Jerome Kern

Till the Clouds Roll By [Original Soundtrack]

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Songwriter Jerome Kern died on November 11, 1945, and one year later MGM Pictures unveiled Till the Clouds Roll By, a 137-minute fictionalized film biography that was really an excuse to fill the screen with production numbers employing famous Kern songs sung by MGM contract players. MGM also took the opportunity to launch MGM Records and issue the first true soundtrack album on four 78 rpm discs: Till the Clouds Roll By, the original motion picture soundtrack, was released as MGM Records catalog number 1. It sold well enough to help establish soundtrack albums as a record industry staple in the post-World War II era, but it was really just a souvenir of the film, and a somewhat altered one at that. The movie may have been stuffed with Kern melodies, but at only eight sides running a total of less than 24 minutes, the album couldn't hope to compete. There were some obvious omissions. Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra, who appeared in the picture, had exclusive recording contracts that prevented their performances from being issued by MGM Records. In Sinatra's case, his rendition of "Ol' Man River," the film's big climax, was replaced by that of Caleb Peterson, who also sang it in the movie and, in fact, came much closer to the expected sound of the song. The real star of the album was MGM's crown jewel, Judy Garland, nominally contracted to Decca Records for recordings, although apparently not exclusively. She sang "Look for the Silver Lining" and "Who?" Elsewhere, performers who might have sung two or more songs onscreen were represented by a single number, such as Lena Horne, whose "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" (which should have earned her the role Julie in the 1951 Show Boat remake) was included, but not her "Why Was I Born?" Similarly, Kathryn Grayson was heard in a duet with Tony Martin on "Make Believe," but her version of "Long Ago and Far Away" was missing. MGM can't be blamed for its commercial considerations in not releasing, say, an eight-disc version of the soundtrack, and must be credited with releasing the album at all. But fans of the movie may have found only some of their favorites among the discs.

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