Ella Fitzgerald Recording Will Be Released After More Than 60 Years in Record Label Vault

Ronald Dumont / Stringer / Gett Images
Ronald Dumont / Stringer / Gett Images

Ella Fitzgerald ascended to jazz royalty with her pitch-perfect renditions of "A-Tisket, A-Tasket," "Summertime," and tunes from the Great American Songbook. Now, Verve Records plans to release a Fitzgerald recording from the 1950s that’s never been heard by fans. As WBGO reports, Ella at Zardi’s will make its public debut on December 1 after 60 years in the record label’s vault.

Fitzgerald sang the two sets featured on the album in 1956 after signing with Verve Records, a label her manager Norman Granz formed specifically for her. She was days away from recording Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book, a turning point in her career, and she spent her nights practicing songs at Zardi’s Jazzland in Hollywood. The recording opens with Granz introducing Fitzgerald, describing her as “the greatest there is,” before she dives into her performance of “It All Depends on You.” The new release will mark the first appearance of the song on a Fitzgerald album.

After Verve recorded the sets at Zardi’s on February 2, 1956, they stowed the tapes away in the vault, where they lay buried for decades. The decision to finally share the music with the public comes on the year of the singer’s centennial celebration, marking what would have been her 100th birthday.

The full 21-track album will be available digitally and as an audio CD when it comes out at the beginning of next month. Listeners can preorder it today on Amazon.

[h/t WBGO]

8 Provocative Facts About the X Film Rating

iStock/tolgart
iStock/tolgart

When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the modern movie ratings system in 1968, they couldn’t have known that one of their classifications would become the calling card of pornography. The X rating, intended to denote films not suitable for anyone under the age of 17, went from being attached to Academy Award contenders to filling video store spaces located behind saloon doors. Fifty years after its debut, we’re taking a look at the most infamous letter in moviegoing history.

1. ACCEPTING THE RATING WAS VOLUNTARY (KIND OF).

In 1968, the MPAA and its president, Jack Valenti, introduced a four-tier system to classify films. G was suitable for all audiences; M was the equivalent of PG (which replaced M in 1970), indicating that juveniles should consult with a parent before attending; R was intended for adults, or children only with a guardian present; X marked films that shouldn’t be seen by adolescent eyes. But the MPAA never forced a film studio to submit to its decision. It could release a film with no rating at all. The problem? The MPAA’s arrangement with the National Association of Theater Owners meant that an unrated film would almost certainly have difficulty finding a theater to screen it.

2. A ROBERT DE NIRO MOVIE WAS THE FIRST TO GET SLAPPED WITH AN X.

Immediately after the introduction of the new MPAA system, the advisory board got its first bona fide sample of an X-rated submission: Director Brian De Palma’s Greetings, a 1968 film starring Robert De Niro as a New Yorker confronting the possibility of being drafted, garnered the rating due to its sexually explicit content, including nudity that would likely earn an R rating today. (De Palma would later run afoul of the MPAA multiple times; 1980's Dressed to Kill, 1981's Blow Out, and 1983's Scarface were all threatened with an X before being edited.)

3. FILMMAKERS COULD GIVE THEMSELVES THE RATING.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it was quickly going to become taboo, there was a time when an X rating for a mainstream film was a badge of honor and an effective marketing tool that signaled a film was being made for discerning moviegoers—not just viewers looking for titillation. Arthur Krim, the head of United Artists, willingly gave 1969’s Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight film Midnight Cowboy an X of his own volition even after he realized the MPAA would give the film an R designation. (The MPAA later applied an R to the movie in 1971.)

4. IT WAS WELCOME AT THE ACADEMY AWARDS.

The X rating was not an impediment to critical or commercial acclaim. In 1970, Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture at the Academy Awards; Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, released in 1971, earned four Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture; Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972), starring Marlon Brando as a sex-obsessed American in France, got two nominations, including Brando for Best Actor.

