Leslie Bricusse Set for 50th Anniversary DOCTOR DOLITTLE Event in London
Songwriter/Lyricist Leslie Bricusse (Stop the World - I Want to Get Off, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Victor/Victoria) made his first big splash in Hollywood with the 1967 Twentieth Century FOX production of Doctor Dolittle, a roadshow musical starring Rex Harrison as Hugh Lofting's English country doctor that could talk to the animals. A variety of activities and releases have been mounted to celebrate the 50th Anniversary.
Fox has undertaken a meticulous 4K digital restoration for the occasion, which has just been released as a limited edition Blu-Ray from the Twilight Time specialty label. Fox's European distributor, Park Circus, will present the theatrical premiere of the restoration at Picturehouse Central in London's West End on November 29th. Bricusse, who also wrote the screenplay and who currently has a new production of Scrooge The Musical running in Leicester's Curve Theatre through January 7, will be on hand for a pre-screening Q&A and introduction.
Park Circus co-CEO Nick Varley said: "Doctor Dolittle was one of the last big budget 70mm musicals produced in Hollywood and it is wonderful to be presenting the film for the very first time in this new 4K restoration from our partners at Fox. Being able to welcome the music legend that is Leslie Bricusse to London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film will make the event an evening to truly remember."
"It's wonderful to be in London for this triple anniversary of the fabled Doctor Dolittle," Bricusse said. "Not only is it the 50th anniversary of the musical film, starring Rex Harrison as the good Doctor, but it's also the centennial of when author Hugh Lofting first created the magical character of the doctor who could talk to the animals, written in a series of letters to his children from the horrors of the trenches of World War One. And it's also the twentieth anniversary of the stage musical."
The film, which was directed by Richard Fleischer, had its Royal premiere in the presence of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, on December 12, 1967, and while not the box-office success FOX or producer Arthur P. Jacobs had hoped for (as was the case with many musicals of the day - it was the year of Bonnie & Clyde and The Graduate), it endures for its meticulous performance by Rex Harrison, capturing the legendary stage actor in peak form on the heels of his Academy Award-winning turn in My Fair Lady. As a result of Fox's and Jacobs' aggressive promotional campaign, Dolittle was itself nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, winning statuettes for visual effects and Best Original Song for Bricusse's "Talk to the Animals." As the songwriter indicated, it went on to enjoy a successful stage adaptation which premiered in 1998 and toured in the UK and in the United States through 2005, headlined by Tommy Tune. A new production is currently in the works.
The 1967 film co-stars Samantha Eggar, Sir Richard Attenborough and longtime Bricusse collaborator Anthony Newley. The original soundtrack, which was in stores four months before the movie premiered, had the biggest advance run for any album up to that time and achieved Gold-record status. But it was only a sampling of the expansive music heard in the film. After five decades, that has been rectified by soundtrack label La-La Land Records, who are releasing a limited edition 2-CD set of the complete score to Doctor Dolittle in conjunction with FOX Music and Universal Music Special Markets.
Produced and mastered by Mike Matessino (noted producer and preservationist who will host the London screening and who also recorded a commentary with Bricusse for the Blu-Ray), the release merges expanded versions of the songs with the lush underscore arranged and conducted by Alexander Courage and Lionel Newman. In addition to a sparkling restoration of the classic FOX orchestra recordings, the release also features never-before-heard demos and rehearsals with Rex Harrison, Bricusse and his arranger/vocal supervisor Ian Fraser.
Both soundtrack CD and Blu-Ray can be purchased together at Screen Archives Entertainment, although soundtrack orders commence on November 28.
The songs from Doctor Dolittle were also recorded by many artists of the day, with no fewer than a dozen cover albums making their way to record stores. Prominent among these are three that have been given their first-ever digital releases, bringing both Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group to the 50th anniversary party: "Anthony Newley Sings the Songs From Doctor Dolittle" (RCA/Legacy), "Bobby Darin Sings Doctor Dolittle" and "Sammy Davis, Jr. Sings the Complete Dr. Dolittle" (both from Rhino/Warner Music). All are available at Amazon and other digital music outlets.
Doctor Dolittle 50th Anniversary 4K restoration premiere with Leslie Bricusse Q&A
Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 6:45 p.m.
Picturehouse Central, London
Doctor Dolittle Blu-Ray release from Twilight Time
Released November 14, 2017
Doctor Dolittle 50th Anniversary Expanded Soundtrack from La-La Land Records
Released November 28, 2017
Pictured (top): Leslie Bricusse and Rex Harrison © 1967, Twentieth Century Fox. Used with permission.