Here begins my Advent Calendar of songs and stories for the season. These are the ones I recorded for Sisterfilms in 2007. I have on hand fewer stories than for last year, since in ‘07 she was able to join us earlier. But by the time I run out I will have figured out a solution to posting sufficient readings. In 2007, I also chose a few stories that were written for adults – fair warning, one of them even has some rough language!Dancing Dan’s Christmas by Damon Runyon. It’s a tale of crime and romance with some humor thrown in. Runyon, a newspaperman and writer, was born in Kansas and raised in Colorado but became the supreme chronicler of a certain kind of New Yorker. He is best known for Guys and Dolls, the Frank Loesser musical (and later film) made from two of his short stories. Other films based on Runyon stories include The Lemon-Drop Kid, A Pocketful of Miracles, and Little Miss Marker. You can follow the link above to read the story online, and it’s also anthologized in several books including Murder for Christmas. If you don’t mind filling out a free registration, you can also listen to a dramatic reading with music here. (And really, if you really, really want to, you could let me know your snailmail address and I’ll send you my recording!)
The songs for today are not really Christmasy at all, but they were all that Dancing Dan and the narrator could come up with when they had imbibed their quota of Tom and Jerries and wanted to sing some celebratory songs. The words to Will You Love Me in December as You Do in May? were written by James J. Walker, who later became Mayor of New York. Bob Hope played him in the movie Beau James, which I saw with my brother at the Hainerberg Theater in Wiesbaden. Unfortunately it is not available on DVD. The music was by Ernest R. Ball, who also wrote When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. You can go here to hear a very early recording of the song by the Elysian Singers, or you can listen to Dan Linnell of They Might Be Giants. I bought an MP3 of the song as sung by Johnny O’Tolle and His Naughty Band from an album called Gay 90s. Watch out for this one – just reading about it had me going about the house inflicting my poor excuse for an Irish tenor on the long-suffering Rusty.
The song Dancing Dan himself sings in the story is My Dad’s Dinner Pail, which also brought to mind a favorite movie. The song was written by Edward (Ned) Harrigan (lyrics) and his father-in-law David Braham. Harrigan and his partner Tony Hart were the fathers of musical comedy with their shows in the 1880s. George M. Cohan wrote H-A-Double R-I-G-A-N Spells Harrigan in honor of Ned Harrigan, and it appeared in the James Cagney film Yankee Doodle Dandy, which must have been shown several times a year on New York television stations when we lived in Connecticut. In 2007, I had to buy a CD by Mick Moloney called McNally’s Row of Flats to get the song; it has a number of Harrigan and Braham’s songs of the Irish-American experience and was well worth it. Recently I found this rendition by Debra Cowan, who has a lovely voice that reminds me of Priscilla Herdman’s. The songs Dancing Dan and his friend sing are both highly sentimental, and serve to show that in spite of their obvious criminal bent, these guys have hearts of gold – which they also prove by their actions in the story.here’s a recipe.