy Buddy was in bed, and I liked sitting in the straight-back, cane- bottom chair.

After his musical introduction of “Be My Love,” Mario Lanza greeted his listeners with a verbal introduction, and then he broke into song. This week he opened with “Nessun Dorma” by Puccini. It was another brilliant musical manifestation of God’s gift. He ended the program by thrilling us with his vocal rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Mario Lanza brought a special blessing to the world through his celestial and gloriously inspirational vocals. His range stimulated expectancy and caused wonderment. The clarity of his voice reminded me of clear crystal. Without a doubt, he brought a slice of heaven to our lives. What an extraordinary way to begin the week! Mother said, “That’s the best program on radio, and I am so glad we found it. Now, it’s time for us to get ready for church […].

[…] After breakfast Mother said, “Now that we’ve filled our stomachs, let’s turn the radio on and fill our spirits.”

“Great. I am so ready for good music, “I said. It was five minutes before the Mario Lanza Show. Mother put the dishes away and went to the bedroom. I went to my bedroom, turned the radio on, and climbed into bed. I became relaxed and fully expectant.

When his theme song “Be My Love” began playing, I was captivated. It was immediately followed by a magnificent presentation of “Arrivederci Roma.” After the commercials, he sang “Santa Lucia” and finally closed the show with an energetic and compelling rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” The program filled my spirit, and the surplus joy that remained after his program ended would last throughout the week [...]

Note from Steff: Actually, Mario never sang “Nessun dorma” and “Arrivederci Roma,” in the Coke Shows, and he never sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Santa Lucia” in the same radio broadcast. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Steff

Derek McGovern

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Mar 7, 2012, 8:36:29 PM3/7/12
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Hi Steff: That's a very sweet narrative!

I guess we can allow the writer some creative licence when it comes to what Lanza sang on the Coke Shows :) After all, Peter Jackson's movie Heavenly Creatures, which was based on a true story, had its teenaged protagonists listening to Mario's 1958 rendition of "Funiculi' Funicula'" four years before he actually recorded it!

Cheers
Derek

Steff

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Mar 15, 2012, 12:16:23 PM3/15/12
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The following excerpt is from the book It’s Been on My Mind – Defining Myself Through Stories and Personal Essays by Carolyn Schwartz

 

[…] But never was my infatuation with celebrities more fervent than when I fell head over heels in love with Mario Lanza. In fact, this tenor became a bit of an obsession with me. At home, at school, when I went to bed at night, Mario stoked the fantasies in my mind. I went to see each of his movies – That Midnight Kiss, The Toast of New Orleans, and The Great Caruso two or three times. To watch and hear him belt out his powerful love songs made me feel faint.

Mario came onto the Hollywood scene in the early fifties. He was a wild Philadelphia punk with an “attitude.” (By this time, surliness in a guy turned me on!) Mario was also drop-dead gorgeous and sang even better than Caruso. He was determined to be the greatest opera singer the world had ever known. Practically overnight, he became not only that, but Hollywood’s hottest leading man as well.

I read everything I could about my hero – about his reel life and his real life. I knew that he’d married his childhood sweetheart, Betty. That they had four adorable kids. I knew each kid’s name and birthday and what grade they were in school. I kept a scrapbook with photos just of them. I filled another with photos of Mario and his leading ladies, and another with scenes from his supposedly idyllic home life.

Soon I was mentally inserting myself into the happy scene. In my la-la land I invented roles for myself that put me into Mario’s life. I started small. For example, I imagined myself as his accompanist. Or I was a nanny to his kids.

But later, I set my goals higher. Having already memorized the lyrics to the duets Mario sang with his divas, I dreamed that I auditioned for and was chosen as the newest and best of his romantic partners. Of course, behind the scenes, the two of us fell madly in love. But I was torn with guilt, knowing that I was the cause of Mario’s cheating on Betty and the breakup of his perfect family. So for my beloved and me, star-crossed lovers, I never created a bedroom scene.

What a damn shame! That event could’ve ramped up my reveries for years! Sadly, at the bight height of my passion for Mario, fate intervened, and cold, hard reality set in. By the mid-fifties, press reports indicated that my hero was starting to self-destruct. He was gaining enormous amounts of weight, which was bad for his heart. He was having temper tantrums on movie sets and being fired for violent outburst. He was womanizing. There was talk about drug use.                                                    

I was totally disillusioned by the time my heartthrob died at the tender age of thirty-eight. The exact circumstances of his death were hush-hush. Unlike today, the media stopped short of slinging dirt about celebrities’ private lives. For years, all I could do was speculate about my darling’s way-too-early demise.

