The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Where It All Began

The Jungle Book (1967)

What can I say about the power of the image of an orangutan and a bear in simian drag shaking a tail to the hippest song ever recorded for the small set? But this is my keystone, the defining moment that would craft a nascent cinephile, providing a link to a dying world of show business hepsters (the sublime Louis Prima and Phil Harris) and a limitless window into new worlds heretofore unknown to this then-uncorrupted four-year-old. Later experiences would prove richer, and even more disturbing--Pinocchio and Fantasia come to mind--but The Jungle Book was the first ripple in an ever-growing pond.

I'll never recapture that moment when my eyes were first opened to the projected image, but I can always remember (and perhaps even shake a leg with King Louis and Baloo myself, when no one's around).


Sam said...

It's taken me a while to get up the nerve to coment here. Well, here I am.

I've been a big fan of that film for years. I dunno, there's something I guess about having a bear that sounds like Phil Harris keeping you safe like a cool uncle. Nonetheless, it's a great way to start off a love of movies.

swac said...

Apparently, my first trip to the movies was supposed to be Peter Pan, but I've been told I was being a bad boy that particular day, and had my movie treat revoked.

Thank the Lord.

Ivan G. said...

Although The Jungle Book should be blamed for what soon became all-too-common at Disney (namely, sacrificing character development by just having the character voiced by a celebrity), the casting of Prima, Harris and especially George Sanders as Shere Khan the tiger is just too irresistible to bitch about. And I agree, "I Wanna Be Like You" does rock.

swac said...

I do agree that The Jungle Book was the start of a slippery slope, look at its follow-up Robin Hood for further proof, but I still feel like the choice of those voices for those characters was pretty inspired. Although I wonder how many kids at the time figured out who Prima or Harris was (I'm not even going to bother asking about the kids of today).

Tom Sutpen said...

Sam wrote:

It's taken me a while to get up the nerve to coment here. Well, here I am.

Well, I for one am glad to have you join the fray, Sam.

Tom Sutpen said...

I love "The Jungle Book" and I'd have like to think it was born out of the collective frustration of Disney animators and writers at having to cater to the whims of Uncle Walt all those decades. But it turns out it was the last film Disney supervised (at least in part) before he croaked.

By the way, Louis Prima and Phil Harris, good and wonderful though they are in this film, would have kicked some life into about a half-dozen Disney animated features I can think of by their mere presence alone. Hell, even the non-animated ones. Think of the cobwebs that might have been cleared away from something like "The Parent Trap" or "The Moon Spinners" by Prima turning up and singing a few bars of "When It's Sleepy Time Down South".

Ivan G. said...

"The Moon Spinners" by Prima turning up and singing a few bars of "When It's Sleepy Time Down South"I'm sitting here right now, imagining Prima and Harris doing his signature tune, That's What I Like About the South. What a duet that would be!

swac said...

Now all I can think about is Prima and Harris singing That's What I Like About Song of the South.

Rob said...

Now my brain hurts. I'll never see JB again without thinking of this.