Friday, February 1, 2013

Old Man River: It's Not What You Say (or Sing), It's How You Say It


Old Man River, one of the most popular songs from Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's Showboat, was sung by Paul Robeson in the 1936 film version. Robeson plays the role of Joe, one of the dockworkers, who acts as an observer of the action on and off the boat and uses the mournful song to comment on race relations.The simple yet profound sound of Old Man River has led it to become one of the most legendary musical theater songs in American history.

Stanley Daniels, the TV screenwriter, producer, and director who won eight Emmy awards for his work on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, was asked to do an audience warmup before the show. It was never aired on the show, but was captured for posterity. 

To get the audience in a laughing mood, Daniels chose the same song but instead of singing it in a mournful tone, recited it using a Yiddish dialect. It's not what you say, but how you say it. Daniels' recitation had the audience in stitches and in just the right mood to laugh during the filming of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

In the video below, Paul Robeson sings the song from the film, and at the 2 minute mark, Stan Daniels gives his interpretation.  Enjoy!

(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS:  THE VIDEO IS NOT VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY.  YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)


8 comments:

  1. Oy...it's all in the interpretation, isn't it?

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  2. Loved Paul Robeson but didn't find the white Jewish guy funny at all.

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    1. guess you dont have Yiddish in your kishkas....and probably aren't even Jewish, from your reply and reference.......just sayin, boobie!

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  3. Meh! Stan Frieberg did a better send-up.

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    1. Stan Freberg, 87, is the son of a Baptist minister. His routine, Elderly Man River, anticipated the political correctness movement a decade before it came into being. Here's a link to it: http://youtu.be/PLlTlYfqQV4.
      It's funny, but it's Daniels' Yiddish inflection that makes his shtick a better fit for Jewish Humor Central.

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  4. NU? He's Funny as all get-up! Thanks,Al....M.A.

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    1. He sounds like Jackie Mason! but not quite the rhythm! Not bad! BBS

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