“Intermezzo” (1941) Glenn Miller/Bill Finegan and (1979) Syd Lawrence/Bill Finegan

“Intermezzo (A Love Story)”

Composed by Heinz Provost; arranged by Bill Finegan.

Recorded live by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra on their CBS Chesterfield radio show on June 24, 1941 in Chicago.(*)

Glenn Miller, first trombone. directing: R.D. McMickle, first trumpet; John M. Best, Ray Anthony and Billy May, trumpets; Paul Tanner, Jimmy Priddy and Warren Smith (**), trombones; Hal McIntyre, first alto saxophone; Wilbur Schwartz, lead clarinet; Al Klink, lead tenor saxophone; Gordon “Tex” Beneke, tenor saxophone; Ernesto “Ernie” Caceres, baritone saxophone; J.C. “Chummy” MacGregor, piano; Bill Conway, guitar; Edward “Doc” Goldberg, bass; Maurice “Moe” Purtill, drums.

The story:

1941 was the year Glenn Miller’s success went from big to gigantic. After struggling through 1937 and 1938, Miller gradually broke through many barriers to public recognition for his band in 1939, and started gaining serious momentum with swing fans through the last several months of that year. His biggest break came at the end of 1939, when his band was selected to appear on the CBS Chesterfield radio show three times a week. Through 1940, with this radio show as his ongoing promotional base, Miller consolidated his success. A number of his RCA/Bluebird records became hits in 1940, including “Star Dust,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “Pennsylvania 6-5000.” Those recordings built on the success of earlier Miller recordings including “Sunrise Serenade,” “Moonlight Serenade” (his theme song) and  “In the Mood.” Another cornerstone of Miller’s success had been his frequent sustaining (non-sponsored) NBC network broadcasts from Cafe’ Rouge of Hotel Pennsylvania through many weeks of 1940 and into 1941.

By early 1941, Miller’s management team began implementation of a plan that would involve a lot of back-breaking work and travel, but would net Glenn a vast sum of money. (Note: To get an estimate of the value in today’s dollars what Glenn Miller was earning in 1941, multiply by 15.) After closing at the Cafe’ Rouge on January 18, he began a tour of theaters, including three weeks at the Paramount Theater in New York, that would end at the Fox Theater in St. Louis on March 20. (At left: Glenn Miller and his band on the stage of the Palace Theater in Cleveland  February 21-27, 1941. They played five shows a day while at that theater.)

While Miller was at the Palace Theater in Cleveland, word began to filter out to the press that his Chesterfield contract had been renewed for another year, at $4,850.00 per week.

From St. Louis, Miller and his band would take separate trains to Hollywood (he rode on the Super Chief with his wife, Helen), where they would begin work on the Fox feature film Sun Valley Serenade on March 24. They would continue working on the film until May 3.

Glenn Miller and his band played the University of Southern California Junior Prom on Friday April 4, 1941 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. This image is from the 1941 USC “El Rodeo” Yearbook, and is posted here through the kindness of David Fletcher, who edited it. The heads in the saxophone section L-R are: Ernie Caceres, Hal McIntyre, Al Klink, Willie Schwartz. GM is bending over. Behind Miller are: Frankie D’Annolfo, Jimmy Priddy and Paul Tanner.

On May 2, Miller and his band opened at the Hollywood Palladium for a three-week stand. Glenn received a guarantee of $4,000.00 a week against a 50% split of all gate receipts. The first week, Miller exceeded his guarantee, receiving $7,800.00. He did similarly well on the next two weeks. That gig ended on May 22. On May 7, Glenn made his first records for Bluebird since the previous February. Among the sides recorded was “Chatanooga Choo-Choo,” which was a prominent part of Sun Valley Serenade. The Miller band played various dance engagements in California into early June, and made two more Bluebird recording sessions in Hollywood, on May 20 and 28. While all of this was going on, Miller and his band continued appearing on their CBS Chesterfield radio show on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. To say that Miller and his band were crazy busy during this time span would be an understatement.

The Miller band worked their way back to Chicago from June 7-10. They enjoyed a light schedule on June 10, 11 and 12, working only on their radio show. On June 13, they opened a week-long stand at the Chicago Theater, closing on June 19, racking up a gross of $46,000.00. Miller then started another road tour that would last until they returned to Manhattan on August 1.

Glenn Miller and his band performing on their Chesterfield radio show on April 23, 1941 in Los Angeles.

