Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Monday, June 19

"Freddy" Hollaender and "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T"

Synopsis

Today's date marks the 1953 New York premiere of a musical movie that flopped at the time but has since become a cult classic—and for two very good reasons.

First, the movie's script—written by Dr. Seuss—was about a little boy named Bart who didn't enjoy practicing the piano and who was worried that his widowed mom might marry the dreaded piano teacher, Dr. Terwilliker. The film, entitled "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," is cast as Bart's dream—or nightmare—with surreal scenarios as only Dr. Seuss could imagine them.

Second, the film boasted a score by Frederick Hollander, a composer of droll Berlin cabaret songs who found a welcome home for his talent in Hollywood. For "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T," Hollander crafted witty songs and an extravagant instrumental sequence for a whacky Seussian ballet.

Despite all this, The New York Times reviewer was bored: "a ponderously literate affair," he wrote. Little kids who saw the film in 1953 weren't bored; on the contrary, they were scared silly by the movie. Too dull for The Times, too scary for kids, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" did not do well at the box office in 1953.

The film did have its fans, however, and one was a little boy who DID like to practice the piano—singer and pianist Michael J. Feinstein, who lovingly gathered together all of Hollander's used and unused music for the movie for a limited edition CD-set released in 2010.

Music Played in Today's Program

Friedrich Hollaender (1896-1976) br>5000 Fingers of Dr. T filmscore studio orchestra

Additional Information

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