Album Review: GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES AND RARE BONUS TRACKS A Welcome Sepia Records Release

While there isn't much Marilyn and Jane that is new, what there is is choice.

By: Jan. 08, 2024
Album Review: GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES AND RARE BONUS TRACKS A Welcome Sepia Records Release
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The folks at Sepia Records have done it again.  The record label that specializes in finding, remastering and re-releasing lost treasures from the history of Hollywood has already given the world albums of old Rose Marie and Perry Como recordings, some Betty Grable, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr., and a “freshened up” soundtrack to White Christmas.  Their latest release is a similarly freshened up Gentlemen Prefer Blondes soundtrack that is being named the “As complete as possible” soundtrack.  

Album Review: GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES AND RARE BONUS TRACKS A Welcome Sepia Records Release

Now, I’m not here to engage in the vitriolic debate that many Broadway buffs have regarding the massive changes made to the storyline and score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes during the stage to screen transfer - that is a losing proposition.  The original play of the Anita Loos novel is wonderful, and so is the film version of that musical play - it’s just different, and, well, it should be because film is a different medium.  Moviegoers require, desire, and deserve a different version of the story - you can’t just pick up a play and put it on film as is, unless you’re doing one of those wonderful filmed versions of a stage play, like the current smash hits Waitress (reviewed by BroadwayWorld HERE) and Titanic (reviewed by BroadwayWorld HERE), and that just wasn’t a thing back in 1953.  The thing back then was to take a real movie star and make a glossy MGM (or MGM-like) movie musical that would play by Hollywood standards.  Enter Marilyn Monroe, the most famous blonde of all time and the heiress apparent to the Lorelei Lee throne.

And the film version of Jule Styne’s musical play became significantly important by elevating Marilyn Monroe to legend status and giving her one of the roles of her career (to say nothing of the fact that GPB is a very good movie).

The only thing is that they jettisoned most of the original score and brought in Hoagy Carmichael to write some additional material, eventually releasing a soundtrack that consisted of a scant 5 songs.  What the folks at Sepia have done is gather together all the material from the soundtrack, including the reprisal of “Two Little Girls From Little Rock” that Lorelei and Dorothy sing while walking down the aisle, and Dorothy’s brief courtroom performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and supplemented them with a delightful and enjoyable array of bonus materials that add up to a 23-track album.  Among the bonus materials are the vocals made for the French release of the film, which is fun to hear (especially the Anita Love's dubbing for Jane Russell), and some demos by Hoagy Carmichael that led to some very nice subsequent recordings, and that’s where the money cuts come in.

Album Review: GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES AND RARE BONUS TRACKS A Welcome Sepia Records Release

In his thorough (and thoroughly entertaining) liner notes, Monroe historian Jack Allen breaks down the bonus materials and the stories behind their expurgation from the film (and where some of them eventually landed) in a very generous 12-page CD booklet.  His detailed deep dive is one of the reasons to buy the album (along with beautiful photos and exquisite A&R work), so it wouldn’t be right for me to give away the goods but suffice it to say that Mr. Allen’s work on the project is a boon.  As for the recordings, hearing Charmichael sing “When Love Goes Wrong” and “My Conversation” is a treat because he was a skilled performer, himself, with a pleasant singing voice.  To, then, hear “My Conversation” as it would have been performed by Russell and Elliot Reid, had it stayed in the film, is the payoff - while the song may not be the best of Carmichael’s career, additional material for Russell is always welcome, and with the Ernie Malone character getting absolutely no musical numbers in the film, this is our chance to see what Reid’s vocals would have been like - and they are perfectly palatable.   There are equally enjoyable vocals available here from Betty Grable, who scored cut song “Down Boy” for another film, and Charlotte Austin, who demo’d the unused “I’m Falling In Love” - both numbers and both performances are a welcome addition to your movie musical library, as are the versions of “Little Rock” and “When Love” that had to be released with Eileen Wilson standing in for Jane Russell, who had a contract with another label and could not be heard on commercial releases for another label - an interesting footnote in Hollywood history.  But I have to admit that, with all these treats and treasures, the one I loved the most is the one rehearsal tape of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell working on “Two Little Girls From Little Rock.”  A fan of both women and of the movie, this is the one behind-the-scenes glimpse that really excited me.  I wish there had been more of their rehearsal tapes but I won’t be greedy, since this was something I didn’t know was out there and didn’t know I needed, but thanks to Sepia Records,  I now have.  Sepia Records, in fact, has yet to disappoint me.  Every album they have released that had made its way to my player is a slick and professionally produced bit of happiness that fits perfectly into my music collection - one that grows more rich and replete each time I visit the Sepia website, which is something I would encourage all fans of vintage music, musical movies, and vocalists to do on a somewhat regular basis.  Sepia picks good projects and they don't skimp on the product like some other labels do - they are here to preserve and present and, there, they are most definitely scoring high marks

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes And Rare Bonus Tracks is a 2023 release on the Sepia Records Label available on the Sepia Records website HERE.




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