NPR logo
DVD Picks: 'Anything Goes'
  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
DVD Picks: 'Anything Goes'

Home Video


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.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.