Alfred Hitchcock's Flirtation With The Top Ten

When you think of Alfred Hitchcock, you don’t necessarily think top ten records.

But it happened in 1956, when the featured song from Hitch’s remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much – Doris Day’s Que Sera, Serascored box-office-boosting radio play by climbing the charts to reach #2 in the US and #1 in the UK. The melody and lyrics were written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, whose later work included the theme for the TV series Mr. Ed.

Hitch tried to duplicate his success with his next film, The Wrong Man (1956). But audience reaction to the Edie Adams/Ernie Kovacs duet was negative, so the song was cut and shelved.

Determined to succeed, Hitchcock brought Billy Eckstine on board early in production on Vertigo (1958) to write the title tune. The scene as shot shows James Stewart taking Kim Novak to the Andar Pedo, a (fictitious) San Francisco Latin nightclub where Eckstine is performing. In the scene, Eckstine sees Stewart’s character and, with a wink as acknowledgment, says “This one goes out to my  good friend, Scottie Ferguson.” Eckstine then performs the title song.

…but once again, Hitchcock ultimately decided not to use the musical interlude. (Hitchcock’s most famous marketing misstep, Vertigo Painting by Numbers, above, was featured in a previous Isn’t Life Terrible post).

Next up was North By Northwest (1959). It was a classic Hitchcock scene: the bad guys chase Cary Grant into a radio studio, where he is mistaken for the Station ID announcer and hustled out on stage to wait for his cue. Cary sees the bad guys enter the studio and realizes that as long as he’s on stage, the bad guys won’t shoot him. He drags out the station ID as long as possible by singing it, then finally bolting off the stage. No real shot at the top ten for this little improvised “song,” but it shows Hitchcock was still thinking about the potential for musical interludes in his features.

Hitchcock tried for the top ten again again with Psycho (1960).

Anthony Perkins’ recording of This Is My Lucky Day (Norman’s Theme) from Psycho never got close to the top 200.

Part of the failure doubtlessly had to do with the fact that the song, originally slated to accompany the infamous “peep-hole’ scene, was cut from the soundtrack.

The theme for Hitchcock’s next feature, Tomorrow Never Knows (Love Theme from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’), was eventually recorded by The Beatles, but not released until 1966, three years after the film’s theatrical run.

However, with his next film, Marnie (1964), Hitch was positive he had another hit song on his hands.

He based his positive thoughts on Sean Connery’s testosterone-fueled performance of Pretty Irish Girl in Disney’s Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959). Hitch initially believed there was no reason his male lead couldn’t handle the recording chores on Marnie. But when Hitchcock learned that Connery’s singing voice in Darby had been dubbed by Brendan O’Dowda, he quickly switched gears and convinced Nat King Cole to record the ballad based on Bernard Hermann’s movie theme.

Capitol Records released Nat King Cole’s Marnie track as a single. It stiffed. Perhaps listeners couldn’t relate to a love song dedicated to the title character of Marnie, a congenital liar and compulsive thief who is blackmailed into marrying Sean Connery.

In test footage, Connery lip-synched Cole’s performance, but it didn’t click. Nat Cole went back to the studio and did his best to sing Vertigo with a Scottish accent, but this was even worse. The song was cut from the film.

Pity, too: check out these lyrics:

But your world is lonely
Marnie Oh, Marnie
So lost yet so lovely
Take my hand
And stay with me awhile
Let me try to dry
The tears beneath your smile
Only love can save you Marnie…

At this point, Hitchcock gave up on getting another hit song out of a movie, and took things into his own hands.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 20

This Sunday, we have an interview with Jack Haley Jr. about The Wizard of Oz. It’s joined in progress – Jack is talking about the ways in which CBS shortened the film’s running time for its yearly airings. It’s actually been posted here before, and is here simply because more of the same show has been found. Not more of Jack Haley Jr., but the hour that follows it.

This second hour begins at around 00:31 and is spent with the colorful and somewhat puzzling Mayor Joseph Alioto, who is  to San Francisco as Ed Koch is to New York City.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 19

Tom’s first guest is an author who would not deny that his most famous book is rubbish.

William Rathje deploys a terrific sense of humor during his hour with Tom from July 21, 1992. as he discusses Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage, his book first published in May of 1992 and reprinted in 2001. Rathje is an archeologist who digs into landfills and extracts garbage that has been buried for as long as 40 years. Bill admits that he and his crew don’t always use their facemasks, because “after ten or fifteen minutes, the smell goes away.”

That may be true, and no disrespect to Mr. Rathje, but maybe he and his compatriots should have kept those masks on. I can’t remember anyone coughing while on Tom’s show, but Rathje hacks his way throughout the entire interview, with one bout of coughing so serious-sounding that Tom playfully asks Bill if he’d like to have some oxygen brought in. I’m pleased to report that Mr. Rathje seems to still be alive and, presumably, well. That’s amazing; based the audio impression given by this program, you wouldn’t have given the guy six months.

Tom’s guest for the second hour (in an interview that’s nearly complete) is legendary CBS newsman Robert Trout. Trout began working in radio when announcers wore smocks and were selected, in part, on elocution, vocal timbre, and authoritative delivery. Trout’s final assignments were retrospective pieces for NPR, which probably had to make an exception to bring him on board. (I love and support NPR, but suspect they select male announcers based on level of affectation, inappropriate folksiness, wryness, and execution of thoughtful pauses/ability to convey mock surprise).