By this time, Miller’s success was so strong that he could drive a hard bargain with promoters. Here is an example: On June 22, 1941 Glenn Miller and His Orchestra played a one-nighter at the Modernistic Ballroom, Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 8:30 to 12:30 and drew 5,500 dancers. After negotiating for nearly two years in an effort to reach mutually agreeable terms, Glenn Miller and his band are to play at the Modernistic Ballroom at the Wisconsin State Fair Park on June 22, with the leader practically running the place for the occasion. Contract is said to be the toughest ever signed by C.S. Rose, manager of the suburban dancery. Miller dictates what the admission fee is to be, and refuses to do the broadcast usually heard from the park ballroom over WTMJ. (Miller insisted that) any airing of his music be confined to his (CBS Chesterfield shows). …Admission fee set by Miller is $1.10 per person, or double the usual 55 cents. Miller is taking full advantage of his first personal appearance in the Milwaukee area, and the free list (comps) is out. Miller received a guarantee of close to $2,000.00 against more than 50% of the gate. What this may amount to may be gauged by the fact that Kay Kyser, holder of the Modernistic record, played to 8,500 people on a date there.” (1)  Based on this information, Miller netted about $3,300.00 from his  appearance at the Modernistic Ballroom.

An income tax document showing that Glenn Miller earned $40,000.00 for appearing in the film Sun Valley Serenade.(2)

The music:

“Intermezzo,” also called “Intermezzo – A Love Story,” is a 1939 American feature film remake of a 1936 Swedish version of the same story that used the same title. It stars Leslie Howard as a married virtuoso violinist who falls in love with his accompanist, played by Ingrid Bergman in her Hollywood debut. The film was directed by Gregory Ratoff and produced by David O. Selznick. It features multiple orchestrations of Heinz Provost’s title piece, which won a contest associated with the Swedish film’s production. The screenplay for the American film, by George O’Neil, was based on that of the original film by Gosta Stevens and Gustaf Molander.

The film’s musical score by Lou Forbes was nominated for an Academy Award. Additional credit for the music in the film was given to Robert Russell Bennett, Max Steiner, Christian Sinding, in addition to Heinz Provost, who composed the melody.

I have watched both the 1936 Swedish version of Intermezzo and the 1939 American version. Despite the many contributions to both productions made by many talented people, it is clear to me that the central visual and character presence in both films is Ingrid Bergman. Ms. Bergman, in addition to being a great beauty, exuded both innocence and sensuality in her performances. This gave her character in the films great depth and complexity. David O. Selznick recognized this and signed Bergman to a long-term management contract. By the time the term of that contract ended (during which Ms. Bergman appeared in Casablanca), she was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. (Above left – Ingrid Bergman as she appeared in the 1939 film Intermezzo.)

Glenn Miller was unusually late in presenting “Intermezzo” to his audiences. This is certainly understandable given what he was doing in the first half of 1941. By the time he played this lovely melody for the first time on his Chesterfield show (June 24, 1941), “Intermezzo” had already been recorded by Charlie Spivak, Benny Goodman and Woody Herman, and Tommy Dorsey was playing it on his radio show. Moreover, the lovely Bill Finegan arrangement of “Intermezzo” the Miller band played ran too long to fit onto one side of a regular ten-inch Bluebird record. So Miller never made a commercial recording of it. But he performed it fairly often on radio, and we do have this superb aircheck performance of it to savor.

Glenn Miller, drummer Moe Purtill, Willie Schwartz, Al Klink and Hal McIntyre.

Nowhere in the Miller canon is his trademark reed sound utilized more effectively that it is in this arrangement by Bill Finegan, which exalts the beautiful melody of “Intermezzo.” Clarinetist Willie Schwartz and tenor saxophonist Al Klink were the heart and soul of the Miller reed sound, and their inimitable stamp is on everything they played in that fashion. Their sound together, quite simply, was unique. No other musicians, no matter how talented or skilled, have ever replicated their sound. Consequently, the Miller performances that contain their sound are also unique.

In addition, Finegan’s use of the four trombones in this arrangement is inspired. They provide a low, nappy sound that contrasts most effectively with the reeds, and provide a thick, warm blanket around the four trumpets. Finegan wisely used Tex Beneke’s tenor saxophone as a brief contrast to the sonically rich ensembles. Tex was a master of melodic paraphrase, and his sound on ballads, where he would blow softly, was often sumptuous. Miller was quite aware of this, thus so may Tex solos in that vein. I say Bravo Miller! Those solo enrich the music. Miller aficionados have over the years been critical of the fact that Glenn gave so many tenor saxophone solos to Tex Beneke, and so few to Al Klink, a fine all-around tenor saxophonist. The choice between Tex and Al was not a binary one, and again Miller understood this. Al had plenty of solos. Unfortunately relative few of them were on Miller’s commercial recordings.(3) (Above right: arranger Bill Finegan in 1941.)

“Intermezzo (A Love Story)”

Composed by Heinz Provost; arranged by Bill Finegan.

Recorded by Syd Lawrence and His Orchestra for Beech Park Records in Stockport, England on March 27, 1979.

