Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

Franz Liszt, the 19th century composer, could not have imagined how vital one of his works would become to a 20th century media known as the movies.

In Monday’s post on “It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955), we note Dolores Gray’s magnificently ridiculous television hostess who performs on her own variety show. Introducing one segment she sits elegantly at the piano and thumps out a languid commercial ditty glorifying her sponsor, Klenzrite detergent. You will recognize the tune as Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”.

The melody has been used in a score of Hollywood shorts and feature films since it was introduced to moving pictures in 1930 in the short “Fire Boys.” Since then it has popped up in “A Night in Casablanca” (1946), “The Horn Blows at Midnight” (1945), “You Were Never Lovelier” (1942) and many, many others. Often it has a comic interpretation, and has been scoffed up as favorite among cartoon animators. It had its cartoon premiere in “Rhapsody in Rivets” (1941) here:

Bugs Bunny used it in “Rhapsody Rabbit” (1946), a clip here below. Later, Bugs, along with Doris Day and Jack Carson in supporting roles, commandeered it for the animated segment of “My Dream is Yours” (1949).

Franz Liszt received the Tom and Jerry treatment in 1947 with “Cat Concerto” below.

Paolo Marzocchi here plays “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” as Franz Liszt probably imagined it, with no interfering mice or buildings collapsing.

However, as with most pieces of classical music I learned in childhood from the cartoons, I find myself waiting for sound effects noises of slapping, bricks falling, cannon fire, and general mayhem when I go to a concert. It’s like something’s missing.

Special thanks to my twin brother, John, for his encyclopedic knowledge of cartoons and their classical music.


panavia999 said...

They probably used this piece so much because it was in the public domain so was easy to distribute world wide. It's not just because it's such a popular piece! Notice in movies they perform the opera Martha a lot because it was old enough to be in the public domain and many newer operas were difficult to determine worldwide copyrights. Note in "Phantom of the Opera" sound versions that most of the operas were based on public domain classical music and written by studio composers.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thank you for pointing that out, Panavia. It's also why we so often hear "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in birthday scenes of old movies, because "Happy Birthday to You" is under copyright.

Yvette said...

What a great idea for a post, Jacqueline! I don't get my new speakers until Tuesday and THEN I'll be back to watch AND listen. :)

I think my brother and I (not to mention my daughter) learned a lot about classical music from watching cartoons. Those were the good old days when they used the classics willy nilly. Even Wagner!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Yvette, I'm glad your computer problems are getting ironed out. I agree, I think my first introduction to classical music was through cartoons.

Alan Richards said...

You forgot Esther Williams' "Thrill of a romance" where a talented young girl plays the first part of Liszt's "Hungarian rhapsody no. 2" and then turns it into a singing jazzed up version of the piece with the help of Tommy Dorsey and his orchestra. "Thrill of a romance" also came out in 1946, the same year as "Rhapsody rabbit" and "Cat concerto". A sign maybe?

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks so much, Alan, for adding to our list! Welcome to the blog.

Alan Richards said...

Your welcome Jacqueline. Oh, and the name of the jazzed up, singing version of Hungarian Rhapsody 2 in "Thrill of a romance" was called "Guy with the slide trombone". You ever seen that film? It's good.

alica aliya said...

thank you for give me information about Hungarian Rhapsody and the cat concerto tom and jerry

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