I was sixteen by this time: older, wiser and ready for some “real” love life […]

 

Lover of Grand Voices

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Mar 15, 2012, 4:46:58 PM3/15/12
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Steff, what you have done is wonderful. I've enjoyed these posts very
much and hope you find more anecdotal literature sites about Mario.
They show the impact he made in so many ways as authors of all sorts
thought of him including his adoring fans. Thank you Steff. Regards,
Emilio

On Mar 15, 12:16 pm, Steff <Stefanie.Walzin...@t-online.de> wrote:
> > The following excerpt is from the book *“It’s Been on My Mind – Defining
> > Myself Through Stories and Personal Essays”* by *Carolyn Schwartz*

Steff

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Apr 21, 2012, 9:56:09 AM4/21/12
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It’s been a while that I posted a story, so here finally is a new one:

 

 

It’s from the book “Forbidden Dreams” by Leonid Prymak and tells about a Russian violinist, Vladimir, who falls in love with Lara. When he goes to America to follow his career, he has to leave Lara behind in Moscow.

 

“Vladimir kissed Karen and headed home. He had to change into a suit for a day show. As he was driving, Vladimir began thinking aloud, “Day number two, and how many more of you. What will the coming days hold for me?”

The sound of the song “Be My Love” appeared in Vladimir’s head and as if through a special time tunnel it moved him back in time into his disturbing past. He found himself sitting in the hard wooden seat. He was in the popular movie theatre in the downtown of Moscow. Lara was sitting next to him and he was holding her hand. It  was the famous American film Toast of New Orleans with the great American tenor Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson. The scent of Lara’s perfume was penetrating Vladimir down to the depths of his soul. He thought of how fantastic and magical it was that he was reliving his past again. He felt as if he was indeed part of that “live” moment from the past, the scene where Pepe Duval – Mario Lanza- appeared on the screen. He was singing “Be My Love.” The song possessed one of the greatest, most passionate melodies ever written by a very famous Hollywood composer of Russian origin, Nicholas Brodszky. The only difference was that now Vladimir knew every English word of that song.  He turned his head toward Lara and whispered into her ear the Russian translation of the song as it was sung.

 

 

Be my love, for no one else can end this yearning.

This need that you and you alone create.

Just fill my arms the way you filled my dreams,

The dreams that you inspire with every sweet desire.

Be my love, and with your kisses set me burning.

One kiss is all I need to seal my fate.

And hand in hand we’ll find love’s  promised Land.

There’ll be no one than you for eternity if you will be my love.

 

He felt as he sang this song to her as if he was in possession of Mario Lanza’s voice; it was his and Lara’s favorite movie.

This very moment Lara was so close to him, but as he was slightly pulled away from the scene, he realized that it was only an illusion, which an unknown force was so vividly creating.

He was desperately trying to hold on to this living image. “you filled my dreams,” whispered Vladimir as he pulled over his car at his home. He parked the car, closed his eyes and didn’t  move, trying not to disturb his memory of Lara.

Painfully, he felt as if the scene was over and Lara was gone. It was just another of his daydreams to which he clung. He was sitting all alone in his car. Suddenly he felt very cold and very tired. He slowly got out of the car and walked to his apartment.  As he was opening the door he silently aksed himself again, “What will the future hold for me?”

Suddenly he saw a flash and a picture of Lara and him floating in space. He felt as if his energy was being drained. He walked into his apartment and sat down for a minute. His eyes moved to his violin. It was inviting him to share his sorrow. He didn’t want to lose Lara again. He opened his case and took out his violin. He raised it and put it gently under his chin. He felt as if his eyelids were closed by some heavy weight. He gently struck the strings and heard the melody of Lara singing from Doctor Zhivago. It filled the room.

His heart was aching as he played. He could not stop and so it was “Be My Love.” He was playing it for Lara and felt that it was his special letter to her, which was telling her how much he loved and missed her. He started it very softly from the lower to the upper register. Now it was in a high note. His violin was crying and screaming at the same time. It was shaking and shivering in his hands from the intense violent vibrato. He felt salt on his lips. He was crying through his violin.

