NOVELLO, Ivor: Shine Through My Dreams (1917-1950) (Naxos: 8.120600)
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IVOR NOVELLO \ShineThrough My Dreams"
IvorNovello was, by his own reckoning, no purist highbrow. An entertainer, he was aman of the theatre with a keen commercial sense to whom "empty seats and goodopinions" meant nothing. With its glittering, no-expense-spared sets andcostumes and unabashed air of sheer romance, a Novello show was fantasy theatreof the highest calibre, the last British manifestation of Viennese-styleoperetta. A typical Novello number has a seductive and haunting simplicity andits unashamedly lush melody and highly sentimental lyrics conceal the music'sinner strength and commercial durability.
Songwriter,playwright, actor, matinee-idol, pianist and producer, Ivor was born David IvorDavies in Cardiff on 15th January, 1893, the son of a local governmentaccountant. His mother, Clara Novello Davies (1861-1943), a scion of the notedLondon Novello family and a leading figure in the British musical scene andpioneer choral trainer (in the 1890s she had founded the renowned Welsh LadiesChoir), nurtured both his precocious musical talent and his latent theatricalinclinations. As a lad Ivor accompanied her singing pupils; later, he alsotaught piano and from an early age his life revolved around music and thetheatre. He met the great Patti and was a page-boy at Clara Butt's wedding (anoccasion he marked with the "Page's Road Song" penned for, and subsequentlyrecorded by, that great Dame).
After attending school first in Cardiff, then in Gloucester(where he was a pupil of Sir Herbert Brewer, of Three Choirs' Festival fame),in 1903, at the age of ten, he won a scholarship to Magdalen College School,Oxford. At first for amusement, he dabbled in one act plays and ballads, until one of the earliest, "Spring Of TheYear" (1910), dedicated to the soprano Evan Florence, was published by Boosey.
Further moderate commercial successes followed, some with words supplied by thedoyen of drawing-room ballad lyricists, the Somerset-born barrister Fred E.
In 1911,at eighteen, Ivor travelled first to Canada then to New York, hoping to findfame and fortune as composer with his full-length musical, The Fickle Jade.
The attempt basically proved a failure and, after various vicissitudes, thestruggling Novello returned to London in 1913. By this time, however, he hadacquired a lucrative song-writing contract with the publishers Ascherberg andat the outset of World War 1 was ideally placed to pen a string of jingoisticmorale-boosters, including "Keep The Home Fires Burning", which made his name,in 1915. With words by his friend, the resident British American Lena GuilbertFord, this song assumed a more international profile after the US entry intothe war in 1917 when, along with "Laddie In Khaki" (featured and recorded bythe New Zealand born Metropolitan Opera star soprano Frances Alda, 1883-1952)it was interwoven with American war-effort rallying propaganda. More thantwenty years later, as this later recording indicates, it was chosen to play asimilar role in World War II Britain.
In 1916,Ivor was appointed a Royal Naval Air Service sub-lieutenant aboard HMS CrystalPalace, but as in First World War London theatre was flourishing (there were noclosures), he soon found himself commissioned to write material for Nat D.
Ayer's The Bing Boys Are Here and George Grossmith's Theodore &Co., and in December of that year also wrote numbers for Charlot's See -Saw and, in 1917, for Cochran's Arlette. In 1918, he penned variousitems for Harry Grattan's revue Tabs and in 1919 shared the credits withHoward Talbot for the Clifford Grey revue Who's Hooper?
1919 alsosaw Novello's first flowering as a straight-actor in Paris, where his goodlooks and charming demeanour in Louis Mercanton's screen adaptation of theRobert Hichens novel The Call Of The Blood soon established hisreputation as a silent matinee-idol. Already typecast as a Rudolph Valentinoclone, in 1921 he made his Hollywood screen debut (for United Artists, inMatheson Lang's Carnival) and, in London, played in Harley Granville-Barker's adaptation of Sacha Guitry's Debureau, keeping his hand inmeanwhile as a songwriter with the witty "And Her Mother Came Too", featured byJack Buchanan in the revue A - to - Z.
When, in1923, Novello again set foot on American soil, he had two strings to his bow:balladeer and screen Adonis. He now had many popular songs to his credit, mostrecently "Thoughts Of You", Bless You" and "Every Bit Of Loving In The World"(all recorded by Alda). No one would pretend that these, or "The Radiance InYour Eyes" (1916; a clear plagiarism of Lillian Ray's more famous 1915 ballad"The Sunshine Of Your Smile" here forthrightly delivered by the Brooklyn-bornconcert and opera baritone Reinald Werrenrath, 1883-1953) are great songs, butthey are consistently melodious and lyrical in character.
InHollywood, in 1923, Novello played a romantic lead in The Bohemian Girl (withGladys Cooper and Ellen Terry, for the Knowles studio) and was singled out byD.W.Griffith who, pairing him with Mae Marsh in The White Rose, viewedhim as a likely stand-in for Richard Barthelmess or Ramon Novarro. Among hisother silent-screen appearances were The Man Without Desire (1923), TheRat (1925), The Constant Nymph and The Vortex (1928), all ofwhich secured his reputation as the leading British romantic male star of hisday. Ivor made the transition to talkies (with Once A Lady, forParamount, in 1931) after several seasons as a straight-actor on the Londonstage. However, following the disaster of Coward's Sirocco (1927), heturned actor-manager for various shows and revues, including Symphony In TwoFlats (1929; filmed in 1930 by Michael Balcon, this included theunaccountably forgotten Give Me Back My Heart, delightfully sung here by theBrooklyn-born singing actress Peggy Wood, 1892-1978) and Murder In Mayfair (1934;this mercifully preserved Act 1 scene amply illustrates both Novello's playfullampooning of the Love Scene from his friend No?â?½l Coward's Private Lives (1930)and his skill as an improviser at the piano).
GlamorousNight (1935),however, his first full-scale musical for fourteen years, proved the realturning-point for Novello. First conceived (he claimed during a lunch-timemeeting) with the songwriter-manager H. M. Tennent (1879-1941) to restore theDrury Lane Theatre's dwindling fortunes, it was grandiose and scenic inconception (it included a shipwreck scenario), had a book of high calibre - thefirst of a series - by the London-born actor and lyricist Christopher Hassall (1912-1963)and enjoyed a record initial run of 243 performances. Over-brimming withNovello show-stoppers (namely "Deep In My Heart", "Fold Your Wings", "ShineThrough My Dreams", "When The Gypsy Played" and "The Girl I Knew" (created byElisabeth Welch, b.1904), its cast was headed by the New York-bornex-Metropolitan Opera soprano Mary Ellis (1897-2001), the star of thesubsequent ABP/Walter Mycroft film-version (1936) and was essentially operatic(i.e. it needed trained singers to do it justice) in conception.
No lesslavish, its successor Careless Rapture (1936) ran for 296 Drury Laneperformances before touring Britain during 1937-1938. Both this show and itssequel Crest Of The Wave (1937) starred the Kansas-born singing-actressDorothy Dickson (b.1896) who here leads the chorus in the tuneful if ratherless well-known "If You