I recently watched the movie Finian’s Rainbow with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. And I was excited that I was going to be watching it because I hadn’t seen it in forever and I remembered the lovely lullabies of Petula Clark sung in the meadows of Rainbow Valley. Oops spoiler alert
As I watched the movie and the songs came back to me, some of the scenes didn’t because it had been so long since I’d last watched it but the longer I watched it, it was weird I started to find myself kind of bored. It has been a couple decades since I last watched the movie so I wasn’t totally surprised that the slower scenes were becoming kind of blah and only the singing and dancing scenes were holding my attention. I guess the movie wasn’t as colourful as I’d remembered.
And then it hit me. It felt weird watching the movie. But not because as it turns out, I don’t really like the movie. It felt weird because something was missing, someone was missing. My mom.
It was my mom who had introduced me to the movie way back when I was a kid. She loved those old MGM, Rodgers and Hammerstein productions. The musical westerns like Paint Your Wagon, the Doris Day musicals, the Debbie Reynolds musicals, I guess you could safely say she loved pretty much most of them.
There are few musicals I don’t remember my mom not liking. Most of them my brother and I would find something else to do while she watched them. But there were a few that when she watched I joined her. And I liked them. She tried to get me into watching more but apparently I had a limit and it did not include Showboat. Although a good rendition or clip of That Old Man River gets me every time.
Finian’s Rainbow was one that I had liked. Back then at least. A few of the songs were catchy and the dancing was so uproarious and happy. And Tommy O’Toole was in the movie and I had loved him in Disneys The Happiest Millionaire. In fact that’s how my mom got me to watch this one. “Oh but the butler, John, from The Happiest Millionaire is in it. And you love that movie. And he’s just as funny in this one…”. Turns out he was a highlight.
But I remember too that sometimes, in the worst renditions you can imagine, my mom and I would sing a bit when we watched the movie. I don’t know why this one since there were other musicals I watched and liked. Somehow Finian’s Rainbow had a special honour and those few songs I remember my mom would sing. Badly. And when I learned the words I would sing too. Also badly.
It’s possible the Irish heritage of the main characters attracted our Irish heritage or they were just songs she especially liked more than any others. Who knows.
All I know is watching it the other day I got to the part of the first song we would badly sing and her voice wasn’t there. I could hear it in my head, clear as day, and as off-key as ever. Because she not only was tone deaf but she’d often forget the words and mumble until the chorus when it would come out fuller volume.
This time it was just my voice. And the song, a ballad, suddenly felt sadder than ever and I realized I didn’t like singing this song alone. I didn’t like just hearing my voice. I wanted to hear both of us jumble the words and sing off-key.
It made me sad to know I would be singing solo now. And for the rest of my life. It was also bad timing to choose this week to watch it, all things considered. But I didn’t realize the day and I didn’t realize I would be solo.
I’ll probably never watch Finian’s Rainbow again. It was meant to be a duet.