There was no life left in his body. He lay down on his sofa hoping that he could get a good, short rest to restore his energy, which he needed before the performance. As he was drifting into sleep, he felt a presence near him. He felt as if he was gently touched, and a feeling of warmth and peacefulness entered his body. When he awoke and looked at his watch, he realized he only slept for a very short time. He felt enormous energy, as if he had slept for a full twenty hours.”

It’s a miracle,“ he thought, getting up from the sofa and trying to recall what happened to him before he collapsed into his deep sleep. He had a hard time recalling what happened, as if someone had erased it on purpose. “I must have an angel,” he continued in his thoughts, as he walked into the kitchen to make something cold to drink to satisfy his incredible thirst.”

 

Steff

Joseph Fagan

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Apr 21, 2012, 10:18:23 AM4/21/12
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Thank  You  Steff, very beautiful and Moving. BML was probably the initial work by Lanza that "hooked" most of us. To me, it is the" litmus test" for any tenor. Most don't even come close to Mario's version.....Joe

Derek McGovern

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Apr 22, 2012, 1:36:42 AM4/22/12
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Thanks for sharing that, Steff.

Joe: It's funny you should say that "Be My Love" was the recording that first hooked most of us on to Lanza. In my case, I wasn't keen on the song at all, and only came to appreciate it (as a fine piece of singing) years later. My first exposure to it was tenor/comedian Harry Secombe's version, and I'm afraid his rather tight, squeezed voice did the song no favours!

But my father, who was 11 when "Be My Love" was released, recalls being amazed by Lanza's delivery---"I'd never heard a voice like it," he says. From then on, he was hooked.

While I still can't say I love the song, I at least prefer it to "Loveliest Night of the Year" :) Why that trite ditty became a bigger hit than, say, "Song of India," I'll never know!

Cheers
Derek

Steff

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Apr 22, 2012, 7:26:09 AM4/22/12
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Hi Joe and Derek,

Strangely, I started with "'A vucchella,"  "Vesti la giubba" and "Drink, Drink, Drink."  I was never so much in "Be My Love," but have to say that it was an incredible good "starter" for the movie "The Toast of New Orleans."
 
Incidentally, yesterday, on German TV, they repeated a short interview with the Czeck singer Karel Gott (I don't know if this name does mean anything to you - though I learned that he even performed in Las Vegas many, many years ago). Being asked who inspired him, his answer was: Mario Lanza, because, despite a classical musical education, he was THE cross-over artist in the late 1950s). I see that Karel Gott recorded and album in 1974 ("Heut ist der schönste Tag in meinem Leben") on which he sang "Be My Love," "If I loved You," Musica Proibita,"  "Non ti scordar di me" (the latter one in German, I think) and "Here in My Heart," the song that Mario was to record but refused to do in favour of Al Martino.
 
For Karel Gott's version of "Be My Love" please go to (start at minute 11:05)
 
 
And please don't miss his imitating singers like "Gilbert Bécaud" and "Louis Armstrong" singing "Be My Love" in their own special way!! And afterwards another classic: Mattinata ...
 
Steff

Joseph Fagan

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Apr 22, 2012, 11:00:23 AM4/22/12
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Hi Derek, I think BML became a great hit in the USA because of the huge play of it by disc jockeys over the radio! That is how I first heard it, and it was played many, many times right after its launching. I don't think I ever heard the fabulous "Song Of India' through the medium of radio. This was a time when only very fortunate kids had phonographs and most of them were the 45RPM type. I have often wondered about what would have happened had Mario begun his career today. The world is so strange and different now, I could see him losing on a talent show!

leeann

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Apr 22, 2012, 12:02:55 PM4/22/12
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Hi, Joe. I've been interested lately in how RCA Victor promoted its artists as the company emerged from some challenging corporate issues in the late 1940s and 1950s. I know there's a lot on the forum already about "Be My Love", but one tiny snippet from Billboard (October 14, 1950) certainly fits in with your experience.  In part, the two short paragraphs state

RCA Victor is unloading a heavy pop promotion for Mario Lanza's Red Seal disking of Be My Love...A special disking, with Love on one side and Lanza talking and warbling bits of other tunes from new Orleans on the other, is being sent to pop jockeys.

Distribs are being cued to push the platter with juke ops; dealers will be supplied with streamers, and an ad campaign slanted at the pop market has been scheduled.


And no wonder they wanted to!  By May 1951, Lanza was already among RCA's all time Red Seal best sellers in the format you point out--the 45rpm (among others, of course).  I've  attached image that talks about the company's top fifty on Red Seal and on pop because it's fun to see the company he keeps.  (This comes from the RCA Picture and Record Review, May 1951)  Sorry the scan's a little cut off on the right.

