Saturday, April 6, 2013

Episode 24 - The Final Show with Henry Mancini

The final episode of The Julie Andrews Hour, which aired on March 31st, 1973 was met with great anticipation and sorrow by fans who loved seeing Julie on their television every week. It had been a great adventure. Now it was over.

The show opened with a wide, seemingly vacant set, expect for the grand piano at the back of the stage. Julie stood next to it, wrapped in what appeared to be a grand cloak, ruffled about the neck and wrists, a style popular at the time.

Then, “Whistling in the Dark,” a song Henry Mancini wrote the film, Darling Lili, is heard and Julie begins to sing. The camera follows her as she walks through light and shadow. This is one of Julie Andrews’ finest performances, a melding of grand music, beautiful singing and subtle emotions which pass across her face, wrapping the audience into the experience.

At one point, Julie opens her cloak and we see that it is really a lightly made wrap under which she is wearing a sparkling bronze body-suit. Loosening the cloak, she waltzes to the soaring music. It is perfection.

Now the lights come up, revealing that a full orchestra is onstage. At the close of the number, the musicians are all on their feet, applauding. A true tribute.
Julie and Henry Mancini
Julie introduces us to Henry Mancini, by 1972 (as Julie tells us) winner of three Academy Awards and twenty Grammy Awards. Quite amazing. On entering, Henry, who seems to have a dry sense of humor, announces that he has been practicing his jokes and bird calls for the show.

Meanwhile, Julie asks if he recognizes one of the trumpet players in the orchestra, saying he looked slightly familiar. The camera turns to the orchestra and we see, it’s the Pink Panther sitting there.

After that, Julie, who has lost her clock and is now dressed only in her bronze halter pant suit, tries to track the Pink Panther down. Soon he has multiplied to four Pink Panthers, and a dance with comic moves follows. At one point, the Panthers indicate that Julie should jump in their arms. When she tries, they all vanish!

Following the Pink Panther segment, Julie comes to the piano where Henry Mancini is conducting a group of singers. She joins them, with no background music other than the chorus, to sing “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Needless to say, it’s lovely.
Then, we see Henry Mancini seated at the piano, half in dark, half in light. Julie appears, dressed in a trench coat, holding a gun. This is the Peter Gunn segment, no doubt a tribute to Blake Edwards as well as Mancini.

At one point, Julie tells Henry she’s looking for Blake Edwards. When he tells her that Blake is married to Julie Andrews, she says, “Mary Poppins? Oh, well, whatever turns him on.”

In the midst of all this, Julie shoots Henry and he falls on the piano, apparently dead. Then a chase begins, to find the killer backed by the music from Peter Gunn. Excitement and suspense are fill the scene as the dancers appear in spots of light. There is running and movement throughout the entire studio, including the audience area. Julie, in a trenchcoat is on the trail and at one point a woman passes clues in an envelope to her, taking it from her dress. Later, she has clues hidden in her garter. 

In the end, Julie arrives at a door, thinking she will find what she’s looking for. Behind the door is a man with his back to us. It turns out to be Nelson Riddle. He is the one who shot Mancini because, he says, Mancini was moving in on his orchestra.  The two men then join together for a short duet, Nelson on his trombone and Mancini on his piccolo. Julie joins them, vocalizing, and together they create another famous piece of music (Elephant Walk?)


After a break, Julie and Henry Mancini are seated on the “Getting to Know You” set, having tea and speaking about Mancini’s family. He has twin girls who are now grown and a son. One of his daughters had written him a note in a card, which he then wrote music for and which became “Sometimes,” a song recorded by the Carpenters. Julie loves the song asks to sing it. It is a song of gratitude to those we love and with Henry Mancini playing and Julie singing, it is a special moment.

