6. A Date With Judy (1948) Jane Powell
Elizabeth Taylor tries to steal all her scenes by wearing a slight mustache, but Jane Powell, Taylor’s best friend and fellow MGM starlet, is the star of this peek into America before Elvis. Powell (born Suzanne Burce) arrived in Hollywood at age 14. She would have preferred to stay in Portland, because she was looking forward to going to Grant High School, but it was not to be. Portland radio made a star out of Suzanne Burce. Joe Pasternak made a star out of Jane Powell. She made 14 features at MGM, and was the lead in all of them.
7. What’s Opera, Doc? (1957) Mel Blanc
“This afternoon Melvin Blank, a boy with a good voice, will sing a number of solos, accompanied on the piano by his brother.” Mel Blanc’s first write up in The Oregonian gives little indication of what was to come. Portland is where Mel Blanc learned to play the violin, the ukulele, the sousaphone and the stand up bass. Portland is where he became, at age 23, the youngest bandleader on the West Coast. Mel Blanc soaked up everything the Rose City had to offer him except a high school diploma. “I loathed school” he wrote in his autobiography. He left in 1935 for Hollywood, where he would become the Man Of 1,000 Voices.
6. Sleeping Beauty (1959) George Bruns
Here’s a music history scavenger hunt for you. Go to the Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon Rocks exhibit and find George Bruns. He sits holding a trombone in a group photo of a 1940’s Portland jazz band. You’ll have to ID him by his signature because you have never seen his face. You have heard his music. Bruns was Oscar nominated for three of his many film scores: Sleeping Beauty 1959 (his first), Babes In Toyland (1961), and The Sword In The Stone (1963). The Ballad Of Davy Crockett , his first gig for Mr. Disney, sold more that 10 million records. That’s only a small fraction of the take generated by Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life For Me, another Bruns composition you might possibly recognize. George Bruns was born and raised in Sandy, Oregon.
9. Don’t Look Back (1967) Derroll Adams
Born and raised in Portland, Derroll Adams dropped out of Reed to follow his banjo. A senior statesman of the 1960’s folk scene, he famously provided Bob Dylan’s introduction to his British counterpart, Donovan. Well, someone had to do it! D. A. Pennebaker was there to catch it on film. Adams remained in Europe the rest of his life, playing folk music and teaching banjo. That’s him in the foreground at the beginning of the clip.
10. Good Will Hunting (1997), Elliott Smith
Did Gus Van Sant cut Good Will Hunting in Portland? Or was he in LA, playing Elliott Smith in the editing room because he was homesick, when it slowly dawned on him ”Hey I think we’ve got something here…..” ? The soundtrack for this odd little blockbuster about a neurotic orphan with a Robin Williams sized hole in his heart includes Angeles and Miss Misery, which was Oscar nominated. The Dandy Warhols also show up on the soundtrack. Van Sant is himself a musician. Like Smith, he arrived in Portland during his high school years. Unlike Smith, he basically never left.
11. Wildwood (2014), The Decemberists
I’m just guessing here. Laika is planning a stop motion adaptation of Colin Meloy’s and Carson Ellis’ book. They may need some music, and Colin might have some ideas about where it should come from.
Miss the first installment? The first Top Five Movies To See After Visiting Oregon Rocks can be found here.