Thursday, August 19, 2010

A cultural interlude -- Lydia the tattooed Lady

I'm taking a break from writing about Oracle America v Google, or Minix 3 today, and doing something a bit more whimsical.  I've always lived my life surrounded by music, and have written here about the Free Music movement.

In addition to enabling free music the internet has made available an amazing array of resources for those of us who love music and film in all its forms.  When I was a teen if I wanted to see, say, a Marx Brotherss film my one option was waiting for it to come on television.  A decade later (in the 1970s) a few small "art" theaters had opened, which might occasionally show a Marx Brothers movie.  A decade after that (in the 1980s) videotape had entered the mass market, and if I wanted to buy a Marx Brothers film I could do so.

Now that the web is ubiquitous and nearly every artist committed to record, tape, or film has at least some presence on the web if I want to see one particular notable Marx Brothers clip I can probably find it.

So on that happy note I present one of the best musical numbers ever to come out of an otherwise terrible movie (At the Circus).  The lyrics to Lydia the Tatooed Lady were penned by Yip Harburg, one of the great songwriters of the 20th Century (who also wrote Brother Can You Spare a Dime, Paper Moon, and all the songs in the movie the Wizard of Oz.

After a string of wonderful but chaotic movies at Paramount, and the two wonderful Irving Thalberg Marx Brothers movies at MGM, A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, their movies went into sharp decline in quality.  This clip is a gem in an otherwise awful movie.

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