Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s On Me–Commemorating the 100th Anniversary

Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Johnny Mercer's Birth

You know the songs.  “Hooray for Hollywood”; “Jeepers Creepers”; “That Old Black Magic”; “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe”; “Skylark”; “Blues in the Night”; “Moon River”; “The Days of Wine and Roses.”  Some of the most beloved tunes of the 20th century came from the pen of a Georgia-born lyricist, singer and composer named Johnny Mercer, whose solo and collaborative efforts have kept the world singing for more than eight decades. 

Now, from Oscar-winning director and producer Clint Eastwood, comes the story of renowned music lyricist, Broadway producer and Capital Records co-founder Johnny Mercer in Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s On Me, out on DVD November 3, 2009 from Warner Home Video (WHV). 

 

Produced by Rhapsody Productions in association with TCM, Warner Home Video, and Arena/BBC and commissioned by the Johnny Mercer Foundation, the special is executive produced by Eastwood, and produced and directed by Bruce Ricker (Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends). Chronicling the life and work of Johnny Mercer, who left his mark on Hollywood with his celebrated songs, this documentary features rare interviews and performances by Johnny Mercer himself and includes movie and television clips of Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, Fred Astaire, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Tony Bennett, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and others.

 

There are many bonus materials packed onto an extra disc, including the featurette “At the Piano with Clint” and performances by jazz musicians such as Audra McDonald, Michael Feinstein, Jamie Cullum, Dr. John, and Morgan Eastwood

In a co-promotional partnership, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will air Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s On Me on November 4 with repeat airings during the month. TCM will complement the premiere of Johnny Mercer: The Dream’s On Me with presentations of several classic films on which he worked every Wednesday night in November. 

 

Titles include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Blues in the Night (1941), Hollywood Hotel (1937), The Harvey Girls (1946), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), The Days of Wine and Roses (1962), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Li’l Abner (1959) and The Belle of New York (1952). On Nov. 18, the anniversary of Mercer’s birth, TCM will devote the entire day’s schedule to his work.

Also to be released on November 3 is the CD companion to the DVD, entitled Clint Eastwood Presents: Johnny Mercer The Dream's  On Me – A Celebration of His Music. This CD will feature an array of Johnny Mercer-penned tracks, with performances by Mercer himself as well as some of the many artists who were influenced by his music.

Admired and praised by the likes of Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer has been described as one of this country’s greatest folk poets.  Born and raised in Savannah, Ga., he grew up surrounded by the beauty of marshes, rivers and seacoast, and his lyrics often reflect the imagery of the natural world.  They also echo the cadence and expressions of the African-American culture, the witty wordplay of William Gilbert and Noel Coward and the populism of Tin Pan Alley.

Mercer began his rise to fame as a singer/songwriter for legendary jazz conductor Paul Whiting.  In 1935, he began working in Hollywood writing songs and occasionally appearing in small musical roles.  Throughout his extraordinary career, he wrote songs for nearly 100 films, picking up four Oscars and 16 nominations.   His more than 170 collaborators include Richard Whiting (“Hooray for Hollywood”) Harry Warren (“Jeepers Creepers” and  “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe”); Hoagy Carmichael (“Lazybones” and “Skylark”); Jerome Kern (“I’m Old Fashioned”); Harold Arlen (“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” “Blues in the Night,” “That Old Black Magic” and “One For My Baby”); Henry Mancini (the Academy Award-winning songs “Moon River” and “The Days of Wine and Roses”);  Johnny Mandel (“Emily”); and John Williams (“The Long Goodbye”).

In addition to his musical creativity, Mercer co-founded Capitol Records in 1942.  He persuaded a number of stars to record on the Capitol label, among them Jo Stafford, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Stan Kenton and his former boss, Paul Whiteman. 

For all his success as a writer, performer and record producer, Mercer had one great ambition left unfulfilled: a successful Broadway production.  In 1946, he partnered with Arlen on St. Louis Woman.  The show produced several hit songs, including “Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home” and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” but it was plagued with production problems and harsh criticism for its inadequate book.  It would be 1956 before Mercer finally realized his dream of a hit Broadway show with L’il Abner.

Mercer passed away in 1976 in Los Angeles after suffering complications from surgery to remove a brain tumor. He is buried in his hometown of Savannah in the Bonaventure Cemetery, overlooking the Wilmington River, which served as the inspiration for his lyrics to the song “Moon River.” He earned a posthumous Tony nomination in 1983, when Seven Brides for Seven Brothers became a Broadway musical.  The Mercer House, which was built by his grandfather, later became the setting for the bestselling novel and subsequent Clint Eastwood-directed film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES

* “At the Piano” with Clint Eastwood, John Williams and Jamie Cullum
* Song performances by legendary musicians such as Audra McDonald, Michael Feinstein, Jamie Cullum, Dr. John, and Morgan Eastwood.
* “Bio Text” – a brief essay about Johnny Mercer