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From the E-Mailbag…

Tim Davis writes…

A few days ago Fred Hembeck noted on his Facebook page that NBC would be showing Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Rather than sit through any commercials, I did what I do every year: I pulled out my Laserdisc copy and gave it a play. Soon people were posting that the network had butchered it (Gotta fit in those 27 Old Navy spots!). If you look on IMDB there is a lot of comments from people who swear there was at least one more scene, right down to quoting "dialog!" Now, I know that what I personally saw way back in '62 is what's on my Laserdisc and others on the comment page confirm this. However, there is one tale, probably apocryphal, concerning the music. Here I copy directly from the "Did You Know" section of IMBD's MMCC page:

"The composers Bob Merrill and Jule Styne offered a song titled 'People' for the score but the animation had already been completed and it was too late to include it. Instead, they added it to the score of a Broadway musical they were writing called Funny Girl where it became the first of many hits for the star, Barbra Streisand."

Any idea if this is true? If it is I can imagine Ms. Streisand's career would have been more than a little bit different without "People" as a signature tune!

I sure doubt it. The authorized biography of Jule Styne doesn't say that. In Jule: The Story of Composer Jule Styne by Theodore Taylor, it says of the writing of Funny Girl, the song was inspired by some lines of dialogue in the book (script) by Isobel Lennart about "a very special person." Then it says, "Jule turned to his collaborator Bob Merrill, 'You told me the other night to work on [the lyric] "a very special person." I think I've got a helluva melody for it.'…'Great,' Merrill yelled. 'But now it's not gonna be just a "special person." Listen.' Then he ad-libbed, while Jule played the melody again: 'People, people who need people'…The song 'wrote' in thirty minutes…" I don't know why that story exists if the song was written two years earlier for something else.

Also, the story of it being done for Magoo doesn't make a lot of sense. All of the songs had to be finished and recorded long before "the animation had already been completed." Jule Styne at least was at the recording session and he had to have known that anything that wasn't done at that stage had no chance of getting in. Now, if the claim was that Merrill and Styne had written it for Magoo before that session and there was a decision made not to use it in the first place…well, that at least could make some sense. On the other hand, if that had been the case, I think it would have been a very famous anecdote. Writers and composers love it when something gets rejected in one venue and is a huge hit in another.

I haven't consulted my copy of Darrell Van Citters' magnificent book on Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol because I'm not sure where my copy is. But I don't recall it being mentioned in there…and if Darrell didn't uncover proof of that, it didn't happen.