Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time—Murfin Home Confinement Music Festival

Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time sung by Gene Austin.

The lilacs finally came into bloom on one of the two new small bushes Kathy and I planted last year.  Elsewhere hereabouts there are spectacular displays on mature bushes.  I celebrated by posting a shot of a glorious row of bushes blooming along the railroad embankment in Woodstock a few years back as the cover on my Facebook page.  It’s something to gladden the heart and senses in these doleful days.  That got me to recall another of sentimental popular balladJeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time.

Lilacs in Woodstock are my Facebook cover today.
Lilac Time was a 1928 silent romantic war film starring Colleen Moore and Gary Cooper following up his role in Wings as yet another pilot, this time as a Yank flying for Britain in the Great War.  The film was produced by Moore’s husband John McCormick and distributed by First National Pictures. It was based on a 1917 Broadway play written by my distant cousin Jane Murfin and actress Jane Cowl, who adapted the story from a novel by Guy Fowler.

Lilac Time movie poster.
Lilac Time was released with a Vitaphone score and music effects, featuring the song Jeannine, I Dream of Lilac Time, but there was no spoken dialogue.  The song was written by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Nathaniel Shilkret and sung by tenor Gene Austin whose record of it was a #1 hit that year.  Also scoring hits with it were  Nat Shilkret and the Victor Orchestra in 1922 reaching #2, and for John McCormack—the Irish tenor not Moore’s husband in 1929 at #15.
Gene Austin was a singer and songwriter, former vaudevillian, and one of the first crooners. His recording of My Blue Heaven sold over five million copies and was then the largest selling record of all time.  His 1920’s compositions When My Sugar Walks Down the Street and The Lonesome Road became pop and jazz standards. He also wrote How Come You Do Me Like You Do and scored big hits with songs by others including Bye, Bye Blackbird, Ramona, and Yes Sir That’s My Baby.

Gene Austin, one of the first of the crooners, was one of the biggest recording stars of the 1920's.
When the Great Depression put a huge dent into the record business, Austin launched a successful movie career including a stint as one of the first singing cowboys, a natural for the Texan and friend and mentor of Jimmie Rodgers.  He appeared in several films, including Belle of the Nineties, Klondike Annie, Sadie McKee—all 1934 releases and My Little Chickadee in1940, at the request of his friend, Mae West.  He successfully toured through the 1940’s and into the ‘50’s before retiring in comfort to Palm Springs, California.  He died of lung cancer in 1971 at age 71.

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