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 18

When a new kid plops down next to Tom in the sandbox, you can count on him to be welcoming and polite, even when he’s not completely thrilled with the new arrival.

Deborah Norville made the announcement that she would soon be added to the ABC radio sandbox on this day. The key achievement of Norville’s life seems to be her failure on the NBC “Today” television show, where her brief stint was bookended by the long and successful reigns of Jane Pauley, who preceded her, and Katie Couric, who followed her. For quite some time, she adopted the persona of the puzzled yet plucky underdog. (“What did I do wrong?”)

She lasted a year as an ABC radio host. Tom didn’t like her much, which is evident in the interview despite his statements to the contrary. Perhaps Norville is not as disingenuous as she sounds.

In the second hour, Tom is joined by Robin “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” Leach. A man who can be trusted, obviously.

For your information – let’s get this straight – there were hidden self-promotional motives in neither Norville’s tasteful People Magazine breast-feeding photo nor Leach’s graphic-but-also-tasteful presentation of a celebrity C-section. No further discussion, please, on these selfless acts that bring important information to the public. And let’s not even mention Tom’s TV show that featured a naked encounter group.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 17

An hour (actually less, commercials have been removed) with Stephen Rebello, author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. This is preceded by the end of an interview with Don Drysdale. This was a “Best Of” rebroadcast, which accounts for some of the unusual edits.

Why post the end of the Drysdale interview? Because the beginning might show up someday. That’s what happened with a previous program posted here with guest Anthea Disney, editor of TV Guide; that program will be updated shortly with the missing segment.

You can also see an old Tomorrow Show of TS with Hitch on YouTube.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 16

Gosh – I had forgotten that Tom was also broadcast on WABC-AM from New York City. (I was actually closer to WICC, which was and is right across the Long Island Sound in Connecticut). It was a source of annoyance to Tom that during the summer, WABC bumped him – frequently – for Yankees baseball.

I mention this because Tom’s guest is Curt Smith, author of  “Voices of The Game,” about the great radio broadcasters who called the play-by-play. It’s Tuesday, June 30, 1992.

You can hear lightning making lots of noise in the AM band… I guess there was no Yankees game that night.

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 7

This time out, an interview with Al Gore, who’s promoting his book Earth In The Balance and the Nightside hour, featuring calls from listeners.

During Nightside, Tom can’t seem to figure out how the then-new VCR Plus automatic VCR programmer works. Listeners try to explain it, but Tom still doesn’t quite get it.

A notable hour because Tom – completely befuddled as to how the VCR Plus works – leaves the microphone for a minute or so while he searches the studio for the day’s newspaper, which he believes will solve the problem once and for all. (It doesn’t). While he’s gone on this fool’s errand, the control room plays an old TV theme (Holiday for Strings).

From December 20, 1990

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Sundays With Snyder - Number 5

The television business I know is over. Gone. Kaput. Finiti.
- Tom Snyder March 27 2003

June 26, 1992.

John Gotti’s in jail. Roe versus Wade has been challenged. Murphy Brown has been challenged, too, by Dan Quayle, who doesn’t like the single character deciding to have a baby. Meantime, there’s a real newswoman in Boston who’s doing the very same thing.

A bunch of guys are riding around in the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile documenting Roadside America – including places like Carhenge - Stonehenge recreated with half-buried used cars.

And Tom decides to write his very own version of The Vermont Teddy Bear commercial.

A complete 3-hour Radio Show which runs just under two hours in this version without most ads and newsbreaks. A good one.

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"Hambone" from "Sandy’s Hour" Featuring Sandy Becker

Hambone - Sandy Becker
“I never play down to children,” George Sanford Becker once told the New York Times. Nor to adults, one might add, who were every bit as befuddled as their kids by “Hambone,” Sandy Becker’s singularly odd and eerily prescient TV character whose feathered helmet, coke-bottle glasses, and retro-military wardrobe softened the country up for the arrival of Elton John some years later. Hambone strutted and slid across the stage, twisted himself into odd angles, and swooped in for an out of focus close-up, his nose touching the TV camera’s lens. It all seem to be inspired by, or predicated upon, a song by Red Saunders and his Orchestra.

“Hamboning” is today best known as a lucrative job, but its origins in the US date back to slavery. When southern states passed laws forbidding slave drums and slave drumming, Africans reverted to “patting juba, involving intricate, rapid clapping of the hands against different parts of the body in quite complex successions of rhythm,” as well as beating the hell out of any object that could be coerced into making a percussive sound. Considered a lost art for many years, the practice was revived in 1965 by Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine on the 1965 Beach Boys recording of  Barbara Ann when Blaine played his famous ashtrays. But I digress.

The “Sandy Becker” version of Hambone is a minor re-edit of a 1952 Okeh single that added Sandy’s trademarked manic scream of joy to the proceedings. But here, listen for yourself:

If Clinton was our first black president, then Sandy Becker was our first black kids show host. His theme song was Afrikaan Beat:

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The Best Call In Talk Show Radio History

… If you ask me.

Thanks to Lee Hartsfeld for working some MAGIX on my original file!

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