"First you’re another sloe-eyed vamp…"

Yvonne DeCarlo died this week. The general public might have known her best as Lily Munster, but did you know that she was the muse behind some of the greatest masterpieces of Russian music, if only fictionally? She played Cara, the Moroccan cabaret dancer who inspires “Nicky” Rimsky-Korsakov to compositional stardom, in the so-ridiculous-it’s-marvelous Hollywood concoction Song of Scheherazade, a 1947 contribution to the brief but entertainingly wrong wave of composer biopics that swept through studios after the invention of long-playing records, apparently. It may not be up to the level of The Great Waltz (and if you’ve seen that treatment of Johann Strauss, you know exactly which scene I keep hoping will turn up on YouTube—anybody for a ride through the woods?), but as our fledgling naval-cadet-with-a-song-in-his-heart smuggles DeCarlo back to St. Petersburg to sing at the opera, you’re at least in the presence of a certain kind of minor greatness.

DeCarlo went on to introduce the song “I’m Still Here” in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, by the way. Not a bad follow-up.

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