5. THE XXX MARK MAY HAVE STEMMED FROM AN ALCOHOL DESIGNATION.

A neon XXX sign
iStock/07_av

In the hyperbole of film marketing, studios and advertisers didn’t believe one X was enough. Some films, like 1968’s Starlet!, were advertised as having an unofficial XXX designation to signify it was even more intense than other adult-oriented films. The label may have come from an old practice of denoting the strength of beer with a X, XX, or XXX label.

6. PORN TOOK OVER THE RATING DUE TO AN MPAA OVERSIGHT.

A rating of X in 1969 was no big deal. By the mid-1970s, it signaled to audiences that they were about to watch an anatomy lesson. That’s because the burgeoning adult film industry of the 1970s was screening films in theaters—VHS was not yet a household acronym—and blared advertisements with promises of “XXX” salaciousness. The MPAA never reviewed these films, and titles like 1972’s Deep Throat and 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas used the mark freely. The reason? The MPAA never bothered to copyright X as it applies to film ratings, allowing anyone to use it. In short order, the X rating became synonymous with pornography and grew into a scarlet letter for films. No reputable theaters would book such movies, and few newspapers would take ads for them.

7. PEOPLE COLLECT X-RATED FILMS.

The seedy, lurid films that applied their own X (or XXX) ratings in the 1970s and 1980s have developed a small but devout following of collectors who have a “strong desire to own, preserve, and reclaim erotic history,” according to one aficionado who spoke with The New York Times in 2014. These specialists focus mostly on the 16mm and 35mm films that were produced prior to the advent of VHS.

8. ONE STUDIO SUED OVER IT.

Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in 'Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!' (1989)
Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
The Criterion Collection

When the MPAA gave an X rating to the 1989 Pedro Almodóvar drama Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Miramax decided to sue, claiming such a label would harm the film financially. The studio lost the suit, but it signaled the end of the war.

In 1990, a year that saw 10 movies get slapped with an X, the MPAA overhauled the ratings system. It dropped the X in favor of NC-17, which it hoped would distance films with artistic merit from pornographic material. And this time, the pornography industry couldn't co-opt it: Learning from its past mistake, the MPAA trademarked the designation.

Alex Trebek Knows He Sometimes Sounds Like a 'Disappointed Dad' on Jeopardy!

 Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

If longtime Jeopardy host Alex Trebek seems disappointed any time a contestant misses a seemingly simple clue, it's because he is. Or at the very least, coming off as stern and perhaps a little smug is part of his television persona.

As The Ringer once put it, "Trebek has two settings: mildly, politely impressed and Disappointed Dad." Now, in a recent interview with Vulture, Trebek has addressed the perception that he not-so-secretly judges contestants with an air of paternal reproach. As it turns out, he knows exactly what he's doing. "I know that 'You've disappointed daddy' is a tone I'm striking," he said. "It's also, "How can you not get this? This is not rocket science."

The example cited by Vulture is an episode from earlier this year in which none of the contestants could correctly answer a question about football. Trebek said he "had fun with it" by poking fun at their cluelessness. "I looked at the players and said, 'If you guys ring in and get this one, I will die,'" he said. "The gaps in people's knowledge never cease to amaze me. And on occasion, all three players have the same gap. But football? America's game?"

Also among Trebek's pet peeves: When contestants wager too little on daily doubles, and when they jump around within categories. The questions, he says, are designed to flow from top to bottom. "If you jump to the bottom of the category you may get a clue that would be easier to understand if you'd begun at the top of the category and saw how the clues worked," he says. "I like there to be order on the show, but as the impartial host I accept disorder."

Even though Trebek sometimes expresses disappointment in Jeopardy contestants, he admits that he doesn't know everything—which may come as a shock to some.

"People think because I'm the host of a fairly serious, intelligence-based quiz show that I must know all the answers," he said. "I do—because they're written on a sheet of paper in front of me. And audiences are always surprised when they discover that I like to fix things around the house, that I'm not a nerdy person who spends all his time researching information that might come in handy on Jeopardy. But I don't mind surprising people in that way."

[h/t Vulture]

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