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11:28 PM ET (US)
In the Bessette bio of ML there is an amusing picture of an indeed FAT, young Mario at the Hollywood Bowl in 1944. Thumbs hooked on his belt, it looks as though he's singing. Maybe trying out the acoustics of the place.
Gail Swartz
10:53 PM ET (US)
I think that Mario already had a fan base...the army tours, the Bel Canto Trio, as well as his hometown, and his concerts in Canada. People loved to hear him sing like he was singing just for them. I recall one radio interview with K. Grayson where she said that her family, Howard Keel's and Mario's would get together for pizza at the home of his parents. Funny thing in that interview...Mario said that mashed potatoes were used in the lobster shells, but I could n o t find any lobsters in the bayou scene that took 3days to film(TTONO).
Fred Day
10:17 PM ET (US)
It was Keel who became a singing Clark Gable. Keel in Showboat looked just like Gable in Gone With The Wind. Keel and Earl Wrightson sounded very similar. But nobody looked or sounded like Lanza. He was entirely unique. In Midnight Kiss, he became a star overnight. Movie goers immediately sat up and took notice. Lanza had it all - personality, handsome looks, and a magnificent tenor voice. He was the whole package. Mayer had made an amazing discovery. Mayer should have never been ousted by Dore Schary. With Mayer in charge, The Student Prince would have been successfully completed with Lanza. And with Thorpe instead of Bernhardt directing. Fate intervened. Pity. Ciao.
07:44 PM ET (US)
I wonder if M-G-M thought of signing George London, too ? But then, they had baritones like Howard Keel and John Carroll. A few years before that, soprano Irene Manning, who had been at Warner Bros., brought Mario to Warner Bros. But Jack L. Warner thought Lanza was heavy in stature. I think he was still in the Army. When "That Midnight Kiss' was released, Jack Warner was amazed at the change he saw. Terry Robinson was credited in having Lanza lose weight. Louis B. Mayer introduced Terry to Mario and that's how they became friends.
Martino to David
06:52 PM ET (US)
Yes, that photo does not show a heavy set man at all, as was described by Kathryn. I wonder why she said things like that?In fact, he looks darn good and very healthy. I always like Howard Keel, in some ways he reminded me of slightly less heroic form of his contemporary, Stewart Granger - but with a voice. I think both Granger and Keel were friends, or at least fans, of Mario Lanza. People like these guys are few and far between in movies these days.
David Weaver
01:49 PM ET (US)

Kathryn's mixed up in a few areas. Not just the year but the act - it was not the Bel Canto Trio, only Yeend and Mario (George London was in the audience).

The problem, as Costa described, was that Mario wore clothes that seemed to emphasize his width, not his height (and he was NOT a tall man). Terry said he looked monstrous because he had a 50-inch chest. I've attached a photo of Mario just before the HB concert. This is not a fat guy.

You're right about Mayer's desire to find a suitable singing partner for Grayson. Which brings up another thought - without Grayson, would MGM have signed Lanza?

Before Lanza, Grayson was making movies with Sinatra and Kelly. Obviously they weren't going to do duets with her, so most of musical numbers in her pictures were solo specialties. To do a big musical as they'd done with MacDonald and Eddy, they needed a counterpart. They found one in Lanza.

And two years after him, they found an even better match for Grayson when they signed Howard Keel.

Mayer did enjoy opera and ballet, according to his bio, and enjoyed concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. He was especially fond of their annual concert of the music of John Philip Sousa.
Edited 11-18-2017 06:06 PM
Martino to David
01:08 PM ET (US)
You could be right but I have to think Mayer knew something about music. I do not know if he had a good tenor in his stable to pair with Grayson at that time but Lanza's singing that night would certainly be the cue for Mayer to give him a chance. He had plenty of handsome men at the studio but could they sing arias as well as songs? I have no idea how much Mario weighed at the time but as far as Lanza's weight was concerned here is a quote by Grayson herself which seems to contradict the notion he was a "slim" man when Mayer met him:

“I went to the Hollywood Bowl in 1948 (I guess Kathryn got the year mixed up as well) with Mr. Mayer, his secretary Ida Koverman and my husband to hear Mario sing with the Bel Canto Trio,” Grayson recalled. “He had such a beautiful voice. He came to the studio the next day and we sang together for the benefit of the sound technicians. Their verdict was that we sounded great together. The only problem was Mario’s weight. He was heavyset.”

But trimming a few stone from a leading man wasn’t much of a hurdle for a studio that boasted of creating “more stars than there are in the heavens.”

“I lent Mario my masseuse to help him trim down, and in a few months we were ready to start filming our first picture, That Midnight Kiss, which was followed soon after by The Toast of New Orleans.”
David Weaver
12:24 PM ET (US)
I'm going to go out on a limb and say Louis B. Mayer did not give two hoots in hell what Mario Lanza sang that night at the bowl. If you asked him what Mario sang that night, he couldn't tell you without looking at the program.

