by Peter Cates
Cheers for Miss Bishop
starring Martha Scott, William Gargan, Edmund Gwenn, Sterling Holloway, Sidney Blackmer, etc.; directed by Tay Garnett; United Artists, 1941, 95 minutes, DVD.
I have seen and enjoyed this warm-hearted soap opera twice, if such a term can be employed. Martha Scott (1913-2003) portrays an English teacher, Ella Bishop, who serves for over 40 years at the college in her mid-western small town. William Gargan is a local businessman and loyal, lifelong friend, Sam, deeply in love with her forever but never having the gumption to declare it.
The story begins with Ella graduating from high school the year that the college opens. Both her character and academic work win over the president of the college, played by Edmund Gwenn with his consistent blend of understated class, to such an extent that, upon her college graduation and ambition to teach in one of the big cities, he immediately offers her a position.
She wins many hearts and minds with her passionate commitment to her work over the years but her heart is broken twice by suiters. Meanwhile, she raises a daughter born out of wedlock to a younger cousin dying during childbirth. Finally, upon retirement, she is honored at a surprise and massively attended alumni banquet that includes a number of former students who have attained world fame because of her inspiration to them.
Every member of the cast gave A-plus performances while the film, despite a rather predictable story, was shot and paced in such a vivid, agreeable manner, as has been the case of similar movies from the ‘40s, that viewers were, and still are, drawn in.
In 1960, William Gargan, had his larynx removed due to throat cancer, had to speak through a voicebox and became an activist for helping others who had experienced laryngectomies to learn to speak again.
Borodin: Prince Igor
Recitative and Air of Prince Galitsky
Feodor Chaliapin, bass, with orchestra; Victrola- 87361; ten-inch one-sided 78 shellac, recorded 1920.
Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938) is arguably considered the finest bass singer who ever lived and gives an electrifying performance of the Borodin aria listed above. But he did not achieve his fame only through singing but also as an actor; he impressed the composer Rachmaninoff, with whom he had a long friendship, and many others with the painstaking detail with which he planned every line, movement and position in the roles he performed.
Finally, he was a notorious carouser who maintained two separate families with a wife and mistress.
Most of his many 78 records are available in CD form and for listening on YouTube.
Symphonic Dances & Vocalise
Simon Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Angel, DS 538019, recorded 10-23-1982 and 2-28-83, digital stereo LP.
Rachmaninoff completed his Symphonic Dances in October 1940, with the words, “I thank Thee, Lord!” and, due to poor health and constant fatigue, did little besides completing the final revision of his 4th Piano Concerto before his death during his 70th year in 1943. He would entrust the world premiere to the Philadelphia Orchestra, with whom he left recordings of his four concertos and the Paganini Rhapsody with himself at the keyboard, and still in print on CDs.
The Symphonic Dances make for exciting listening with their very colorful rhythms and captivating melodies. Sir Simon Rattle recorded very satisfactory performances of the Dances and the beautiful short Vocalise with its haunting passage for solo violin.
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