New Johnny Mercer DVD Collection from TCM is a Must-Have for Music Fans

15 Feb

Can’t wait to see this new Clint Eastwood production. As many of you know, Clint is a huge Jazz fan and has always stated his admiration for Johnny Mercer, a master songsmith from Savannah, GA. Mercer’s body of work is truly amazing … as you will learn in this loving, 2-disc DVD tribute released to mark what would have been Johnny’s 100th birthday.

Here is the glowing review from DVD Talk …

Johnny Mercer is a name not everyone may know, but you can almost guarantee that everyone knows one of his songs. A lyricist whose wit and sentimentality, as well as his eye for talent, defined popular music from the Great Depression through the early 1970s, Mercer has written such classics as “Moon River,” “Jeepers, Creepers,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” and “One for My Baby (And One More for the Road).” Hell, if you’ve ever seen Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck sing “My momma done told me…” then you’ve heard Johnny Mercer. They are riffing on his song “Blues in the Night,” written with Harold Arlen in 1941.

November 18, 2009, marked the centennial of Mercer’s birth, and it’s on this occasion that executive producer Clint Eastwood, director Bruce Ricker, and Turner Classic Movies put together the celebratory documentary Johnny Mercer “The Dream’s on Me”, named for another 1941 tune the writer cooked up with Arlen. The movie is part biography, part archive, and part recontextualization, taking Mercer’s tunes and putting them in the hands of modern singers like Jamie Cullum and Dr. John to show they are still relevant today.

Ricker builds the film based on the songs, letting them create the map for how he will weave through Mercer’s history. He covers all aspects of Mercer’s life: early childhood in Georgia, his trek to Hollywood, his love for his wife Ginger and affair with Judy Garland, the many musical collaborators, and an aspect of the story I didn’t know, that Johnny Mercer was one of the co-founders of Capitol Records, signing Nat “King” Cole as one of his first artists. Many of Mercer’s tunes were written for the movies, and relevant clips of their staging are shown alongside television performances from the 1950s and 1960s featuring Cole, Andy Williams, Lena Horne, Dinah Shore, and many more–most notably, Mercer himself in quite a few of them. There is also a ton of later footage of Mercer appearing on the Merv Griffin talk show and on the BBC talking about his art. He’s a dashing raconteur, often rolling straight out of an anecdote and into a song, his pianist jumping right in with him.

Interspersed in this is Eastwood organizing performances in a studio, sitting alongside composer John Williams, listening to stories from Michael Feinstein, or capturing singers like Maude Maggart or even his own daughter. There are also new interviews with Blake Edwards, Andre Previn, Tony Bennett, and Julie Andrews, all of whom either collaborated with Mercer or performed his music in some way.

This archival video features a Mercer duet with Nat King Cole

Overall, Johnny Mercer “The Dream’s on Me” is an informative, lively look at the man and his art, a testament to the vitality of the material and an appreciation for the creative mind behind it. I was unaware of Mercer’s vast influence, as well as his own accomplished career as a performer. (The film doesn’t even touch on his famous recording of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” sung with Margaret Whiting in 1949 and released on his then young Capitol label; I am sure I am not the only one who thought Mercer actually wrote the famous track.) For any fan of old movies or of vintage jazz, chances are you have appreciated Mercer’s songcraft at some point, and Johnny Mercer “The Dream’s on Me” will make you appreciate it even more.

Read more about Mr. Mercer @ and

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