The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Classical Music

From the Vaults -- 'Vamonos Con Pancho Villa!'


“Vamonos Con Pancho Villa!” (“Let’s Go With Pancho Villa!”) is the surprisingly dark, roughly hewn story of six friends who call themselves “the lions of San Pablo” and join the Mexican Revolution as much for the adventure as the idealism. “Vamonos” is a study in the progression from loyalty to blind obedience and from courage to being tragically foolhardy.

Vamonos Con Pancho Villa The 1936 Mexican film was directed by Fernando de Fuentes from a novel by Rafael F. Muñoz and portrays Villa as a ruthless, cold-blooded killer who nonetheless is adored by his thousands of rag-tag troops. “Vamonos” is a bleak film of increasingly senseless violence and the alternative ending included on the DVD raises the bloodshed to the impossibly surreal.

(At right, writer Rafael F. Muñoz plays Martín Espinosa, who is shot to death while lighting bombs and throwing them at a fort.) 

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Matt Weinstock, March 22, 1961

  March 22, 1961, Comics  

In the highly advanced future, people will still use file cabinets!

March 22, 1961: Are truck drivers really articulate? Matt Weinstock thinks one fellow is …  and a woman calling the Philharmonic for tickets doesn’t know much about music but she knows what she wants to hear: Roger and Wagner.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "VERY MUCH AFRAID": There is nothing to fear. Had your friend been even slightly infectious, she would not have been discharged from the TB hospital. Therefore, it is far safer to associate with her than someone who has never had a chest X-ray ... and could be one of the estimated 100,000 Americans walking around with active TB and doesn't know it.

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Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood, March 1, 1941

  March 1, 1941, Bulgaria Joins German Alliance  

  March 1, 1941, Comics  

March 1, 1941: Lee Shippey writes about Marian Anderson and Tom Treanor has the story of Schuyler Standish, 13, who just enrolled at UCLA.

Katharine Hepburn has promised director Garson Kanin a yes or no in 30 days. Meanwhile he (age 29) may be called by the draft before he can finish his current film, Jimmie Fidler says. 

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Conductor's Remarks on L.A.'s Music Touch off Sound and Fury

  Feb. 24, 1941, Beecham  

  Feb. 27, 1941, Beecham  

Feb. 24-March 4, 1941: British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham comes to town to conduct two programs by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and my doesn’t he get people furious with his comments about classical music in the U.S. generally and especially in Los Angeles.

The women’s committee of the Los Angeles Philharmonic had never been so insulted! The “ladies” actually hissed Sir Thomas’ comments on politics, such as the proposed Lend-Lease program, which he said wouldn't make "tuppence of difference." 

The Times barely covered his luncheon speech at the Biltmore but wrote to great length on the furor it caused when he noted that Los Angeles rarely performed choral music and had no opera company, no opera house or symphony hall. (Recall that in his era, the orchestra performed at Philharmonic Auditorium and visiting companies performed operas at Shrine Auditorium).

Unfortunately for the music historian, it is difficult to discern the actual caliber of the performance from Isabel Morse Jones’ review.

This is what passed for music criticism at The Times in the pre-Martin Bernheimer era: "His conducting is photogenic to a degree that it should be called to the attention of Walt Disney. His back may not be as effective as Stokowski's but his heel and toe work and especially his arm gyrations tell a music story that is fascinating to watch." But she duly recorded when the audience applauded and was otherwise moved – the music critic as applause meter. 
The Philharmonic performed Beecham's suite from Handel's "The Faithful Shepherd," Frederick Delius' "Summer Night on the River," Mozart's Symphony No. 36 and Sibelius' Symphony No. 1.

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On the Frontiers of Ethnomusicology

  Feb. 11, 1911, Flute  

  Feb. 11, 1911, Flute  

Feb. 11, 1911: Among the items at the Southwest Museum is a flute, made of a human bone, that was discovered while excavating Native American graves on Santa Catalina Island.  The flute was something of a rarity, The Times said, because it had six finger holes rather than three.

The museum asked various musicians to try playing the flute, but none was successful. Museum curator Hector Alliot (d. 1919) decided that "as the flute had been played by a people whose minds were as children's compared with the minds of the modern man, he would find the person to make the flute speak among the children."

Clifford Elliott Martindale was able to make a sound on the flute. “Suddenly a long, weird sound like a wail arose throughout the museum. It hung and quavered and then died away as Martindale gasped for more breath," The Times said. 

[No matter how many years I have spent looking at old newspapers, I am still amazed at some of the complete rubbish that was presented as scientific inquiry, particularly in the field of anthropology and archeology—lrh].
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'Fantasia' Acclaimed as Film Masterpiece

  Jan. 30, 1941, Fantasia  

  Jan. 30, 1941, Fantasia  

Jan. 30, 1941: The Times publishes three items on the Los Angeles premiere of “Fantasia”: A review of the film by Edwin Schallert, a music review by Isabel Morse Jones and a color story on the event by Read Kendall, who said that Shirley Temple  (now at the advanced age of 12) almost walked into the theater without being noticed. 

