Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I'm in the Mood for Love

The actress and singer Frances Langford passed away on Monday, July 11, at the age of 92.

Demonstrating how the press always seeks to emphasize the local angle on any story, the Stuart News on Florida's Atlantic coast ran a timeline of the celebrity's life which barely touches on her show-biz career. Instead, it mentions her philanthropic and business activities in that part of Florida, including her donation of "Langford Park" and opening the "Outrigger Restaurant."

To most people around the country, however, Langford is best known as the singer who accompanied Bob Hope on so many trips to entertain the troops around the world that any impressionist who does a "Bob Hope" juggles the names of "Frances Langford" and "Jerry Colonna" as punchlines to good-hearted jokes.

My own recollection of Frances Langford stems almost entirely from her long association with actor Don Ameche in the radio sketches featuring the Bickersons. Langford played Blanche, a somewhat shrewish (but still loving) wife to Ameche's exasperated husband, John. As one historian of radio explains:

The Bickersons was a half-hour radio slot on NBC in 1946. Frances Langford played the part of Blanche Bickerson and Don Ameche portrayed the husband John.

John was victim of Contagious Insomnia, or Schmoo's Disease and many plots centered on his snoring. The battling couple would frequently go at it at 2 in the morning when John’s incredible, whining, giggling, tumultuous snoring would cause Blanche to wake him up.

They would fight about everything from relatives to Nature Boy (the cat) to sexy friend Gloria Gooseby.
I first heard the Bickersons, appropriately, late at night on the radio in the 1970s and '80s, when WMAL-AM's overnight host Bill Mayhugh -- in the years before local radio was overtaken by syndicated shows -- would periodically play excerpts from Ameche and Langford's faux battles. These dialogues are just as funny today as they were 60 years ago.

Despite performing on Broadway and in some 30 films, Langford may best be remembered for her songs, particularly "I'm in the Mood for Love," a sultry recording with lyrics by Dorothy Fields and music by Jimmy McHugh that reminded the fighting men of World War II of just what it was they were fighting for.

NPR had a nice tribute to Langford on Monday's "All Things Considered."

1 comment:

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