The Lusty Month of May from Camelot sung by Julie Andrews.
Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe had a much randier assessment in their 1960 Broadway musical Camelot.
The musical was adapted from T. H. White’s 1958 The Once and Future King, the same Arthurian novel on which Disney based it’s 1963 animated film The Sword in the Stone. It was directed by Moss Hart and ran on Broadway for 873 performances, winning four Tony Awards and spawning several revivals, foreign productions, and the 1967 Warner Bros. film Camelot. The stellar original cast included Richard Burton as King Arthur, Robert Goulet as Lancelot, David Hurst as Merlin, and Roddy McDowell as Mordred. Julie Andrews who broke out to American stardom in Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady was the duo’s first and only pick to play Guinevere.
Lerner & Loewe's struggles to get Camelot on Broadway were chronicled in a Time cover piece.
Andrews was famously snubbed by Warner Bros. when Audrey Hepburn was cast as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Despite film musical triumphs in Disney’s Mary Poppins and the mega-hit Sound of Music and solid dramatic roles in The Americanization of Emily and Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtin, she did not appear in the 1967 film. Miffed by Jack Warner’s insult, Andrews declined an offer to sell. Largely in solidarity with her Burton, Goulet, and McDowell did likewise replaced with non-singer Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Harris, Franco Nero, and David Hemmings respectively.
John F. Kennedy was famously fond of Camelot and frequently played the enormously successful original cast album in the White House. In a 1963 Life interview, Jacqueline Kennedy, referenced a line from the Lerner and Loewe musical to describe the Kennedy era White House—Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.” The martyred President’s friend and speech writer Ted Sorensen cemented the public identification of the administration with Camelot in his subsequent books Kennedy in 1965 and The Kennedy Legacy in 1970.
The original Broadway Camelot poster.
In the play July Andrews’ Guinevere was hardly the nearly pristine white goddess portrayed in Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and subsequent romances. Instead she was a headstrong lass quite smitten by the attentions of Arthur. And she was not shy about flaunting it in the song The Lusty Month of May.