Mayer judged performers on one criteria - their potential appeal to a movie audience. I am sure he was impressed with Mario's voice, but more than that, what he saw and heard at HB was a slim, handsome man with charisma and the ability to connect with an audience. From all indications, the audience, while small in size, loved Lanza. And the reviews he got were ecstatic. But if it was the singing that Mayer was interested in - why not bring Yeend to MGM, too? She had a fine voice (better by far than Kathryn Grayson), was shapely and attractive. Nope, he had no need for the likes of a Yeend - he already had a soprano star in Grayson, with young Jane Powell already beginning her move in to more adult musical leads at the studio.

Costa wrote about Lanza's first meeting with Joe Pasternak a few days later - that it didn't occur to Joe or Mayer or anyone else that at the point, Lanza was nearly 100 pounds below his top weight.

I've said this before: had Mario Lanza appeared at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947 looking and sounding like the guy in "Serenade" or "For the First Time" - even with some of the impressive singing he did in those films - he'd never have had an offer from MGM. In 1947, they were looking for a movie star - not an opera singer.
Martino to David/Fred
06:39 AM ET (US)
Thanks for the correction. I thought he had sung that aria at the 1947 concert. It must have been the great Improvviso Lanza sang that impressed Mayer the most and obviously not Nessun Dorma. I had heard somewhere that Mayer was most impressed with one particular aria he heard that night and I assumed it was his Nessun Dorma.
Deleted by topic administrator 11-18-2017 08:13 AM
Fred Day
02:26 AM ET (US)
I should add that Lanza sang O Soave Fanciulla at both his first and second HB concerts: first with Yeend, second with Grayson. Ciao.
Fred Day
02:19 AM ET (US)
Martino: Lanza did not sing Nessun Dorma at his first HB concert in Aug 1947. He sang it at his 2nd HB concert in July 1948. At his first HB concert, he sang Una Furtiva Lagrima, Improviso from Chenier, & E Lucevan le Stelle, plus 3 duets with Yeend. At his 2nd HB concert he sang Agnus Dei, Nessun Dorma, and 2 duets with Grayson. At his 3rd HB concert in Aug 1949, he sang Celeste Aida and the Rigoletto duet with Mary Jane Smith. Unfortunately, that Celeste Aida is lost, and has yet to be found. Ciao.
David Weaver
02:00 AM ET (US)
Martino, your account is slightly off re Lanza and "Nessun dorma." He did not sing that aria at the August 1947 Hollywood Bowl concert that led to his signing with MGM - he sang it at his second bowl appearance in July 1948. His solos at the bowl debut where Mayer first heard him were "Una furtive lagrima," the Improvviso from "Andrea Chenier," and, as an encore, "E lucevan le stelle." And two duets with Frances Yeend: "Parigi o cara" and the love duet from "Madama Butterfly."

Three days later, he appeared at the MGM studios to sing for a number of MGM producers. From them, Joe Pasternak told Mayer he wanted to make a picture with Lanza.
Diane Cox
11:42 PM ET (US)
Tomorrow is the HD broadcast to movie theaters across the world of the Met's production of Exterminating Angel, sung in English.
06:21 PM ET (US)
Thanks for the information about if Lanza was still alive, when "For The First Time" was released. Among the t.v. shows that focused on classical music, opera, were "The Voice of Firestone", "The Bell Telephone Hour", Leonard Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts"(Bernstein was at Tanglewood with Mario Lanza). Sometimes, Ed Sullivan had classical singers on his t.v. variety show. Sometimes, PBS TV will air a Broadway Musical, an operetta, an opera. The Met still has operas broadcasted , on radio(usually, NPR) on Saturday afternoons.
Martino to Joe
03:56 PM ET (US)
Yes, Be My Love is the song that had the most impact on his career and legacy, but it had nothing to do with launching it. He was already in Hollywood making pictures and he sang it in his second movie. I mentioned Nessun Dorma as having an impact on launching his movie career because the concert he sang the aria in was the first time Louis B. Mayer of MGM heard him and fell instantly in love with his voice. Mayer, along with his star studio soprano, Kathryn Grayson, went to the Hollywood Bowl that night to hear the Bel Canto Trio but were there primarily to hear Mario Lanza. Mayer was so impressed that he had Lanza come to the studio the very next day and sing with Grayson for the sound technicians. The voice took to the soundtracks beautifully and the vote was unanimous - Lanza was given a contract and his movie career was launched.

It is my opinion that the highlight at that evening's concert had to be the Nessun Dorma and when Mayer heard that wonderful rendition, Lanza's life would be changed forever.
Edited 11-17-2017 03:57 PM
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