Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Dance Party: Hey There, Gaynor Girl

I ran across this clip earlier this week, when I was researching the sad story of Lynn Redgrave's death. Lynn's big film break came early in her career, with her starring role in Georgy Girl, a film which I never saw but which is now #1 on my Netflix queue. Apparently, it's now on everybody else's list, too, as Netflix tells me it has a "very long wait." I bet a week ago, I'd already have it in my mailbox.

Whatever. This week's Dance Party is the title tune from Georgy Girl, written and originally performed by an Australian group called The Seekers. It was their biggest international hit, and was also their final recording before they disbanded. The tune was nominated for the Oscar for Best Song, and in the clip below, is being performed by Mitzi Gaynor.

Ms. Gaynor is still with us, and still performing, but is not really on anybody's radar these days. She appeared in a few movie musicals in her heyday, the best known of which is surely South Pacific, in which she played the leading lady, Nellie. She swiped the role from its stage originator, Mary Martin; the film was a popular hit but not a critical success; Gaynor made a buttload of money on the soundtrack album.

In her long career, she has appeared, on stage or on film, with the biggest names in show biz. Frank Sinatra, Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, David Niven, and Yul Brynner are just a few of her co-stars. She was basically a dancer who could sell a song, and in the 60s and 70s, she headlined a string of television specials which are still admired today (back then, musical stars who were not interested in weekly series often presented TV specials; Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Andy Williams, and Julie Andrews all produced more than a few specials during the period. And of course, the most prolific of these folks was Bob Hope).

Our Mitzi's specials were well-known for her dance routines, and for her glamorous costumes (Bob Mackie got some Emmy love for his designs). So, though Gaynor is not nationally recognized today, she was a big enough star in the late 60s to be invited to perform on the Oscar broadcast, singing one of the nominated songs.

The clip below is a bit blurry, but is clear enough to showcase Gaynor's over-the-top charm, as well as her ability to sell a song. And you gotta love the very 60s moves and garb. As I said, this clip came to my attention as I was writing my entry about Lynn Redgrave, who, along with her entire family, was seated in the audience watching the title number from her film being performed live by Mitzi Gaynor.

"Georgy Girl" was a huge hit for The Seekers, but they did not win the Oscar that night in 1967. The award went to John Barry, and his title tune, "Born Free."