Not many people remember the talents of Dorothy Provine, who despite being skilled in both comedy and music never found a role that would define her to the public.
After signing with Warner Brothers, Dorothy starred in a rather toothless biopic on the life of Bonnie Parker and then, a curious clunker of a science fiction comedy called The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock playing the finacée of Lou Costello. After drinking from a magical spring, her character grows to thirty feet in size. Candy Rock was Costello’s first film after splitting with comedy partner Lou Abbott and wasn’t released until five months after Costello died of a heart attack. Doesn’t exactly give the movie poster creators much to work with, does it?
When Provine was given the chance to shine with decent material, she ran with it. I may not have known her by name until I read about her passing earlier this year, but I certainly remember her as Milton Berle’s angelic put-upon wife in the 1963 Stanley Kramer comedy, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, as well as the fiery saloon singer Lily O’lay, who makes her entrance in the 1965 Blake Edwards comedy The Great Race descending from the top of the stage in a swaying oversize crescent moon to the hoots and gunshots of the drunken clientele! Her song, “He Shouldn’t-a, Oughtn’t-a Swang on Me,” is linked below.
“He Shouldn’t-a” was written by the great Henry Mancini with lyrics by the possibly greater Johnny Mercer, and Provine nails the gritty, campy revenge tale with a wink and a shake. Take a listen. Her performance is the stand-out element of The Great Race. Fast forward until you get to the saloon scene.