Wednesday, May 30, 2012

She started this heat wave by...

Hey! It's another comparison post! I do like these a lot. I'll often watch movies or listen to soundtracks and discover new ideas for these posts. It's fascinating to me how a song can change between performers. As we prepare for another hot summer, I thought "Heat Wave" would be an appropriate topic. I'm sure there are other renditions of this number but the ones that came to mind were Marilyn Monroe's in There's No Business Like Show Business and the one performed by Fred Astaire and Olga San Juan in Blue Skies. Let's take Marilyn's version first.

In this clip, Marilyn gets all of the attention. The whole scene is all about her anyway. Contextually, she's taking the thunder from love-interest, Donald O'Connor's mother, played by Ethel Merman. Her costume and rendition to the song is in direct contrast to the showy, brassy version that the show biz family would have performed. Marilyn's version is, not surprisingly, pure sexiness. We're taking the whole lyric literally as Marilyn sings about her effect on the weather. She doesn't even have to say how she started the heat wave; we can see for ourselves! In a way, this number could have been replaced with any other song - it could even have been alluded to - its relevance to the plot is simply that this beautiful and sexy girl is stealing Donald O'Connor's heart, so completely that he is willing to let her steal his family's thunder. Seeing her do it is a special treat and, as the dad, played by Dan Dailey, points out - we can see why he did it.

In this clip, the song is performed in a huge production number, complete with a full chorus, sets, and costumes. The scene is a moving forward of the plot. The climax of the song ends with Fred Astaire's character falling off a bridge - a pivotal point in the film as a whole. The whole number, despite the lyrics, are actually centered around Fred Astaire (he is the major name, after all). Leading into the number, we see Fred taking a drink and know that things do not bode well for him. The number begins with Fred sitting on a staircase, he is the one who gets the solo dance bit, and his fall at the end of the number ends the scene. The lyrics have little to do with the scene at hand, except as backdrop and to allow for a showy and exotic production number. Despite how cute and sexy Olga San Juan is, she is not the focal point of the scene. As performed here, the song isn't about a girl so hot she's making the temperature climb, it's about a man who sees a girl and his interest in her ultimately (possibly indirectly) leads to his demise - a sort of mirroring of the plot in the film. The sexiness is decidedly toned down compared to Marilyn's version. The dresses cover up a great deal more in this one. I find that Olga's head scarf detracts somewhat from her appeal. I'm too distracted by her bunny ears to notice what else is going on! And the lyrics are changed - her feet are what make the temperature rise. This is definitely a Fred Astaire number.

What do you think?


  1. Please don't make me choose! I love Fred's version (well except for the end) for the footwork that follows the drumbeats. I love Marilyn's for the playfulness of it.

    I always thought this would have been a fun number for a show within a show for Fred and Ginger in Barkleys of Broadway...this one or How Could You Believe Me....from Royal Wedding!

  2. I find it difficult to choose - as you say, the numbers are staged for different reasons, but much as I love Fred, I think I come down in favour of Marilyn's interpretation.

    BTW, if you look carefully, at 2:48, Marilyn accidentally pokes the dancer behind the tree in the eye! They both carry on(true professionals!)but afterwards, she plants a kiss on his cheek in apology when she swings back around the tree.

    When Ethel Merman sang Heatwave in Alexander's Ragtime Band in 1938, she said in her autobiography that the censors demanded the lyric be changed from "seat wave" to "feet wave", as the former was too suggestive!

  3. Hi! Does the frequency of updates of your blog depend on something or you write blog articles when you have an inspiration or you create if you have time? Thanks in advance for your reply.


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