I got interested in Lanza through "Be My Love", too--but accidentally  through YouTube when I surfed across  the cut from Toast of New Orleans where he leaps on the stage to sing with Kathryn Grayson. I moved on quickly to his operatic and Neapolitan music, so I don't think it the song grabbed me as much (especially because my ear is not fond of Kathryn Grayson's high notes) as how he sang it, his the amazing voice, and his incredible dynamism--that whole package as we often say. Best, Lee Ann

rcaredsealbestsellers.jpg

Joseph Fagan

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Apr 22, 2012, 1:21:02 PM4/22/12
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Very interesting, thanks LeeAnn!. I also noted that the article mentioned Vaugn Monroe. I used to bus tables at his restaurant ( The Meadows, Framingham, Ma) when I was a teen-ager. I never saw him, but I did wait on several show people such as Enzio Pinza, Liberace and a few others ( yes, good tippers...lol)

leeann

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Aug 28, 2012, 1:27:05 AM8/28/12
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It seems to be a great season for remebering Mario Lanza--Joseph Calleja's CD, and among other events, Mario Lanza is now key to the story of When in Rome, a new novel by New Zealand author Nicky Pellegrino, and it's getting a lot of press coverage.

Thank you to Derek's parents who sent him a link to this article  "Italian Food and Mario Lanza." that talks about the book. (Derek's got limited computer access for the moment, so he's unable to post the link himself.)

According to the article, "When in Rome, set in the 1950s, follows the adventures of Serafina, who early in the book encounters the opera great and his family; it's an incident that alters the course of her destiny."

Here's how she summarizes the plot:

When In Rome is set in the glamorous La Dolce Vita era and is about a naive young woman called Serafina who is hired to work in Mario Lanza's household when he arrives in Italy to make a movie. A new world opens up to her: fame, parties, wealth. She draws close to it all. Then she falls in love with two difficult men, experiencing joy and heartbreak, and facing difficult choices that threaten her future.

According to  another article in the New Zealand Herald, "How to Write a Novel and Get it Published," (extraordinarily useful for people wondering about the  writing process!)  Pellegrino describes her how she Lanza entered her creative world:

I'd read a couple of books that fictionalised the lives of real people - filling in the gaps of what was known about their lives with the colour of a story. I started to think about which real person I'd write a novel about and hit on the great Neapolitan opera singer Enrico Caruso. But when I googled him the pictures weren't of the sparkly-eyed, handsome chap I remembered. Then I realised I was thinking, not of Caruso, but the Hollywood star Mario Lanza, who played him in a 1950s biopic. After frittering away an entire day watching clips on YouTube of Lanza singing arias and 1950s ballads, I sent off for a few biographies and the seed of an idea was planted.

What do people think? Does the novel sound intriguing?  Best, Lee Ann











George Laszlo

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Dec 29, 2012, 10:17:47 PM12/29/12
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I know that there was discussion of the movie "Heavenly Creatures" back in 2008 but I thought that I would post two reviews of that movie for the sake of (more) completeness here.

The first item is a copy of a movie review from the Washington Post in 1994.
The second is a PDF file attachment of another review from the New Yorker also in 1994 when the movie came out.

Derek, I believe that you said back in 2008 that you did not think that Peter Jackson had much of an appreciation for Mario. I would guess that he was more interested in the obsession of the girls and Mario was just a good example of that. It's also hard to know who actually would have chosen which Mario song to use, considering the number of people who are involved in a movie production. In this light, I would think that almost any other screen idol would have done the trick. Perhaps we are lucky that Mario was chosen and we can hope that some people who watch the movie will be curious enough to do some more homework about Mario.

As for me, I think I will now watch Heavenly Creatures since I have not done so before.

Happy New Year to All and thanks for all of your contributions. They have made my life much richer.

