Released by MGM in 1947, this 3 disc 78 rpm set is one of the earliest Halloween records I have. Narrated by Lionel Barrymore and based on a performance he produced at the Hollywood Bowl in 1945, it’s a real departure from the more frightening manifestations of the supernatural that we tend to associate with the holiday. As Barrymore explains it in his liner notes:
“This is the story of a little girl named Myrtle, and Myrtle’s dreams of wonderful things. It’s the story of Boo Boo the big bear in the woods who stole little children, and of six delightful little elves who popped out of eggs and rescued Myrtle from the bear. […] For the benefit of grown-ups, (although you children may be interested, too) I originally wrote the composition for piano and narrator, but since then prepared it for a symphony orchestra. I felt the story had great musical possibilities, especially the scene where the little elves become hypnotized by a flame of light.”
Mr Barrymore is helped here by conductor Miklos Rozsa, soprano Marion Bell (Myrtle), tenor Edward Lear (Bertle the shoemaker),and “deep, deep bass singer” John Ford (the fearless woodman). While this certainly isn’t going to frighten anyone (nor was that the intent), as a window into the 60-years-past world of “Hallowe’en” (and kid-culture), I found it pretty interesting. For an opposing viewpoint though, let me quote my friend Scott (who originally made me a cassette transfer of the 78’s years ago): “You know how that thing is subtitled ‘a musical fantasy’? That’s because it’s a complete fantasy that anyone would ever want to hear it more than once”. But hey, he’s a cynic.