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DVD Picks: 'Anything Goes'
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DVD Picks: 'Anything Goes'

Home Video

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

It's time again for our regular home-video feature, where Bob Mondello offers suggestions for your DVD queue. Today, he's quite high on Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," not the movie or the stage show but a TV curiosity from 1954 with quite a cast performing live.

(Soundbite of song, "Anything Goes")

Ms. ETHEL MERMAN (Singer): (Singing) In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. Now, heaven knows, anything goes.

BOB MONDELLO: Ethel Merman only got to sing eight bars of this song in the film version. So when TV beckoned 18 years later, she leapt. Her co-stars? Frank Sinatra in a career lull and her old buddy, Bert Lahr, of Cowardly Lion fame. She and Lahr had shared a showstopper in another Cole Porter musical. So they just slipped it in.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. BERT LAHR (Actor): (Singing) If you're ever in a jam, here I am.

Ms. MERMAN: (Singing) If you ever need a pal, I'm your gal.

MONDELLO: Merman had less rapport with Sinatra. She and young Blue Eyes share what has to be the least-passionate onscreen kiss ever. But this was live TV. So the show goes on, even when Merman has to freeze a smile for five full seconds or when Sinatra blows a lyric that wrecks a rhyme.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. FRANK SINATRA (Singer): (Singing) You're the top. You're some candied ribbon.

MONDELLO: He meant ribboned candy.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) You're the top. You're Napoleon brandy.

MONDELLO: See? Later, Lahr refers to Merman not as Lady Oakley, but as Annie Oakley, a part she played in "Annie Get Your Gun." And then the show wraps up a full three minutes early. So they kind of have to punt.

(Soundbite of television program)

Mr. LAHR: Hey, Ethel? I have an idea. Rather than do the usual goodnight speech that you were supposed to do here, seeing as how we have a little time, why don't you do "Anything Goes" or something again for us.

Ms. MERMAN: All right. You join in with me, though.

MONDELLO: Only Sinatra does not know the words. So he ducks off-camera. But in mid-song, she motions him back, and he tries. He really tries, then realizes he's useless. And then, for a few seconds, Ethel Merman has the most expensive backup singer ever.

(Soundbite of song, "Anything Goes")

Ms. MERMAN and Mr. SINATRA: So even out in high society, you can't forget propriety. Goodness knows, anything goes.

MONDELLO: It was live television. Anything went. I'm Bob Mondello.

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