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Found Sounds 13: A mystery chanteuse

January 13, 2013 - Harry Eagar
It's been a while since I've found a sound worth reporting -- since March 2011 -- but here's a sound with a story, an untold story.

In the 1932 movie "Hot Saturday," an uncredited nightclub singer belts out a wonderful torch song, "I'm Burning for You."

Peter Mintun, a pianist and singer who has hundreds of videos at Youtube, plays it and attributes it as an unpublished piece by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow. So far so good.

Johnston and Coslow are well known. Their best-known collaboration may be "My Old Flame," or perhaps "Pennies from Heaven." They were successful on Broadway and in Hollywood. Johnston, according to the Broadway DataBase (a site originated by my son, he said proudly), was, for example, the arranger for the Marx Brothers hit "The Cocoanuts." Coslow won an Oscar for a short documentary.

But "I'm Burning for You" sank without a trace. The next year, the Production Code came in, which meant that "Hot Saturday" was not seen for about four decades. Today, it is available (along with some other Johnston-Coslow songs for Paramount) on a collection of Pre-Code Hollywood films. A brief search finds no mention of the song on sites related to Johnston or Coslow, and an inventory of Coslow's recordings held at the U. of Wyoming shows no copy of "I'm Burning for You."

Mintun does not indicate where he got "I'm Burning for You" and his performance lacks oomph. But the film version packs plenty. Who is that singer?

iMDB asks the question but does not answer it. A number of reviewers, not only me, were strongly impressed by the song.

The singer is a typical club singer of the period, with short, peroxide hair and Mae West gestures (but not Mae's figure). Nor is her orchestra identified. They play a hot chart but it is not obvious whether Paramount hired a Southern California band or put together an outfit for the filming.

The movie, in fact all six movies in the salaciously marketed Pre-Code collection, is tame stuff. It is worth a look, besides the great song, for Cary Grant's wardrobe. He plays a rich layabout who, when not dressed in soup-and-fish, is attired in the 1932 equivalent of resort dress wear. It is the gayest clothing seen on a Hollywood actor at least until "The Day the Fish Came Out," and you'd have to be as handsome as Cary Grant to carry it off.


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