When Henry Mancini compliments Julie on her television series, he says that her work is always so “perfect.”  In response, Julie asks him not to call her perfect. Somehow, she comments, that word is always used about her, but she is far from perfect. She thinks the reason this work is used about her may be because of Mary Poppins’ “practically perfect in every way.” To prove how imperfect she is, she says they have some clips which will show all her mistakes, and we get to see some of these delightful bloopers.

There is also a very beautiful song included on this show. Julie tells us it was recorded some time ago but never seemed to fit in any show, so they are putting it on this show. It’s called “Once Upon a Time,” and in this lovely song, we also get to see Julie standing beneath the dazzling crystal tree.

When the cameras once again return to Julie and Henry on the set, Mancini comments that there are some people waiting to see her. The people are the eight male Tony Charmoli Dancers and Julie says she wants to see them as well because there’s something she’s been wanting to do for a long time.

When the dancers enter dancing to “This Guy’s In Love with You,” the camera pulls back to show Julie standing downstage, back to us, watching them. She says she wants to introduce the guys who have been dancers, singers and friends on the show. Performer Ken Berry later commented on Julie’s desire to introduce the dancers, saying that it was so kind of her because dancers work so hard and get very little in return, other than the joy of their art.

Julie introduced each dancer as they sang a phrase from “This Guy…” to her. They are introduced in this order:

Joe Kyle, Jerry Trent, Wayne Dugger, Walter Stratton, Gary Crabbe, Gary Menteer, Tom Anthony and Garrett Lewis.

This is the last time the dancers appear on the show. From here, we turn to a conversation between Julie and Henry about the importance of music in film; how it brings out the drama, comedy or whatever is in a scene. To illustrate this, they perform a scene from Gaslight (or what appears to be). For the first run-thru of this scene, Julie enters as a distraught wife, hearing things and fearing she is going mad, or that her husband is trying to drive her mad. The scene takes place in the late 1800s, and Julie and Henry are wearing period costume on a period set. Mancini is not a bad actor and looks like cold and forbidding at the beginning of the scene. The intensity of the music adds to the suspense.

For the second run-thru of the scene, there is rinky-dink piano playing in the background. There is also a laugh track, but the music alone is enough to make you laugh. Julie and Henry Mancini’s reactions only heighten the comic effect. When Mancini goes to take a drink of wine, attempting to ignore his wife’s (Julie) worry that he is driving her insane, he can’t help laughing. The director have left this uncut and it’s funny to watch his laughs.

Julie plays along. Standing at the back of the set, unable to see the laugh we do on camera, but obviously aware he’s loosing it, Julie asks, “Are you alright?” which makes it even funnier.

At the end, Mancini, attempting to push Julie out the window, falls out himself, only on the second time around, when she calls his name he answers. Going to the phone, she orders sandwiches and asks the restaurant to call the police (rather than calling herself) as there’s been an accident. What makes it even funnier is the fact that the old fashioned phone she’s talking on is not screwed tightly together and keeps falling apart, however, Julie, pro that she is, moves the parts around and just keeps going!


For the final segment of the show, we are back on the stage with a full orchestra. Henry Mancini is seated at the piano, and in the background we see Julie seated with the orchestra.  Mancini plays “A Time for Us” from Romeo and Juliet. Then, playing a phrase from Whistling in the Dark, he launches into Charade. Julie stands in the back among the musicians and sings, Charade, Sweetheart Tree and Dear Heart. Then, walking to the piano, she and Mancini conclude this wonderful musical performance with his most famous song, “Moon River.”

After this grand performance, there is no sentimentality about the ending of the series; in fact, no word is mentioned that this is the final show. After a break, Julie concludes the show with a few bars of her song, “Time is My Friend” while Henry Mancini does bird calls, making Julie laugh. Then, she says, “Goodnight,” and the two turn and walk to the back where Nelson Riddle is standing. The three can be seen, through the credits, talking and, at one point, Julie appears to be demonstrating a bird call of her own.

Thus ends this grand series

© Michelle Russell

Photos appearing here are for entertainment purposes only!

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