In the 1950 film of the same name, Mario Lanza was anointed The Toast of New Orleans. According to the fine folks at Turner Classic Movies and Sony Masterworks, however, the Pennsylvania-born, Italian-American tenor is also The Toast of Hollywood. TCM and Masterworks are following up their 2012 release of Doris Day’s With a Smile and a Song with a new, similarly-designed 2-CD set dedicated to the late Hollywood singing star Lanza. The rich-voiced singer may have perished in 1959 at just 38 years of age, but his body of work on both film and record is still fondly remembered. The Toast of Hollywood is due on August 27, and will include six previously-unissued recording plus a further three new-to-Sony CD selections among its 30 tracks.
Mario Lanza made his first big splash in Hollywood thanks to the largesse of Louis B. Mayer. Some of Lanza’s recordings had impressed the second “M” in “MGM” but the deal was sealed when Lanza electrified a crowd in summer 1947 at the Hollywood Bowl, and Mayer’s secretary Ida Koverman was among those in the crowd. Mayer rushed to sign this electrifying young star-in-the-making, described by producer Joe Pasternak as possessing a voice that was “rich, warm, sensuous, virile, capable of incredible highs and able to go down in register as deep as a baritone’s.”
Pasternak produced the first five of Lanza’s MGM films, beginning with 1949’s That Midnight Kiss. The credits proclaimed “Introducing Mario Lanza” for his role opposite Kathryn Grayson and Jose Iturbi, and the score gave him the opportunity to sing both classical repertoire and American popular songs. Beginning in 1949, Lanza also began an association with RCA Victor as a recording artist. In addition to other album projects, Lanza would record many of his MGM movie songs for RCA.
Lanza followed his triumph in That Midnight Kiss with The Toast of New Orleans, The Great Caruso (1951), Because You’re Mine (1952) and The Student Prince (recorded 1952, released 1954). The last film didn’t turn out as expected, however, when a clash with director Curtis Bernhardt led Lanza to storm off the set and, as it turned out, off the MGM lot. Lawsuits ensued, and when the film adaptation of Sigmund Romberg’s famous operetta was finally released, British actor Edmund Purdom lip-synched to Lanza’s original recordings, under the auspices of new director Richard Thorpe. Two of Lanza’s soundtrack performances for The Student Prince are included on the new compilation.
Lanza returned to screen supremacy with Warner Bros.’ 1956 Serenade, and eventually headed back to the Metro lot for his final two films: Seven Hills of Rome (1958) and For the First Time (1959). But on October 27 in Rome, Italy, Lanza perished. No autopsy was performed, but it’s been speculated that Lanza was felled by either a fatal heart attack or a pulmonary embolism. Tragically, his widow Betty died just months later of asphyxiation at the age of 37, leaving their four children behind.
What exactly will you find on this new anthology? Hit the jump for more details including the complete track listing and pre-order links!
The Toast of Hollywood celebrates all facets of the vocalist’s career. Disc One, A Tenor at the Movies, collection covers the MGM years with selections including his signature song, “Be My Love,” written for him by Nicholas Brodzsky & Sammy Cahn for The Toast of New Orleans; his one-take rendition of “Serenade” from The Student Prince, and the standard “Granada” from Because You’re Mine. Most of these tracks are derived from his RCA re-recordings. Disc Two, A Tenor in Love, concentrates on recordings made for radio’s The Mario Lanza Show. These include takes on Rodgers and Hart’s “My Romance,” Schwartz and Dietz’s “Alone Together,” Kern and Hammerstein’s “Make Believe” from Show Boat, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “If I Loved You” from Carousel.
Compiled by Derek Mannering, The Toast of Hollywood will coincide with Turner Classic Movies’ September 18 evening of programming dedicated to Mario Lanza. You can read Mannering’s notes on the track selection here. This Lanza feast is available from Sony Masterworks on August 27, and can be pre-ordered at the below links! For more information, visit MarioLanza.net!
Mario Lanza, The Toast of Hollywood (Sony Masterworks, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
CD 1: A Tenor at the Movies
- Be My Love
- La Donna e Mobile (from Rigoletto)
- The Loveliest Night of the Year (1951)
- They Didn’t Believe Me
- Because You’re Mine
- Ave Maria (with Eudice Shapiro, violin)
- Brindisi (from La Traviata – with Elaine Malbin, soprano)
- Serenade (from The Student Prince – MGM soundtrack recording)
- Lolita (previously unreleased, from The Coca-Cola Radio Show)
- Che Gelida Manina (from La Boheme)
- Drink, Drink, Drink (from The Student Prince – MGM soundtrack recording)
- Arrivederci Roma (1957 English/Italian Version)
- E Lucevan Le Stelle (from Tosca)
CD 2: A Tenor in Love
- Romance (with spoken introduction)
- Day In, Day Out (previously unreleased)
- What is This Thing Called Love?
- The Night is Young and You Are So Beautiful
- The Best Things in Life Are Free
- A Vucchella (previously unreleased)
- If I Loved You
- For You Alone (with spoken introduction - previously unreleased)
- Make Believe
- I’ll Never Love You (previously unreleased)
- You’ll Never Walk Alone
- Among My Souvenirs
- I Love Thee (previously unreleased)
- My Romance (from RCA LP A Kiss and Other Love Songs)
- Alone Together (with spoken introduction)
CD 1: All recordings are original RCA Victor tracks except Tracks 10, 11 & 13; Track 11 is previously unreleased
CD 2: Most recordings from The Mario Lanza Show. Tracks 2, 6, 8, 10 & 13 are previously unreleased
It has also been speculated that he was murdered.
A truly great voice and a passionate singer