I absolutely love old musicals. The glamor, the costumes, the over the top productions just make me so giddy! One of my favorite composers not only in movieland but also on Broadway is Johnny Mercer. He could write a song that could melt a prison matron's heart.
Probably one of my favorite Mercer songs is in the film, The Harvey Girls. Not only is a great musical but it has one of my favorite actresses-Judy Garland. I had no idea that The Harvey Girls were real women who worked as waitresses in the Famous Harvey Houses. Judy plays a mail order bride who goes out west Once she sees her future husband, she decides to become a Harvey Girl. The opening scene has Garland singing On the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe ( I get happy just thinking about this song). This song sets the tone of the movie and thus begins a great singing ride in the wild west. Mercer won the Oscar for that song, and it justly deserved.
Another movie that is a timeless classic is Breakfast At Tiffany's. I had no idea that Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics to Moon River. I always credited Henry Macini for the song but he wrote the music while Mercer wrote the lyrics. AMAZING! I like to think that he wrote that song about his hometown of Savannah Georgia and how he missed that rich southern culture. Now, if you haven't seen Breakfast At Tiffany's then stop reading this blog and go out right now, rent it, study it, enjoy it. It is THE Audrey Hepburn movie. Ms. Hepburn plays Holly Golightly( LOVE that name!) an outgoing socialite who is fascinated by her neighbor. One minute she is an outgoing bubbly flirt but the next she is as vulnerable as a child. Moon River won Mercer another Oscar.
One of the greatest torch songs every written is One For My Baby. Although Frank Sinatra sang it later and made it popular it was first introduced in the movie The Sky's the Limit staring Fred Astaire. Playing as a Fying Tiger, Astaire decides to sneak away from his squadron and goes AWOL for a few days. During that time, he meets and falls for a photographer who thinks that he is a drifter. Mercer was nominated for an Oscar but did not win. The song, however, has stood the test of time.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Mercer tunes are concerned. Some of my favorites are I'm an Old Cowhand, Glow worm, Fools Rush In, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive (one of my theme songs), and That Old Black Magic.His songs shaped the world we live in. I truly believe that his down home charm mixed with his ability to know the exact feeling at that perfect time made him a master of words.