I caught on TV last night a bit of Everyone Says I Love You, the Woody Allen movie from the mid-nineties. This is a musical in the old fashioned style, where people break into song at the smallest excuse and big all-singing, all-dancing numbers erupt into the narrative.
Part of my early childhood was spent watching musicals. It was not necessarily by choice – they seemed to be the handy standby for the midday movies of the time, and Bill Collins used them as a staple of his Golden Years of Hollywood every Saturday night. In time I came to selectively enjoy them, partly for the music, partly for the dancing, and partly for the sheer unlikely joy they portrayed. The famous scene in Singin’ in the Rain where Gene Kelly twirls his umbrella in the driving rain and splashes in the puddles like a kid while singing his joy to the world is one of my favourite movie scenes of all time. You can’t help but feel happy seeing that.
In later years as I entered the so-called rat race I occasionally would be given cause to wonder how much better life may be if it was just like the musicals. How would it be, say, if in the middle of a romantic conversation with a potential love if you could break into song? Or if walking down the street the whim took you to dance to the background music, with your fellow pedestrians smilingly joining you?
In part, it was this curiosity that led me to learn how to tap dance. Of all the musicals I loved watching Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly most. In truth it was the dance scenes I liked best in Astaire’s movies – the storylines were a bit lame for the teenage H. Gene Kelly’s movies were more contemporary and to my taste, but in all of them it was the exhilaration of singing and dancing according to the hearts whim, and the excitement of flashing feet as an expression of that which roused me. I wanted to live like that, and so I learned to dance, to go along with my singing in the shower.
There’s no reason really why it can’t be so in real life. What’s to stop me from going on a stroll at lunchtime and breaking into a rendition of Oh What A Beautiful Day? Or skipping down the street and swinging from a lamppost, and urging others to do the same? How much easier would it be if you could look into that special person’s eyes and rather try and explain the delicate and complex feelings in your heart instead crooning to them I’ve Got You Under My Skin?
In the same way, I’ve occasionally thought how useful it would be if life had theme music similar to what they do in the movies. Your blithe mood is echoed by sunny music. It switches to high tempo music when you need to act fast. Perhaps a sudden change of music might alert you to an unseen opportunity, or maybe the hidden menace. I know if I heard the theme from Jaws suddenly played I might think twice about going for a dip. And so on.
Not going to happen – but how much more interesting would it be if it did?