The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

 I was out on Sunday for a short run over to Cupar, I could not believe how quiet the roads were, then again we are all supposed to be staying at home. I don’t know how kids are coping with that, I know I would go crazy if I were to stay indoors all day. So no matter the weather I try to get out for at least a couple of hours.

The afternoon was spent watching old movies, today it was ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, a film made way back in 1955, starring Doris Day and James Cagney.

It has always amazed me how songs and incidents that happened when I was just a boy, and I’m sure, were given little credence at that time, are so vivid now. I feel I have had such songs running around in my head all this time. Maybe they were just that good.

The film, a biographical musical drama telling the life story of Ruth Etting, a singer who rose to fame in the 1920s to become America’s sweetheart. The film is pretty much a true reflection of her real life.

Ruth Etting was born on the 23rd November 1896, in David City, Nebraska, USA. She died at the age of 81 on the 24th September 1978. in Colorado Springs, Colorado USA.

As a young girl growing up in Nebraska she wanted to become an artist, always sketching and drawing and at the age of 16, her grandparents sent her off to art school in Chicago. Etting found a part-time job in the Marigold Gardens nightclub, and while there she gave up on art classes in favour of a career in show business. Etting, quickly became a featured vocalist at the club, although she had no formal training she had loved to sing in school and church. Her manager at that time was Moe Snyder, whom she later married in 1922, and as her manager, he was successful in arranged radio appearances, recording and film contracts, she even appeared at the Flo Ziegfeld’s Follies in 1927. Etting retired from performing in 1935.

Her marriage to Snyder was a torrid affair, he was overpowering and dominant, the marriage ended in divorce in 1937. Etting later began a relationship with Harry Myrl Alderman, her pianist, but not until after he had separated from his wife.

Snyder hated the idea of his former wife in the company of other men, to the point of making threatening telephone calls to her. It all came to a head in October 1938, when Snyder travelled to Los Angeles and detained Alderman at gunpoint as he left a local radio station, forcing him to take him to the home of his Ex-wife. Snyder, told Alderman he intended to kill him, Etting and his own daughter, Edith, who worked for Etting at that time. Snyder did shot Alderman and three days after the shooting, Alderman’s wife filed a suit against Etting for alienation of affections. (there is always an ambulance-chasing lawyer to be found in America).

Alderman and Etting were married in Mexico, during the time of Moe Snyder’s trial, in December 1938 for attempted murder. Desperate to escape the limelight the couple relocated to a farm outside Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Originally Spencer Tracy was pencilled in to play Snyder, Tracy turned it down, and Ava Gardner or Jane Russell, in the Etting role.

Spencer Tracy was right to turn this down, and Cagney was the better choice, he plays the gangster to perfection, and a well deserved Oscar. I can not see Ava Gardner of Jane Russell (at that stage in their careers) in the role of Etting either, they could never come over as the put upon wife of the Gimp. I have always liked Doris Day as a singer, but she looks a bit wooden in the dance department, she does not have the flow like a trained dancer would on stage, I am not saying that Doris can’t dance but watch someone like, the great Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Hepburn or Julie Andrews, and you will see what I mean, dancers have a lightness, balance of movement that sets them apart. (although later when she starred alongside Howard Keel in Calamity Jane, she had learned a thing or two) As Denzel Washington (playing the CIA operative John Creasy) in the film Man on Fire, asks

“There’s trained and untrained, which one are you?”

Second thoughts,

 Seems I sometimes open my mouth and let my belly rumble, fact checking it would seem is not one of my strong points. I said in one of my blogs that Doris Day looked wooden in the dance routines in the film ‘Love Me or Leave Me’, (purely on observation) for which I was taken to task. It was pointed out to me that Doris Day would have done the background on Ruth Etting, and would have known that she was, as she had admitted to her piano player, not a dancer but a singer, therefore if she had danced across the stage like Ginger Rodgers it would not have been a true representation of the singer Ruth Etting, point taken.

They also pointed out that in the movie Calamity Jane, Doris did the number ‘Just come in from the windy city’ and she did not such bad a job dancing around the bar, point taken.

So I thought I would check, and what would you know? Doris developed an early interest in dance, and in the mid-1930s formed a dance duo with Jerry Doherty that performed locally in Cincinnati. A car accident on October 13, 1937 injured her right leg and curtailed her prospects as a professional dancer.

So in a sense, we were both right. I think this is what I miss most during a lockdown, we don’t have that face to face communication.

I do have a double CD of the real Ruth Etting, performing some of those great songs she sang way back in the swinging 20s, when she was at the top of her game, many of them later used on the soundtrack of the 1955 film “Love me or leave me”. But their voices were totally different, Ruth Etting has a much richer smokey voice. If I had to choose one song from the movie would be “Ten cents a dance” but there were so many great songs in the movie it would be a hard choice. 

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