Syd Lawrence, trumpet, directing: Harry Moffat, Derek Healey, Lennie Moakes and Freddie Staff, trumpets; Don Banks, Chris Dean, David Horler, tenor trombones; Bernie Bean, bass trombone; Andy Taylor and Trevor Bluck, alto saxophones; Norman Brown and Mike Burney, tenor saxophones; Ken Kiddier, baritone saxophone; Ken Williams, piano; Terry Walsh, guitar; Ken Ingarfield, bass; Geoff Myers, drums.

The music:

Although many have tried to capture the essence and spirit of the music made by Glenn Miller’s civilian band, few have accomplished this as well as Englishman Syd Lawrence (1923-1998). This superb performance, in beautiful high-fidelity stereophonic sound, gives the listener a very good sense of what Glenn Miller’s band sounded like in-person. The many felicitous musical details in Bill Finegan’s arrangement are much easier to hear in this recording than they are in the Miller aircheck recording. Especially attractive are the various sounds that come from the trombone quartet, which through much of this performance acts as a sonic foil to the clarinet-led reeds. But both Miller’s and Lawrence’s recordings are a celebration of a lovely, memorable melody.

The recordings presented with this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo. The source recording of the Glenn Miller aircheck of “Intermezzo” was graciously provided by friend of swingandbeyond.com, Richard Claar.

Notes and links:

(*) Some sources have this recording being from a Chesterfield broadcast on July 9, 1941 from St. Louis, Missouri.

(**) The trombonist who regularly occupied that chair in the Miller band, Frankie D’Annolfo, was away from the band for a few days when this recording was made.

(1) The details of Glenn Miller’s activities through the first half of 1941 are derived from Moonlight Serenade … A Bio-discography of the Glenn Miller Civilian Band, (1972) by John Flower, 270-319.

(2) This historic document exists in the Glenn Miller Archives. To learn about all things Miller, go to: https://www.colorado.edu/amrc/glenn-miller-collections

(3) As between Al Klink and Tex Beneke, Klink was clearly the better jazz player, especially at faster tempi.

Here are links to other great performances by Glenn Miller and others playing his music:

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/07/07/in-the-mood-1938-edgar-hayes-and-1939-glenn-miller/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2021/08/02/goin-home-and-slumber-song-1940-glenn-miller/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2021/12/03/moonlight-sonata-1941-glenn-miller-1971-enoch-light/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/11/22/tuxedo-junction-erskine-hawkins-1939-and-glenn-miller-1940/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/08/07/long-tall-mama-1941-glenn-miller-and-billy-may/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/03/21/star-dust-1940-glenn-miller/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2022/07/08/pavanne-1939-glenn-miller/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2021/06/02/guess-ill-go-back-home-this-summer-1939-glenn-miller-bill-challis-featuring-tex-beneke/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2020/03/01/boulder-buff-1941-glenn-miller-with-billy-may-and-al-klink-and-titter-pipes-1965-al-klink-and-tommy-newsome-with-the-tonight-show-orchestra/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/10/20/a-miller-memory-or-how-would-you-ever-have-anything-signed-by-such-a-great-bandleader/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/12/17/jingle-bells-1941-glenn-miller/

https://swingandbeyond.com/2017/09/01/reads-and-re-reads-glenn-miller-declassified-jeep-jockey-jump-1944-glenn-miller-army-air-force-band/

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2 Comments

  1. I saw the Selznick INTERMEZZO before hearing any of the big band treatments and was very impressed with the piece, as well as the film. I consider Miller’s to be the best of the dance orchestra lot; it’s a shame that there’s no studio recording. Despite BG’s classical leanings, I’ve never cared much for his take — probably because I don’t consider Sauter’s writing to have been the best fit for that band (with exceptions here and there, of course).

    It may have been in Stanley Dance’s THE WORLD OF COUNT BASIE that I read a comment from the always outspoken and blunt Jo Jones, in which the master percussionist complained about Tex Beneke’s presence on the Metronome poll winners recordings. He went on to say something about how Tex would have lasted as long as a “snowball in hell” in a cutting contest with … I don’t recall if he mentioned specific names. Well, the manner in which the participants were selected says it all: Many youthful Metronome readers loved the GM band, thus Beneke as one of the two tenors. I’m in complete accord with the general view that Klink was by far the better jazz player in the Miller band, but I have great admiration for Tex’s playing and sound on ballads. There are so many instances in which he shone on the romantic and/or atmospheric, slow numbers. For some reason, I’m thinking of one of my favorite Tex appearances, “Falling Leaves.” His sensitive work on “Intermezzo” is a beautiful moment in a performance otherwise devoted to the great precision and nuance of an extremely well-drilled aggregation. … Chummy, too, must have had fun with his tinkly accompaniment.

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