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 Posted:   Feb 1, 2021 - 1:02 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

We don't have a thread devoted to Oscar Levant, concert pianist, composer, conductor, bon vivant, raconteur, author, game show panelist,talk show host, comedian, and actor.

Well, here is one.

Tell me about Oscar Levant.

I have a Columbia LP with "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Concerto in F."

I recently saw him in a film about drapes.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 1, 2021 - 2:35 PM   
 By:   eriknelson   (Member)

He was a great classical pianist and was considered to be in the same league with his contemporaries Artur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz. His career went in a different direction and he became better known as an actor and raconteur. Apparently this frustrated him and caused psychological problems.

I think his best performance as an actor is in the Joan Crawford vehicle HUMORESQUE with John Garfield. He plays Garfield's friend who tries to help him navigate the classical music world.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 1, 2021 - 2:52 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

He was a great classical pianist and was considered to be in the same league with his contemporaries Artur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz. His career went in a different direction and he became better known as an actor and raconteur. Apparently this frustrated him and caused psychological problems.

I think his best performance as an actor is in the Joan Crawford vehicle HUMORESQUE with John Garfield. He plays Garfield's friend who tries to help him navigate the classical music world.


Thanks. He was a composer also. Have you heard any of his compositions?

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 1, 2021 - 3:50 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

 
 Posted:   Feb 1, 2021 - 4:05 PM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

Here is some of his music from CHARLIE CHAN AT THE OPERA.

http://www.chelsearialtostudios.com/charlie_chan_at_the_opera.mp3

He also scored NOTHING SACRED.

http://www.chelsearialtostudios.com/nothing_sacred.mp3

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 2, 2021 - 1:36 PM   
 By:   shureman   (Member)

He contributed to the score of CRIME WITHOUT PASSION, a 1934 film whose title must be seen to be believed. It must have just squeaked through before code....

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 2, 2021 - 4:00 PM   
 By:   OnyaBirri   (Member)

He contributed to the score of CRIME WITHOUT PASSION, a 1934 film whose title must be seen to be believed. It must have just squeaked through before code....

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 2, 2021 - 4:24 PM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

He contributed to the score of CRIME WITHOUT PASSION, a 1934 film whose title must be seen to be believed. It must have just squeaked through before code....


Whoever posted that title sequence has labeled it "Slavko Vorkapich's amazing opening sequence for pre-code film "Crime Without Passion""

But that is the final, code-approved version, as can be seen from the beginning of the complete film here:




But, Vincent G. Hart of the Production Code's Eastern Studio Relations office deemed the film in violation of the Production Code after a July 1934 screening. In an August 1934 letter to Paramount, Hart cited several Production Code violations found in the film: "The prologue emphasizes illicit sex relationships which are unnecessary to plot motivation and are therefore in violation of the Code," specifically, the scene of a "business man taking the stenographer in his lap, [the] sequence of the man placing himself in the arms of the girl on the bed, and the scene of the woman on the couch." In addition he noted that "the costumes of the 'Furies' are so light as to constitute indecent exposure prohibited by the Code."

Charles MacArthur personally flew a print of the picture to Los Angeles in early August 1934 for viewing by Joseph I. Breen, director of the Code office. In a telegram to Hart, Breen said that while he supported Hart's decisions, he believed that with alterations approved by Ben Hecht and MacArthur, the film could be made acceptable under the Production Code. The changes involved deletions from the prologue, and an alteration of the ending as originally written.

So, apparently the first, unapproved, version of the opening was even more salacious than the one now seen in the code-approved film.

 
 Posted:   Feb 2, 2021 - 6:31 PM   
 By:   Sir David of Barkeley   (Member)

Wunna my favritt songs is hiz:

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2021 - 5:13 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

Oh one of my favorites for so many years. Have read at least 2 biographies and even went to the Museum of Broadcasting way back when to catch one of his talk show appearances. Indeed, his Concerto in F with the Philadelphia Orchestra is a cherished LP that is lasting forever. Both Rhapsodies are keepers, too. And the way as an actor he went toe to toe with John Garfield in Humoresque is one for the ages. Two New York guys going at it in earnest. cool

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2021 - 5:20 PM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

 
 Posted:   Feb 18, 2021 - 5:58 PM   
 By:   Sir David of Barkeley   (Member)

Canst thou tolerate Old Time Radio, Onya?

