Thursday, November 26, 2015

Oliver! (Film Soundtrack) – "Food, Glorious Food" (1968)

Food, glorious food!
What is there more handsome?

You may think that politicians are too partisan today.  But at least both parties agree on when to celebrate Thanksgiving.  In 1939, there were two different Thanksgiving Days in 1939 – one for Republicans, and one for Democrats.

I wasn’t going to do a Thanksgiving-related post this year until I saw the latest installment of the “Drinks with Dead People” blog.

I’ve been familiar with “Drinks with Dead People” for a couple of years, but I just found out that its author is a young lawyer who I used to talk with when she worked in-house for a client of mine.

Betsy Golden Kellem
Betsy Golden Kellem, the brains behind “Drinks with Dead People,” has led an interesting life:

I spent years in big legal practice, representing suitably big clients . . . . But you can also ask me about being a stand-up comedian, university professor, cub reporter, museum worker, oncology researcher, musician and college marching band drum major.  I’ve shown and sold my artwork, taught myself to play the drums and once dressed as 1968 Comeback Elvis for Halloween.  I’ll talk your ear off about history, and I can juggle flaming torches. (Really.)  

(She had told me about being a marching band drum major — at Yale, no less – but the other stuff was news to me.)

Betsy offers this one-line description of herself:

I combine delightful absurdity with a category-crushing knowledge of all things weird and helpful.

(You know, that’s not a bad description of yours truly – you’d need to add something like “and a breathtaking degree of narcissism” at the end, of course.)

Betsy’s latest post is titled “The Thanksgiving Turkey,” and it’s worth a read.  

The best part of it is a 1909 poem for children titled “The Martyrdom of St. Turkey” that Betsy discovered in an old educational journal. 

Here’s an excerpt from that poem, which compares the fate of Thanksgiving turkeys to that of martyred Christian saints:

They fed him to behead him,
And to take away his breath.
As they stuffed him, living,
So they stuffed him, dead.

Betsy’s discussion of the history of Thanksgiving inspired me to do a little historical research of my own.  (That is to say, I entered “Thanksgiving” and “Wikipedia” into Google.)

Thanksgiving was first celebrated in 1621 – everyone knows that, right?  (The feast likely took place at the end of September, not in November.)  

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the final Thursday of November would be a national Thanksgiving Day.  The impetus for Lincoln’s action was a series of editorials by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, an influential magazine editor and writer.  (Her most famous work is “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”)

FDR carving a turkey
Subsequent presidents followed Lincoln’s lead until 1939.  That year, there were five Thursdays in November.  The president of Federated Department Stores (now Macy’s, Inc.) urged Franklin Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving up a week in order to extend the Christmas shopping season.  

FDR agreed – the country was mired in the Great Depression, and he wanted to help out retailers – but his decision was controversial.  Many Republicans thought the change was disrespectful to Lincoln’s memory.  

More importantly, many colleges and high schools closed out their football seasons by squaring off against their traditional rivals on Thanksgiving Day, and it wasn’t possible to change the dates of all those games at the last minute.  

About half the states followed Roosevelt’s lead in 1939 and celebrated Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November (which fell on November 23 that year), but the other half of the states stuck with the last Thursday (which fell on November 30).

In 1941, Congress passed a joint resolution declaring that Thanksgiving would henceforth be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.  But some states resisted.  Texas, for example, continued to observe Thanksgiving on the fifth Thursday of November when there was a fifth Thursday until 1956.

“Food, Glorious Food” is the first musical number in the British musical, Oliver!, which is based on the famous Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist.

Oliver! opened in London in 1960, was brought to Broadway in 1963, and was made into a movie in 1968.  The movie won six Academy Awards, including the “Best Picture” award.

A new film version of Oliver! is expected to be released in late 2016.

Here’s “Food, Glorious Food,” from the 1968 movie.  I hope you and yours eat better today than these poor boys did.

Click below to buy the entire movie soundtrack from Amazon:

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