I have to confess that I wasn't too fond of "De-Lovely" (most of the arrangements seemed too 'modern' to me and changed the spirit of the songs);
I felt like you did initially, but after a couple of viewings/hearings I changed my mind and I adore the Sheryl Crow version. It's the best one, IMO. And that final tableau in "De Lovely", called "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" was just wonderful. I'm not an Elvis Costello or Robbie (can't stay on the note) Williams fan but I was sold on Natalie Cole's "Every Time We Say Goodbye" (a masterpiece, btw).
The popularity of the Artie Shaw version is probably why that sweet old lady never knew the song had words. (And yes, it was definitely being referenced in the ROCKETEER rendition. They even made the clarinetist look like Shaw.)
There is, to me, virtually NO rendition of ANY song in DELOVELY worthy of the original version(s), and CERTAINLY nothing superior to any Cole Porter number that his pal Fred Astaire had anything to do with.
That said, I confess to taking a not-too-guilty pleasure in many of the modern versions of Porter heard on the CD/DVD for AIDS charity, RED, HOT & COLE.
My music database shows I have twelve recordings of this lovely Cole Porter classic: instrumentals by Cyril Stapleton, Geoff Love, Mantovani, Ronnie Aldrich and ... Artie Shaw (albeit a modern re-recording); and vocals by Ella Fitgerald (Buddy Bregman), Andy Williams (Robert Mersey), Melora Hardin (Billy May?) and Frank Sinatra (Axel Stordahl x 3 plus 1 unknown).
I don't doubt that this is a difficult song to perform: even Ella's usual impeccable breath control seems well-tested and Frank's recordings are variable (though still my favourites). I agree with the comments above re: Ms. Hardin's recording (taken from the score to The Rocketeer - arranged, I believe, by Billy May) ... her voice is thin and she doesn't hold the tone too well....
As for the opening YouTube performances: I've never been that much taken with Ms. Durbin's songs (the few that I have heard) but I have no love for Sheryl Crow: she cannot sing the song and whilst she doesn't shout the lyrics she uses another - modern - approach: fails to enunciate words as to do so would bring her lack of vocal dexterity to the fore. Take the words Memory (0'38") and Playing (1'00") ... which although stretched to last 2 - 3 seconds are enunciated as Mem'ry and Play'n. Fine, if that's your take on such material but not for me (as George & Ira would have said!)
Regie, you stated: Porter's songs are generally not for the uninitiated but I have to disagree here, too. Maybe the lyrics are a little too sophisticated for many but the superb marriage of words to melody (in the majority of his songs) and the wondrous melodies he created mean his songs do travel well.
As a young teenager, fighting the pop culture of the late 60s and early-mid 70s I turned to the music my parents enjoyed (plus film soundtracks!) and inevitably Frank Sinatra featured greatly. One of my early vinyl LPs was the EMI compilation The Best of Frank Sinatra and my favourite song amongst a collection of outstanding recordings was his definitive version of I've Got You Under My Skin (Nelson Riddle, 1955). From the American songbook, I think Cole Porter became the first name I knew.
Having known the score to High Society since my earliest days I still regard this as my favourite musical.
And I definitely fall into the group who, mid-teens, would have found Fonteyn and Nureyev less than captivating.
My wife challenges my views on some of his songs, however, the aforementioned Just One of Those Things being a good example ... it doesn't express much hope for a lasting relationship!
And as for Love for Sale one wonders how the song would be received in these so-called enlightened days. The recording by Tony Bennett (from his I Left My Heart in San Francisco 1962 album) is rather creepy.
Whatever ... enjoy the music because, in my opinion, nothing these days comes close.
First of all, that Sinatra 1955 "I've Got You under My Skin" is an absolute masterpiece - the benchmark, IMO. What a song! What a singer! I love Ella too, of course.
Sorry that you didn't appreciate ballet in your teens or a teacher who would have tried to bring you out of your comfort zone and think about something new. A visual representation of Shakespeare provides an ideal entree into a difficult text, IMO, but there you are...!! The kids could have gotten the storyline before attempting the text. Many people choose Baz Lurhmann for this reason, but I've got issues with American urban violence being somehow equated with Shakespeare!! Call me old-fashioned; I've been called worse, and by people who know what they're talking about!!!!!!!
I disagree about Sheryl Crow. One doesn't necessarily need all the vocal skills of Fitzgerald, IMO, for this song but a sensitivity to the words and Crow brings a kind of ennui to the performance which I like. Also the arrangement and playing are superlative, IMO. I was pleasantly surprised with what she did given her 'pop' career (which I wouldn't bother about for a mega-second).
Artie Shaw mostly provided dance music and as you rightly suggest this would be a reason for thinking the song was sans lyrics. Of course, one only need turn on a radio to find out the falsity of that belief, but never mind....
My mother played all this music on the piano from when I was a child - her own arrangements with 'stride' piano style for some of the jazzier ones. None of this oom pah pah for her!! She had a Licenciate in piano when she was 17.
"High Society" - impeccable, classy, magic music, stunning performances. My favourite: "Little One" - "right song but the wrong girl"!!
"Just One of Those Things" not good for relationships? You'd have to experience "one of those things" to really understand what the song is about and, boy, I have!! Sometimes you just can't HAVE a relationship when a bell "now and then rings".
I agree with Regie that this song is at it's best when sung slow with a hint of regret. However, I really like this version by Andy Williams. A nice example of music, lyric and performance coming together.This video has on screen lyrics.
Also, here's a little background about the dance and song from Wiki.
Begin the Beguine" is a song written by Cole Porter (1891–1964). Porter composed the song between Kalabahi, Indonesia, and Fiji during a 1935 Pacific cruise aboard Cunard's ocean liner Franconia. In October 1935, it was introduced by June Knight in the Broadway musical Jubilee, produced at the Imperial Theatre in New York City
A Beguine was originally a Christian lay woman of the 13th or 14th century living in a religious community without formal vows, but in the creole of the Caribbean, especially in Martinique and Guadeloupe, the term came to mean "white woman", and then to be applied to a style of music and dance, and in particular a slow, close couples' dance. This combination of French ballroom dance and Latin folk dance became popular in Paris and spread further abroad in the 1940s, largely due to the influence of the Porter song.
Seems you had a well developed taste for music in your early 20's!!
I just watched the right movies. Did I listen to Stravinsky and Beethoven? Sure. Was it because they were in Fantasia? Also yes.
Your comment about the listener not knowing the song had lyrics merely demonstrates the fact that down in 'lowest common denominator' territory a great many people have the most scant knowledge - or none - of really good music.
Since these were people that lived through and fought in the time that I was playing around with I didn’t feel very superior. My understanding is that Begin the Beguine found most of its success as an instrumental. Just as I was surprised to find that In the Mood has lyrics (and my sister in law STILL knows them).
melora hardin doing a (imo) beautiful big band version from 'the rocketeer':
That cover was the third let down in the film. Another very obvious and anoying one is the song "Mystery" in "The shadow".
I had a friend who had about the same opinion as you. I guess my take was that it was close enough. I’d seen enough movies actually made in the 30’s and 40’s that I recognized the sound even if it wasn’t perfect and might never have passed back in the day.
But when I heard Mystery in The Shadow I hated it and thought was very 1990’s. So that must be even farther afield.
I agree the actual arrangement in "Broadway Melody of 1940" is very good, but I don't much like the set piece myself. The whole sequence is in this link and, for me, the 'olympic synchronized swimming team sans water"(!) - those girls waving their arms and bodies around - spoils the piece.