Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Old Hollywood Songs: In a Mizz



This week's old Hollywood song is In a Mizz from Citizen Kane (1941). In the scene above, you can hear the song playing in the background while a reporter (William Alland) is trying to interview Susan Kane (Dorothy Comingore).


Director Orson Welles used a wide variety of music for Citizen Kane (1941). There was Bernard Herrmann's monumental score, but Kane also used classical music, A Mexican folk song (go here for that article), and jazz to tell the story of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (Welles).

The jazz standard In a Mizz is interspersed throughout Citizen Kane. Welles uses it as theme music for Kane's luckless second wife, Susan (Dorothy Comingore). It is played while Jerry Thompson (William Alland), a reporter who is trying to uncover the secret of Kane's final words,  interviews Susan. The song is featured again during a flashback scene to one of Kane's elaborate costume parties. He and Susan are now bitterly estranged and they have a nasty argument while blues singer Alton Redd repeats the song's haunting refrain, "It can't be love, Oh, there is no true love."

Dorothy Comingore and Orson Welles in 'Citizen Kane' (1941)
Susan (Dorothy Comingore) and Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) drive to their palatial estate, Xanadu, in Citizen Kane (1941).
In a Mizz was written by jazz composer and bandleader Charlie Barnet (he is misidentified as Charlie Barrett in the Citizen Kane credits) with lyrics by Haven Johnson. The song title is a slang term for feeling miserable, and the lyrics concern a person who is in funk but can't figure out why because "there is no true love." In a Mizz was popularized by Duke Ellington, who recorded it with jazz singer, Ivie Anderson. Here's their version: 



In a Mizz is often confused with another jazz standard "This Can't Be Love," which was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for their musical, The Boy from Syracuse. Nat King Cole recorded a popular version of "This Can't Be Love" and rumors abound that he played piano in Citizen Kane, but he is listed nowhere in credits. In any case, In a Mizz is not the same song as This Can't be Love," as you can hear by listening to Cole's stellar recording:



Like almost everything involving Citizen Kane, In a Mizz has had an interesting afterlife. The indie rock band The White Stripes recorded a song called "The Union Forever," which is an homage to Citizen Kane and In a Mizz. Lead singer and guitarist Jack White made no secret of his love for Citizen Kane, and the song is quite a clever riff on the movie, although White's vocal fanboying did lead to a lawsuit threat from Warner Brothers, which owns the rights to Citizen Kane. Here's the song with clips from Citizen Kane:



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