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Toast With Johnny Green

The Premieregoer

By John D. Leonard

"I haven't had any sleep in seventeen days," announced the man in the blue serge suit with the white carnation.

Johnny Green, Harvard '28, musical director of M-G-M, and composer of Body and Soul, I'm Yours, and I Cover the Waterfront, lounged with loosened tie on the sofa of his Ritz-Carlton suite, and grinned. "Man, these world premieres get you down."

He picked up the telephone. "Would you like some tea?" He ordered two teas and a side of cinnamon toast. "I think you should point this interview toward the opening of Raintree County at the Astor. The musical score is the first I've written in a long time. Good or bad, it's an artistic work. Kind of like an elephant in a hotel lobby; you can't ignore it."

He gazed reflectively out the window at Boston Public Garden. "My interest in music began when I was three. I even majored in music at Harvard until my father made me switch to economics.

"When I was a freshman I organized the Cambridge Serenaders, which later became the Gold Coast Orchestra. I played saxophone in the band for four years, and even did some arranging."

There was a knock on the door, and in came the tea and cinnamon toast, on wheels. "Apparently I was never very attractive to Hasty Pudding, and this hurt me. And when I had a national number song hit in my senior year--that was Coquette-- they wouldn't touch me."

He looked suddenly sincere. "I'm not going to be falsely modest. All right? I've been nominated for the Academy Award eight times, and won it three times, for Easter Parade, American in Paris, and Merry Wives of Windsor."

The telephone rang, evidently a return call. "Well, hello," said Green. "As the sailor said to the girl, you got away before I wanted you to go."

A contralto voice said, "The Dagmar show is out, and Ed Sullivan doesn't look good." Green hung up and took a slice of cinnamon toast. "Did you know," he said, "that Nathan Pusey was a classmate of mine?"

He passed on to more philosophical subjects. "I'm not one of these guys who say any consciousness of cost in an artistic endeavor is vulgar. Efficiency applies to art as well as anything else.

"And, you know, a work of art isn't the same thing as the Harvard band on TV. I don't want to hurt the dignity of Harvard, but I'll be honest. A good snap of me with Nathan Pusey would make the publicity men at M-G-M mighty happy."

He paused. "I'll be honest," he said again. "Tomorrow I'm having tea with Pusey. If the CRIMSON arranged to get a picture of us, it would be good for that article you're writing.

"I mean, that if M-G-M should call up the CRIMSON and offer to buy the snap, why..."

But the tea was getting cold.

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