Schallert says: The words most used to describe "Fantasia," besides the conventional "beautiful" and "wonderful" were "path-breaking" and "courageous." The phrase "courageous beyond belief" would be even more accurate.

Unfortunately, as a music critic Jones is no Martin Bernheimer. Here’s a sample from her review, which is the sort of old chestnut we never see anymore: "Stokowski raises his arms and commands heaven and earth and all the sound therein to do his bidding, and that is triumph enough for any mortal."

Notice that the reviews refer to commentary by Deems Taylor.  It’s been many years since I have watched “Fantasia” in its entirety but I can’t say I recall them. According to imdb, most of the Taylor sequences were removed in later releases. 
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Voices: Milton Babbitt, 1916 -- 2011

  March 7, 1986, Milton Babbitt  

  March 7, 1986, Milton Babbitt  

March 7, 1986: As he nears the age of 70, composer Milton Babbitt tells Times arts writer Marc Shulgold, "Even so-called popular composers don't really care what an audience likes. In the end, you write for yourself. Some may call it self-indulgence, but at my age, who better to indulge?"

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Matt Weinstock, Jan. 26, 1961

  Jan. 26, 1961, Comics  

Jan. 26, 1961: The sound of an auto collision at Sunset Boulevard and Roxbury Drive attracted the usual crowd of onlookers and as Eugene Rodney, producer of the Robert Young TV show, dejectedly appraised the damage to his white Thunderbird, one of them, a man in sports shirt and slacks, asked, "Is there anything I can do?"

Rodney recognized him as pianist Jose Iturbi and after a moment's contemplation said, "Yes, there is! Would you play 'The Ritual Fire Dance' from 'El Amor Brujo' by De Falla--Softly!"

DEAR ABBY: Yesterday I saw two people together who had absolutely no business being together. The man is the husband of a very good friend of mine. The women is the wife of a respected professional man. He was helping her into his car and they were laughing and so wrapped up in each other's company they didn't know anyone else was on the street. This was about noontime.

It worked on my mind so much I decided to call up my friend and tell her about her husband....

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Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood, Jan. 14, 1941


  Jan. 14, 1941, Comics  

Jan. 14, 1941: Open letter to Al Jolson. My Dear Al: If this letter angers you, forgive me. I realize that the $500 you sent me before Christmas to spread good cheer among the poor was accompanied by a request that I make no mention of your kind deed.

But I've been weighing that request for three weeks and even though I am violating a confidence, I've decided to tell the story.

Also on the jump: British bombers hit Bayreuth.

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Matt Weinstock, Dec. 16, 1960

  Dec. 16, 1960, Comics  

Dec. 16, 1960: Matt Weinstock has the story of a cat that was taken to West Hollywood because its Bunker Hill home was to be torn down, but made its way back because it was evidently homesick. 

CONFIDENTIAL TO "SO IN LOVE": He may mean it when he says he loves you, but that doesn't mean he intends to leave his wife.
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Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood, Dec. 7, 1940

  Dec. 7, 1940, Schoenberg
  Dec. 7, 1940, Bomb  

  Dec. 7, 1940, Traffic Semaphores  

Dec. 7, 1940: Yes, the bell on traffic semaphores in the old Warner Bros. cartoons wasn’t a joke. Today, we just honk since drivers are usually checking their BlackBerrys when the light turns green.

The audience walks out on the world premiere of Arnold Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto. According to the New York Philharmonic’s archives, the orchestra has performed the concerto three times in its history, twice in 1952 and again in 1967.

Astrid Allwyn receives her final divorce decree from Robert Kent today, Jimmie Fidler says.

One year to Pearl Harbor.


Arnold Schoenberg in the Daily Mirror

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Bruno Walter’s Last Concert

  Dec. 2, 1960, Van Cliburn

  Feb. 18, 1962, Bruno Walter  

Dec. 2, 1960: Van Cliburn, the Cold War sensation who won the 1958 Tchaikovsky piano competition, performs the Brahms second piano concerto with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Bruno Walter at Shrine Auditorium.   [Yes, I cringe to think of what the acoustics were like in that big barn.]

I’ve posted Albert Goldberg’s review on the jump, not because it is exceptionally good but because it reflects music criticism of the era when one was supposed to be “transported” by the music. Goldberg’s reviews are certainly head and shoulders above those of  Isabel Morse Jones and he was an institution at The Times. And he does note that Cliburn can play something besides Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

What’s significant about this performance is that it was last live concert conducted by Walter, who died in Beverly Hills in 1962. He continued to make recordings, however, according to an online discography.  

Also on the jump: Zubin Mehta will make his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1961.

IF YOUR CHILD IS BORN TODAY ... he will have a life full of changes and interesting experiences, dealing with fascinating personalities. [I guess if you have a girl you are out of luck!]

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