Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Age of Not Believing

When you rush around in hopeless circles, 
Searching ev'rywhere for someplace true, 
You're at the age of not believing, 
When all the "make believe" is through. 

When you set aside your childhood heroes, 
And your dreams are lost upon a shelf, 
You're at the age of not believing, 
And worst of all, you doubt yourself. 

You're a castaway where no one hears you, 
On a barren isle in a lonely sea, 
Where did all the happy endings go? 
Where can all the good times be? 

You must face the age of not believing, 
Doubting ev'rything you ever knew, 
Until at last you start believing, 
there's something wonderful...
Truly wonderful in you. 

These lyrics were written by the wonderful song-writing team of Robert and Richard Sherman for the 1971 Walt Disney production "Bedknobs and Broomsticks". It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and although it did not win ( "Theme from Shaft" won ) it remains one of the highlights of the movie and just as noteworthy a song over 40 years later, for it puts into words feelings we all have had at one time or another in our life. 

When "Mary Poppins" was in production in 1963 there were doubts that author P.L. Travers would give the studio clearance to finish the project and so as a back-up plan Walt Disney had his staff working on an adaption of another well-known English children's book classic "The Magic Bedknob" by Mary Norton. This project got placed on the back-burner while Mary Poppins pushed ahead, but after Walt's death "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" was put back in the spotlight again in 1969. 

"The Age of Not Believing" was a somewhat self-introspective song for the Sherman Brothers for they were going through a period when they began to doubt their ability to continue their song-writing success without Walt's guidance. The lyrics of the song perfectly capture a feeling we have all experienced in life....doubting one's self and one's abilities. 

When Angela Lansbury is singing this lovely tune it is aimed at Charlie, the 14 year old cockney boy, who is very self-assured and doesn't believe in magical things like flying beds. At the same time though, this song can be applied to all of us at any age in life. We all go through rough periods where the sun is hiding behind the clouds and we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. We wonder "where did all the happy endings go? where can all the good times be?" 

In "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" we even see Miss Eglantine Price ( Angela Lansbury ) pausing for a moment to reflect on her doubts and her ambitions when she felt she had failed England by not creating the Substitutiary Locomotion spell in time for the war effort. 

The Sherman Brothers went on to create many more beautiful songs after this era in their life, proving that they overcame their "age of not believing".....just as we all do sooner or later. All we need is a little bit of faith. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The World of Doctor Dolittle

" This is the world of Doctor Dolittle...the wonderful world of Doctor Dolittle. Where crocodiles talk, and elephants sing and animals do most any old thing. Where polar bears wear top hats, and leopards with spots wear spats. "  

In 1967, 20th Century Fox released Richard Fleischer's epic musical "Doctor Dolittle" starring Rex Harrison as the inimitable animal doctor who travels the world to find the Giant Pink Sea Snail. Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley and William Dix join our animal-talking doctor on his voyage of discovery, while the renowned music composer Leslie Brucisse weaved melodic melodies throughout the film. 

Although Doctor Dolittle grossed over $9 million dollars at the box-office, it was technically a financial fiasco since it cost over $18 million to produce ( yikes! )... most of this cost was spent in bad location decisions and care for the animals. One of the most costliest mistakes was in trying to send a crew of animals to England in the first place....quarantine procedures made this impossible and so they had to scout for animals in England instead. 

The "world" of Doctor Dolittle consisted mainly of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, an idyllic stone front English village and Sea-star Island, the resting place for the elusive giant sea snail. Unlike most Walt Disney films of the time that utilized stunning painted matte bakdrops by Peter Ellenshaw, Doctor Dollittle was actually filmed on lcoation. 

The village of Castle Combe, located in southwestern England was transformed into the town of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, complete with fisherman skiffs and the picturesque church tower. They took so long filming in Castle Combe that even the residents were relived when they left. They wanted all the villager's aerials to be taken down from their roofs ( for authenticity's sake )....what a bore being without TV!


Sea-star island on the other hand is quite a difficult island to find...it drifts along with the prevailing currents. In reality though it was Saint Lucia, the tropical paradise located in the heart of the Caribbean. Most of the island scenes were filmed at Marigot Bay, where today you can still find the Pink Snail Champagne Bar at the Marigot Bay Hotel in honor of the film's location shooting. 

At the time, many of the residents of the tiny oasis weren't all that proud of the snail....they were sick due to a G.I epidemic caused by the freshwater snails and were so mad that they even threw rocks at the giant sea-snail prop. Poor snail! Good thing he had his shell on snug and tight. 

One of my favorite "locations" in Doctor Dolittle was not really a location at all....it was The Flounder, the doctor's striped-sailed full-rigged wooden sailing ship. Decked out in flamboyant fashion not unlike his Puddleby home, it was complete with a kitchen, dining room, library, window garden and all his scientific equipment. 

When we watch Doctor Dolittle we are transported to a world of "fantasy, a world we long to see"....as realm of Victorian whimsy. Even though I can not talk to animals, it would be nice to join the Doctor in his world.