‘Take Back Your Mink’ and Other Mysteries

One of the things that A, the friend with whom I’m staying this week, and I share is an appreciation of the Broadway musicals of the 1940s and 50s, including once giving a rousing rendition of ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ from the top of the marble staircase in the deserted building at the railway border crossing from Finland into Russia in the middle of the night.  So it was not really that surprising that for the last couple of days I’ve been watching the film of ‘Guys and Dolls’ with her and two of her daughters aged 10 and 12.

It amused me that the children were as keen to watch it (again) as I was.

I learnt all the words to the show from the original Broadway cast recording LP which I played constantly when I was about 8.  We had a borrowed record player, and I danced up and down the basement singing along.  The words are so well embedded that I notice small differences between Vivian Blaines’ performance for the recording and in the movie, and as a purist, I hold with the original.

There are lines which have entered the normal lexicon for my family.  When I had an English teacher called Mrs McKlusky, no-one could resist adding, ‘but Mrs McKlusky ain’t a good scout’ whenever I mentioned my English homework or exams, or, on Grand National Day should anyone decide to make a bet on the race, someone will launch into ‘I got the horse right here…..and there’s a guy that says if the weather’s clear…..’.

One of the songs that I remember enjoying most was ‘Take Back Your Mink’.  I cannot now remember what I thought it meant at the time.  I know I didn’t realise that both this and ‘I Love you a Bushel and a Peck’ were night club songs; I thought they were part of the story, which puzzled me, but which I accepted because so much in life didn’t make much sense to me then.  I do remember asking my mother what ‘to  hollanderize’ meant (a phrase which I don’t think appears in the movie. meaning a process to repair and refresh fur coats), but I didn’t have the visual image of a striptease in my mind.

So I was fascinated to watch this scene in the movie with two young girls after their mother had left the room to prepare supper.  We all sat on the sofa singing along.

‘That must be quite embarrassing, to have to give back the clothes,’ N said.

‘I suppose so.’ C replied.

‘What did was she meant to do in exchange?’ N asked.

‘Don’t know,’ C replied.

I pretended not to have heard, as offering any kind of explanation on such matters is well above my pay grade.  And anyway, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having no idea what’s going on!

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