Mercoledi Musicale

Lillian Roth is hoisted in the air by Elliot Gould as newcomber Barbra Streisand looks on in I Can Get It For You Wholesale back in 1962. Roth was the star above the title.

Last week as I watched the 1957 episode of What’s My Line with that slightly surreal appearance by Salvador Dalí I had assumed that he was the “celebrity guest”. However apparently he wasn’t enough of a “celeb” and later in the show Lillian Roth made an appearance. At that time Roth’s career as a club and film entertainer was on it’s second wind. In 1954 she had released her autobiography I’ll Cry Tomorrow which was a brutally honest account of her struggle with alcoholism. It was one of the first books to deal so openly with addiction and alcoholism as a disease. It is reputed to have sold over 20 million copies and gave impetuous to a second career that lasted until her death in 1980.

A child performer with a stage mother in the good old, bad old tradition she has first appeared in film in 1916 and stage work followed shortly after. She had hit recordings, appeared in Broadway revues and performed on film in both acting and singing roles. One of her big hits was an song appropriate for early spring:

Within a year of her book being published Roth saw her story filmed and Susan Hayward nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Lillian’s struggles with the bottle. Roth was disappointed that they did not use her voice for the vocals; though the studio had hired Sandy Ellis to sing for Susan Hayward but when they heard her rehearsal tracks they to use her own singing voice. Hayward’s vocals were issued on a Soundtrack recording that sold well.

In 1962 Lillian Roth was still a big enough draw that after it opened David Merrick put her name over the title of Harold Rome’s musical I Can Get It For You Wholesale. The show also stared Elliot Gould, Harold Lang, Marilyn Cooper, Bambi Lin, Sheree North and Broadway debutante Barbra Streisand. Roth continued performing in musicals and clubs almost until her death in 1980.

May 8th is Root Canal Appreciation Day. Not sure how we are suppose to commemorate that one but I’ll check with the dentists downstairs.