Incidentally, just a little postscript to the history of SAYONARA. Waxman wrote a typically masterful score, but he was no more happy to have to include the Irving Berlin title song than Max Steiner had been to incorporate "As Time Goes By" into CASABLANCA. At least, (if memory serves), Waxman was able to segregate the song without having to make it part of the whole fabric as Steiner had been obligated to do with the Hupfeld tune. But please forgive me if I'm wrong about that, I haven't listened to the score in a long time.
I haven't listened to the score in a long time either. But Royal S. Brown, who wrote the liner notes for the Entr'acte LP re-release of the RCA soundtrack album says this:
"Although Franz Waxman, who composed the bulk of Sayonara's musical score had well over a hundred film scores and two Oscars under his belt; and although Waxman had proven himself more than capable of turning out rich melodies, Sayonara's producers decided to call upon Irving Berlin to compose the title song, which Waxman then had to incorporate into the fabric of his own music. It is out of such circumstances that nasty artistic clashes often grow. Berlin, however, ended up delighted with Waxman's music and wrote him an extremely gracious letter congratulating him for his efforts."
On the album's track listing, Berlin is credited as co-composer on 6 of the 11 tracks.
Robert Youngson was a writer and producer who made a long series of historical short subjects for Warner Bros. from 1949 through 1956, two of which won him Academy Awards. Most of his films took an affectionate look back at the fads and lifestyles of the 1920s. Youngson also narrated his films using a nostalgic tone, unlike the facetious commentaries that sometimes accompanied silent-film revivals and compilations.
In the late 1950s, Youngson, a Harvard MBA, had the idea of putting together compilations of scenes from silent and sound comedies and releasing them as features. Beginning in 1957 with THE GOLDEN AGE OF COMEDY, the films proved to be profitable moneymakers, and over the next dozen years Youngson would create eight such compilation films. The fifth in the series was entitled MGM’S BIG PARADE OF COMEDY (1964). This film was a collection of scenes from comedy films produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1925 through 1948. Turner Classic Movies will be showing the film on Thursday, September 18th, at 6:30 PM ET.
Youngson’s last film, 4 CLOWNS, was released in 1970, and Youngson died in 1974 at the age of only 56. MGM’S BIG PARADE OF COMEDY was released on VHS in 1993, but has never been released on DVD.
By 1975, the blaxploitation film craze, which had begun with 1971’s SWEET SWEETBACK’S BAADASSSSS SONG and SHAFT, had pretty much run its course. The director of SHAFT, Gordon Parks, had moved on to more mainstream action fare like THE SUPER COPS (1974). His mantle was taken up by his son, Gordon Parks, Jr., who made his directorial debut in a big way with 1972’s SUPERFLY. But after directing THOMASINE & BUSHROD and THREE THE HARD WAY (both 1974), Parks Jr. was also ready for a different type of Black Cinema.
His next project was a teenage love story, set in Harlem, between a Puerto Rican girl and an African-American boy. This was AARON LOVES ANGELA. The film starred Kevin Hooks and Irene Cara as the lovers. Hooks had played the young boy in the well-received 1972 black family film SOUNDER, and Cara, who had been a cast member on the PBS children’s show “The Electric Company,” was making her feature film debut. The film also starred Moses Gunn, from the SHAFT films, as Hooks’ father.
Principal photography began the week of 13 January 1975 on location in New York City, and shooting continued through 30 April. A Los Angeles Times article titled “’The Crossover’ Goes Beyond Blaxploitation,” identified the picture as part of a new trend in African American-oriented films that aimed to appeal to a more ethnically diverse viewership than the popular yet controversial blaxploitation films, which catered to a predominantly black audience. Citing twenty-four upcoming or recent releases, the article linked AARON LOVES ANGELA with three other love stories in the “crossover” group: LORD SHANGO (1975), THE RIVER NIGER (1976), and MAHOGANY (1975).
AARON LOVES ANGELA is notable for having the only film score composed by blind musician Jose Feliciano. The score was predominantly a song score, with Feliciano teaming with Janna Merlyn Feliciano to create eight original songs for the film. The film’s songs, released on an LP titled simply “Angela,” marked Feliciano’s first album of entirely original music. Feliciano’s score was inspired by the script, which the musician read in Braille. The album, which was released on the little known Private Stock label, has never had a CD release.
Released by Columbia Pictures, AARON LOVES ANGELA opened in New York on 10 December 1975 at the Cinerama Theatre. Although the Hollywood Reporter review predicted the film could be “a real sleeper” and the Daily Variety review noted its “crossover potential,” AARON LOVES ANGELA failed at the box office.
Gordon Parks, Jr. would never direct another film. In 1979, he was killed in a plane crash, along with three others, while shooting a film in Kenya. He was only 44 years old. Kevin Hooks would go on to appear in the late 1970’s television series “The White Shadow.” He turned to television directing in 1983 on the series “St. Elsewhere,” and is still directing today on such series as “Bones” and “Castle.” Irene Cara would go on to star and sing in FAME (1980) and had an even bigger hit singing the title song of FLASHDANCE (1983). Even today, she sings occasionally on invited performances but spends much of her time helping out her new protégés--an all-girl group she calls Hot Caramel.
AARON LOVES ANGELA had a release on VHS, but has never had an authorized DVD release. Turner Classic Movies will be showing the film on the Thursday-Friday overnight, September 19th, at 2:00 AM.
Here is Jose Feliciano singing the title song “Angela”: