Memorial Day is about remembering the brave men and women who fought and died for our freedom and for the our wonderful country. It’s also about the start of summer, and barbecues, and picnics. So for this Monday I though, what better movie to feature than
starring Kim Novak, William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Rosalind Russel, Betty Field and Susan Strasberg. (Ok, this flick takes place on Labor Day weekend, but we’ll pretend it’s Memorial Day) Drifter Hal Carter (Holden) blows into town to visit his old frat buddy Alan (Robertson). Alan’s old man is the town’s rich guy, by the way. So Carter, one of those guys who is really full of himself but doesn’t have dime or a donut to show for it, charms his way into talking the old man into a job…but of course, he doesn’t want to start at the bottom, he wants to run the place from the start. Meanwhile, Carter meets Alan’s squeeze, the incomparable Madge (Kim Novak). Madge’s old lady has been poor all her life and insists Madge marry into money…but of course, Carter sweet talks her until…well, you get the basic picture. There are some great scenes in this flick, ranging from full drama to silly comedy. But the scene that it’s best known for is the dance between Kim Novak and William Holden, late night at the Picnic. The tension between the two characters has been building throughout the film, and finally comes to a head during one of the most impressive “fall in love during a two minute dance” scenes in film history. From way it’s filmed with the colored party lights in the background, to the “take me now” look on Novak’s face, the one of the greatest songs ever played in a movie, the scene is just perfect. Two songs, by the way…the dixieland party band playing throughout the picnic suddenly switches to a west-coast jazz version of the old standard “Moonglow”, then magically adds a string section when it sweeps in with “Picnic” to lay down the music bed for “The Theme From Picnic”, played in real life by Morris Stoloff, and written by George Duning and Steve Allan (Allan is credited for combining the two melodies into a perfectly-synced medley).
As far as this jazz kat is concerned, there are three defining versions of Moonglow: Goodman’s quartet version, Shaw’s orchestra version, and Stoloff’s jazz version. This was a pretty steamy scene for 1955, by the way…back in the days when open-mouthed kissing wasn’t allowed in movies, people could get excited over just the idea that two characters might be even thinking of sex…and that’s what this scene produces. The way Novak barely moves, the way Holden melts at the sight of her. And something uncommon in non-musical movies of the era…they are actually dancing to the song being played, choreographed (lightly) to fit with the tune. Dig it, I think you’ll agree…
Happy Memorial Day, kids. And thanks again to all the troops…remember the fallen, appreciate the active, respect the retired. -Tiki Chris reporting from the poolside BBQ at Tiki Lounge Talk, the B-Lounge for hep cats and swingers.