George

“You have to adore a movie in which one of the characters refers to Orson Welles as ‘It.’ Based on the infamous 1954 matricide in New Zealand involving two ninth-grade schoolgirls, Peter Jackson's stunning Heavenly Creaturestells the story of an uncommonly powerful love. When Pauline and Juliet are together, the wind is filled with butterflies and the trumpet call of Mario Lanza, ‘the greatest tenor in the whole world!!’ Their universe is an exclusive realm of two, existing half in reality where they are ostracized as peculiar, half in fantasy, where they escape to a highly evolved system of dream lovers and romantic alter egos. The film begins with Pauline (Melanie Lynskey), a miserable child whose mother runs a boardinghouse. In the photo for her class at her proper girls' school in Christchurch, New Zealand, she sticks out amid all the blond hair and proud smiles like a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake (with apologies to Raymond Chandler). She's the fat one in the back, the disaster, the smudge with the ugly scowl and unruly black curls. Because of a bone disease that left her with brittle legs, Pauline is unable to share in the sunny, athletic life of her classmates. Then one day her life is changed forever, when a new student named Juliet (Kate Winslet) joins her in her private war against the bores and commoners of Christchurch. Like Pauline, Juliet thumbs her nose with proud disdain at parochial Christchurch society. But, unlike her new friend, Juliet is not an ugly duckling, but a kind of fairy princess who plucks Pauline from her lily pad, kisses her, and transforms her. Because she suffers from tuberculosis, Juliet has had to spend almost as much time in the hospital as Pauline, and the girls' common status as invalids sparks a friendship that grows into a murderous passion. Jackson, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay, moves through each of these phases with daring and imagination. His camera follows his lovers as they run breathless through the woods before collapsing into each other's arms at the end of the day, spent from the exertions of their special bond. To his credit, Jackson doesn't patronize this romance as a girlish crush gone ballistic, or pigeonhole it merely as ‘lesbian.’ These girls are in love and, clearly, he envies them their abandon and their complete, unguarded commitment to each other. In Jackson's view, theirs is a great romance that, unfortunately, others were not equipped to deal with. Perhaps, if the world were more enlightened, more flexible, things might not turn out as gruesomely as they do. The problems begin when Juliet's parents begin to see the girls' relationship as "unwholesome." Because of marital problems, her parents are returning to England and plan to send Juliet to South Africa. Rather than be separated, the girls devise an elaborate plan to, as Pauline says it, ‘moider mother’ and escape to Hollywood. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of movies have been made about girlfriends and their unique bond, but I can't think of another one where the topic is addressed more frankly or openly. Though the film's subject is sensationalistic in the extreme, Jackson's style is poetic. He presents Pauline and Juliet, who eventually returns to England, where she becomes an author of mystery novels, as singularly blessed. And he raises the question of whether there is any love purer or more gratifying than this same-sex soul-mating. Because their love ends in murder, it's at least implied that the romance is tainted somehow. Does the fault lie with the girls, or with the cramped morality of the time? Thankfully, this powerful, evocative movie leaves the question wide open.” — Hal Hinson, Washington Post, 23/11/1994
Heavenly Creatures - New Yorker 21Nov1994.pdf

Derek McGovern

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Dec 30, 2012, 6:39:41 PM12/30/12
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Thanks for sharing those reviews, George. And I'll be interested to know what you make of Heavenly Creatures! You may find, as I did, that the Humming Chorus from Madama Butterfly never seems the same again after experiencing its gruesome use in the movie :) 

Happy new year!

Derek  
 

Steff Walzinger

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May 26, 2021, 8:15:24 PM5/26/21
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Hello to all,

I just spotted a book titled, "Echoes of a Lifetime - How Mario Lanza Saved My Life," by  Martin I. Dank.
It was only released recently, February 2021 and is available on Amazon.

"The author, a retired clinical psychologist, cantor and violinist, embraces a memoir as a way to share a treasury of short stories and vignettes that go beyond a lifetime of personal experiences, touching on broader universal values, spirituality, and psychology. Stories are chosen with an emphasis on our shared humanity, what binds us together in our journey and efforts to fashion a meaningful life. Even a glimpse of what life was like growing up in Brooklyn and New York City eighty years ago can focus on what we have in common, while also celebrating our uniqueness and diversity. The pages include a varied and abundant sampling of life viewed through the writer's prism with true events that are amusing, touching, poignant, thoughtful, ironic and inspiring. It would be wonderful if this book proves to be a read that is both positive but also a welcome friend." (Text from Amazon).

Of course, as the title of the book indicates,  Mario Lanza is mentioned. in it (actually in three chapters) -  Personal memories and thoughts of the writer. 

"His shining and gorgeous voice."

"I never heard a voice quite as special as his, made more so since I never knew that this kind of music even existed. Thus my world and horizons were expanding and enriched."

"His voice opened my heart to a world of beauty, creativity and sensitivity."

As you can see the revers of the book has a small picture of Mario.

Steff

Echoes of a Lifetime No.1.JPG
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