Magazine article The New Yorker

Hit Parade

Magazine article The New Yorker

Hit Parade

Article excerpt

Alert viewers of "Hitchcock," the new film about the director's struggle to remain relevant, may notice a pair of evocative but elusive music cues. Hitchcock's wife and script doctor, Alma, played by Helen Mirren, goes for a spin in a convertible with a male friend to "Tweedle Dee," a bouncy bit of fifties folderol ("Jiminy cricket, jiminy jack, / You make my heart go clickety-clack"). And when Alma discovers her friend with another woman we hear the same pure voice purring a tango: "Kiss of Fire." Could it be Rosemary Clooney? Peggy Lee?

It's actually Georgia Gibbs, a once indelible star made delible by the passing years. In the fifties, the brassy pixie with the huge smile was "Her nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs!"--a variety-show fixture who'd belt her hits, then smoke and banter with Frank Sinatra and Milton Berle. She was also, as it happens, the beloved step-grandmother of "Hitchcock" 's director, Sacha Gervasi. "My private tribute works for the film," he said, "because she, like Alma, is the forgotten woman."

On a rainy Tuesday recently, Gervasi toured Gibbs's Manhattan from the back of a town car. Resplendent in a black topcoat and a knotted wool scarf, he exuded the brio of one who, at forty-six, has checked all the boxes of the well-rounded life. He was a teen-age roadie for Anvil, and later made the documentary "Anvil! The Story of Anvil"; he worked for Ted Hughes; he was in a band with Gavin Rossdale; he interviewed Herve Villechaize six days before the dwarf actor committed suicide; he was the voice of Jaguar cars; and he fathered an out-of-wedlock child named Bluebell with one of the Spice Girls, in this case, Ginger.

As the car nosed through traffic, Gervasi recalled flying in from London as a child to visit Gibbs and his grandfather on the Upper East Side. "She was really, really small"--five feet one--"but when she would belt out 'Arrivederci Roma,' standing in the kitchen with a chocolate milkshake in one hand and a cigarette in the other, the crystal would rattle." He said that she often spoke about a live show that she did with Danny Kaye at the Paramount Theatre, and the professionalism that was demanded: "She loved Danny, and he gave her her big break, but if she missed her cue to laugh he'd come down on her like a ton of bricks. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.