After further viewings of "Swinging The Alphabet" (yes, I do have better things to do...but what are you doing reading this, anyway?) I think I have a theory as to why Curly's close up is sung at a faster tempo. It was probably a reshoot. Perhaps after viewing the number without the Curly insertion it was determined that the song was a bit monotomous (which it certainly is...albeit in an addictive kind of way). Since there's only piano accompaniment and since the rest of the song is clearly being performed to playback (i.e. a pre-recording of the song being sung which the on-camera talent moves their mouths too) it would figure that a hasty re-take (and everything about the Stooge movies were hasty--the shooting schedules, the scripts etc.) would dispense with the pre-recording step and simply capture Curly singing "live" with a piano accompaniment behind him. Indeed when you look at the close up you can see that his mouth movements and the singing are too accurate to have been done any other way. So they approximated the tempo, got it wrong, and wound up with a close up of Curly performing at a faster tempo. The background voices for the shot were then minutely sound edited (which you can hear if you listen closely) to keep the two tracks relatively in sync.

And then comes the stunning moment when the all girl chorus interrupts him with the immortal "Curly's a dope!" Was this added later as well? If not it explodes the above theory entirely. Since we'll never know, lets leave it as is--and assume that I'm right.

Oh. In the TMI department, do you know who wrote "Swinging The Alphabet"? According to Wikipedia, "in 2005, film historian Richard Finegan identified the composer of the song as Septimus Winner (pictured above), who had originally published it in 1875 as "The Spelling Bee"."

And who was Septimus Winner? Why only one of the 19th century's most successful composers--he brought us "Ten Little Injuns" and "Listen To the Mockingbird" as well as the lesser known "I Set My Heart Upon Flower" and the delightful "Carry Me Back To Tennessee".

While we're at it, let's have the complete lyrics:

B-A-bay, B-E-bee, B-I-bicky-bi, B-O bo, bicky-bi bo, B-U bu, bicky bi bo bu.
C-A-cay, C-E-cee, C-I-cicky-ci, C-O co, cicky-ci co, C-U cu, cicky ci co cu.
D-A-day, D-E-dee, D-I-dicky-di, D-O do, dicky-di do, D-U du, dicky di do du.
F-A-fay, F-E-fee, F-I-ficky-fi, F-O fo, Ficky-fi fo, F-U fu, ficky fi fo fu.
G-A-gay, G-E-gee, G-I-gicky-gi, G-O go, Gicky-gi go, G-U gu, gicky gi go gu.
(Dah-Dah-dah-dah )
H-A-hay, H-E-hee, H-I-hicky-hi, H-O ho, hicky-hi ho, H-U hu, hicky hi ho hu.
J-A-jay, J-E-jee, J-I-jicky-ji, J-O jo, Jicky-ji jo, J-U ju, jicky ji jo ju.
K-A-kay, K-E-kee, K-I-kicky-ki, K-O ko, Kicky-ki ko, K-U ku, kicky ki ko ku.
L-A-lay, L-E-lee, L-I-licky-li, L-O lo, Licky-li lo, L-U lu, Curly's a dope
M-A-may, M-E-mee, M-I-micky-mi, M-O mo, Micky-mi mo, M-U mu, micky mi mo mu.


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1 comment:

  1. Septimus Winner also borrowed from an even earlier song - from 1740: