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Sincerely Yours


Dothery
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Surprise. I liked it. It's of my era, when Liberace was reasonably new on the scene. My boss's wife had known him when he worked in her dad's club, I think in Florida, and when he came to D.C. they went over to say hi at the hotel. He was very much the same, she said. I don't remember if he'd made this picture at that point or not; I don't think so. I don't remember seeing it, so this was the first time for me. I expected I'd laugh and think it was stupid, but I didn't.

 

It's true, it's hokey and predictable. The plot is from the old George Arliss picture, The Man Who Played God, which gave Bette Davis her start. At least she credited Arliss with creating her career. But I think it's eminently suitable for Liberace. He was an amateur when it came to the acting; but he was just such an original performer. You can't compare him to anybody else. When he got to that piano, nobody could touch him.

 

You have to know a little bit about concert pianists to understand how good he was. It's the hardest job in the world, lonely and demanding, eight to twelve hours a day practicing, with no guarantee that you'll ever get anywhere, with only the top two or three percent even managing to make a living at it. I heard a famous conductor say once, "When concert piano students ask me for my advice about going in for it as a career, I just say, 'Don't.'"

 

Concert artists at that time came and went and some did make a living, some achieving absolute greatness, but nobody combined the complete musicianship and empathy with the audience that Liberace did. He understood who he was playing to and for. This came through in the movie, even though it was a long time before he'd polished his Vegas persona. I think he always had it, that confidence that lit up his face when he sat down to play. He was one hell of a piano player. Music has been my life, and I've heard and seen the great ones, and from my viewpoint, he could stand right up there with them and not be ashamed. He was faster than anyone I ever heard, literally, and sure and strong. An amazing pianist, and far from the fool they used to try to make of him, with his fur capes and sequins and cars on stage and flying in from the wings ... show business personified, and it made him his millions. But make no mistake. He was an artist at the piano.

 

The movie was the only one he ever made, I understand, and that's probably a good thing. But I'm glad he made it. I really liked it. We have a decently made record of those flying fingers and that cheerful face that I always liked looking at. I can ignore the plot for that.

 

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Now, the story I read a while ago, was that Liberace was actually a serious concert pianist. At one point, he was giving a recital, and it was so good, he was called back for so many encores that he had run through his entire repretory. Not wanting to dissapoint, he thought quickly as to what he could possibly play, and wound up doing a rendition of a popular tune of the day, "The Three Little Fishes". When the audience started chuckling, he started getting campy with it, played a few improv "variations", adding that brilliant smile and other forms of "mugging", sending the audience into full blown laughter. He liked the reaction so much, he decided he would find a way to do those sorts of performances as his career path.

 

 

Now, I don't know how true that is, but ya gotta admit, he WAS one of a kind. And that schtick found only a few that DIDN'T like it.

 

 

He was one crafty Polack, to be sure.

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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The story is partly true, but apparently has been changed a bit to make it sound more like an incident rather than a process. Humor was part of his performances early on. He invented little gimmicks like the Three Little Fishies number in the styles of several different composers, and it helped to sell his act. In this movie, he does a boogie number which is incredibly difficult and he does it so offhand you never even know he's thinking about it; he tells the story of boogie woogie and where it changed from one form to another, and ends up doing it 16 beats to the bar, double time. Unbelievably good, but a gimmick, obviously practiced until he was technically perfect at it.

 

You have to hand it to the guy; he knew where the money was and how to take care of his family with his success, which he did very nicely for decades. I wish I'd had the chance to see him in live performance. I always enjoyed his shows on television. It was always great to see how he made fun of himself but never lost that tremendous skill at the piano.

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Because the title of this thread is SINCERELY YOURS (the movie)-- I thought maybe it would discuss the technical merits of the film as opposed to the cultural aspects of Liberace as a celebrity. These are two different topics.

 

For the record, I enjoyed the movie. I thought it should have earned at least an Oscar nomination for sound. Not only is there Liberace's great music, but there are some excellent special effects when his character goes in and out of deafness. It's gimmicky to be sure, but effectively handled and helps the audience have empathy with the character and his plight.

 

I found it interesting that the story originally began as a silent film vehicle for George Arliss, which he remade as a talkie. And from what I read, Cornell Woolrich drew inspiration from the ideas presented here for his own story that became the basis for REAR WINDOW.

 

Did anyone else love Lurene Tuttle's featured role in SINCERELY YOURS as much as I did? She almost steals the picture out from under Liberace, which is hard to do. And so does Dorothy Malone.

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I rushed home from my Mama's doctor appointment to see this film, which I remember watching as a kid. Liberace was a staple in our household for many years when vararity shows were the norm. Liberace was no Oliveir, but the movie was fun none the less.

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I loved Lurene Tuttle in this. If you don't mind a little personalization here, I jumped up and down when he began to play "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and she began singing it. Being a saloon piano player myself, it's one of my standard ways to wake up the crowd and get them singing. It's a great trick.

 

There are lots of ways to set the tone ... sweet, fast, funny, whatever you want. And of course the finish is everything. I used to see a guy in vaudeville named Marty May, who would instruct the orchestra in his opening monologue that if he was dying on stage they should play something patriotic. Naturally at the end of the act they'd play God Bless America for his exit.

 

(They all know the importance of music getting on and off. Once I was playing for an event in San Diego and Milburn Stone came in as I was playing "The Whistler and His Dog," and he looked at me and said, "Is that my entrance music?")

 

Liberace knew every trick in the book to keep his audience reacting just as he wanted them to. He was an exceptionally graceful tapdancer as well. And his finish was perfect. The end of the routine made me laugh with delight, his dancing off the stage was so smooth. I checked out a couple of YouTube clips after I saw the movie, and found the exact same routine, the boogie lesson, the tap dance to Tea for Two and all, and another clip where he was doing the tap dance with Debbie Reynolds, poetry in motion, the two of them. She looked good, too, very slender, in a white gown slit up to here. They were great friends. I'm not sure I'll live long enough to see all his TV clips, but I'm having fun going through them.

 

This movie was very well cast, too, I thought. Everyone in it seemed placed just right; no sour notes. I just couldn't believe the out-of-town impresario didn't know what "laying them in the aisles" meant and had to have it explained to him. Oh, well. Perfection is hard to come by, no?

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I agree that Liberace was an exceptionally talented musician. It was refreshing to see a performer on screen (in SINCERELY YOURS) who was the genuine article and whose work at the piano did not have to be doubled by someone else. I did enjoy how the producers worked some of his stage act into the early scenes, before the drama took over. It's a well-made film.

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