Today I’m writing about Pirates, Peter Pan and the Plank song.
Leonard Bernstein composed a musical version of Peter Pan in 1950. It starred Jean Arthur as Peter Pan and – wait for it – Boris Karloff as Captain Hook (and Mr. Darling). I loved the recording they had (never reissued, darn it) and to this day I can recite huge portions of it. I used one of Hook’s soliloquys as an exercise in my Drama class, and was told that I was cheating.
My father described Karloff’s performance as ‘chewing the scenery’, and he was right. Karloff must have enjoyed himself with the part.
The songs were as good, musically, as you might expect with a composer like Bernstein. The lyricist had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he or she wrote the lyrics. The pirates were especially fun, and whenever one or another of them showed up, you were guaranteed to laugh. They made it a matter of pride to be as nasty as possible. The first time you hear of them, they are singing the pirate song:
– The evilest creatures in all the earth! (sung by the basses)
– the evilest creatures in al the word! (sung by the tenors)
– We are eviler far than the Tenors are!
– it is true that the basses have eviler faces but we are more evil inside!
(click on THIS LINK to go to Amazon and listen to an excerpt of the song)
Captain Hook makes his appearance at last (nice makeup job!) and as he tangles with Peter Pan and captures the Lost Boys he sings today’s song, the plank song:
Oh, there was a man and his name was Frank –
Hey ho for the old man Frank!
But he had bad habits, cursed and drank!
We had to make him walk the plank! – plank! – plank! plank!
It goes into a round, properly raucous. My favorite! If you want to listen, click on THE PLANK SONG (below) nd listen to Boris Karloff sing about walking the plank. I never thought I’d hear it again. I wonder if I can find the whole record…
THE PLANK SONG