My Old Flame

My Old Flame (Sam Coslow, Arthur Johnston)

An excerpt from WICN.org’s “Song of the Week” pages:

Mae West-Belle of the Nineties (1934)-poster 1aWhen Mae West introduced My Old Flame in the Paramount Pictures film Belle of the Nineties, she was relying more on her style of delivery than her actual singing ability. Born in 1893, by the time she became a movie star in the 1930s she had already spent over 30 years on the stage. Her mother had encouraged her stage career as a way to escape her working class background on the Lower East Side of New York, and by age eight West was performing regularly and supplementing the family income with her earnings. She started out in burlesque and vaudeville and moved on to star on Broadway. And, even though she wasn’t much of a singer, she knew how to sell a song. In 1913 a reviewer for the New York Morning Telegraph wrote, “Miss West can’t sing a bit but she can dance like George Cohan, and personality just permeates the air every minute she is on stage. In other words, it isn’t what Miss West does, but the way she does it that assures her a brilliant career on the stage.” In 1967 psychologist and pioneer in non-verbal communications research, Albert Mehrabian, reported that face-to-face communication was 7% verbal, 38% vocal tone and 55% facial attitude. His findings became famous and widely cited, but they weren’t news to Mae West. Sixty years earlier she already was well aware of the power of non-verbal communication and was making it work for her as a performer. She said, “It isn’t what I do, but how I do it. It isn’t what I say, but how I say it, and how I look when I do it and say it.” Sexual innuendo and bawdy double entendres became her stock-in-trade.

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Mae West and the Duke Ellington Orchestra Belle of the Nineties (1934)

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Ive Anderson with the Duke Ellington Orchestra – 1934

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Benny Morton’s All-Stars – NY, January 31, 1945 a small band consisting of Benny Morton-trb, Barney Bigard-cl, Ben Webster-ts, Sam Benskin-p, Israel Crosby-b, Eddie Dougherty-d

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Charlie Parker – recorded 4 November 1947 at WOR Studios. Broadway at 38th. Street NYC – Charlie Parker (alto sax), Miles Davis (trumpet), Duke Jordan (piano), Tommy Potter (guitar), Max Roach (drums)

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Stan Kenton – Leisure Lodge Ontario – 1977

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Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman and his Orchestra – both the released version which plays first on this video and the alternate take which follows were recorded for Columbia in NY on 2 October 1941 – Benny Goodman (ldr), The Benny Goodman Orchestra (acc), Benny Goodman (cl), Skip Martin, Clint Neagley (as), George Berg, Vido Musso (ts), Chuck Gentry (bar), Billy Butterfield, Al Davis, Jimmy Maxwell, Cootie Williams (t), Cutty Cutshall, Lou McGarity (tb), Tom “Tommy” Morgan (g), Morty Stuhlmaker (b), Mel Powell (p), Sid Catlett (d), Peggy Lee (v)

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