Marilyn Monroe was smart. How smart? She turned down “The Blue Angel,” a remake of the film that starred the legendary Marlene Dietrich. Wave your candle in the wind all you want; she knew she didn’t have the singing chops for the role, or the sense of evil that Dietrich had. It didn’t matter which Dr. Jekyll was going to play opposite her (Spencer Tracy, first choice, Fredric March, second) she hid her creamy white hide.
And so the role went to May (pronounced MY) Britt, the blonde with the cheerfully homicidal look in her eyes. Britt is today best known for her controversial marriage to Black ’n’ Jewish Sammy Davis Jr. Had this film been a hit, she might be a mispronounced legend alongside Anita Eggbert or Ursula Undress. But my oh May, the memory of Dietrich was still strong. The remake was also disappointingly bland; the original had much more of a sado-masochistic overtone to it, and the moody black and white photography suited the agony a lot more than glossy technicolor.
But, as I once mentioned to Ms. Britt, there was NO WAY of overlooking the stills from that film. This was all I saw when I was a mere pubescent twit. (No, that wasn't last week, wiseguy). I didn't know the movie or May existed till I was maybe 14 or so, thumbing through some old magazines. I was pretty damn stunned by her buoyant poses in that black lace whats-it she was wearing. And, looking up, there was the straight blonde hair and the straight-forward confident look in those crescented eyes.
I made a mental note (the thumb tack hurt) that I should try and see this film one day. But that day was several decades off, as the film never seemed to be on TV, VHS or DVD.
What was needed was a HIT song for Lola Lola to sing on stage. It should be as cheerfully raunchy as "Oom Pah Pah" in "Oliver!" or as overtly sexual but cartoonish as "Whatever Lola Wants" in "Damn Yankees."
The chore fell to the team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. Yeah, THEM again, the guys who gave the world "Buttons and Bows" and "Que Sera Sera" (to name items that first turned up in movies that needed a tune to help get people into the theaters).
Their attempt at a sexy but sanitary German cabaret tune is pretty silly, and failed to become the film's highlight moment. How misguided IS this bouncy song? When May calls out, “What’s your favorite pastime boys?” A FEMALE chorus squeals “Lola!” Then the gals all sing "Lola Lola lives for love, anywhere she finds it! Any time you want her love, Lola never minds it!"
Oof pah pah!
Even so, you can see (if not hear) that May Britt was the kind of woman who could stun any man, and maybe even an elephant. Oh, the poor professor in the film! He could've explained it this way: "I fell to the floor. I got down on my knees. I looked at her, and she at me...."
My Ms. Britt, here's to you in the month of May...
MAY BRITT LOLA LOLA