 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2021 - 6:38 AM   
 By:   Sean Nethery   (Member)

I read his "Memoirs of an Amnesiac" some years ago. It was hilarious and troubling since it addressed his various issues with mental health. And it was also pretty scattered and a bit repetitive.

But very much worth a read.

 
 
 Posted:   Feb 19, 2021 - 7:54 AM   
 By:   Howard L   (Member)

I'm pretty sure it was that book that led me to the Museum of Broadcasting. Can't recall if it was the repartee with Jack Paar and/or with some other TV host but it was something to see/hear him when he was going through one of his usual health crises.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 13, 2021 - 9:13 AM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

One of my happiest recent discoveries:

https://www.amazon.com/Rhapsody-Blue-Extraordinary-Oscar-Levant/dp/B07CQKKFYY/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=oscar+levant&qid=1634141425&s=music&sr=1-2

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 13, 2021 - 9:25 AM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

'I read his 'Memoirs of an Amnesiac' some years ago. It was hilarious and troubling since it addressed his various issues with mental health. And it was also pretty scattered and a bit repetitive.

But very much worth a read."

***

It's long been one of my favorite books. Also highly recommended is his follow-up, "The Unimportance of Being Oscar," and, if you can find it, his first opus from the early 40's, "A Smattering of Ignorance," which includes a chapter devoted to film music, "A Cog in the Wheel," and a chapter about "My Life: Or, The Story of George Gershwin."

Further Reading:

https://www.amazon.com/Harpo-Speaks-Marx/dp/1946963216/ref=pd_lpo_5?pd_rd_i=1946963216&psc=1

A great book, it includes a chapter about the time Oscar Levant phoned, asked "What's for dinner?" and came to stay for over a year.

Finally, further further:

https://www.amazon.com/Talent-Genius-Times-Oscar-Levant/dp/1879505398

 
 Posted:   Oct 19, 2021 - 11:48 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)

Oh one of my favorites for so many years. Have read at least 2 biographies and even went to the Museum of Broadcasting way back when to catch one of his talk show appearances. Indeed, his Concerto in F with the Philadelphia Orchestra is a cherished LP that is lasting forever. Both Rhapsodies are keepers, too. And the way as an actor he went toe to toe with John Garfield in Humoresque is one for the ages. Two New York guys going at it in earnest. cool

I remember (fondly) Oscar Levant's appearances on The Jack Paar Show (Friday nights in the early 60s, required watching) where he would tell his hilarious stories and sometimes performed on the piano. He always looked like he was falling asleep but never failed to entertain. Sometimes he would share the guest couch with Bea Lillie or Jonathan Winters or other very funny people. It was obvious that he was brilliant and talented, but (being a kid) I never really knew what it was exactly that he was famous for.

 
 Posted:   Oct 20, 2021 - 11:06 AM   
 By:   Sean Nethery   (Member)

One of my happiest recent discoveries:

https://www.amazon.com/Rhapsody-Blue-Extraordinary-Oscar-Levant/dp/B07CQKKFYY/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=oscar+levant&qid=1634141425&s=music&sr=1-2


Nice! Thanks for posting. I think I only have one album of his, with the Piano Concerto et al.

 
 Posted:   Oct 21, 2021 - 4:50 PM   
 By:   Sir David of Barkeley   (Member)

I remember seeing him on a talk show with Fred Astaire, on YouTube. Levant rattled through the interview like a bottle of pills, compared to the subdued and amused Astaire.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 22, 2021 - 1:45 PM   
 By:   vinylscrubber   (Member)

I alway chuckle at his description of his piano playing--he said he played "with arthritic abandon."

 
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