Monday, September 20, 2010

Colonel Bogey March in The Bridge on the River Kwai

The last song reminded me of today’s song. I wanted so bad to put it here but I often forgot. Now that I decided to post some whistling movie songs again it’s time to say a few words about this tune.

According to Wikipedia, it was written in 1914 by “Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881–1945), a British military bandmaster who was director of music for the Royal Marines at Plymouth”. Still citing its article “Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase (a descending minor third interval) instead of shouting ‘Fore!’. It is this descending interval which begins each line of the melody. Bogey is a golfing term meaning one over par. Edwardian golfers in North America often played matches against ‘Colonel Bogey’”.

In real life, “Colonel Bogey” is the authorized march of The King’s Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) of the Canadian Forces.

In “fictional” life it was whistled, to my knowledge, in two films: The first one is the Alfred Hitchcock’s, The Lady Vanishes, and I’m still looking for this scene. The second one, whoise use of “Colonel Bogey March” gave to the tune the worldwide fame, is The Brigde on the River Kwai, film by David Lean based in the eponymous novel written by Pierre Boulle.

Malcolm Arnold added “Colonel Bogey March” “besides serving as an example of British fortitude and dignity in the face of privation, the ‘Colonel Bogey March’ suggested a specific symbol of defiance to British film-goers, as its melody was tied to a vulgar verse about Hitler [Hitler has got one ball], the leader of Nazi Germany and Japan’s principal ally during the war. Although the mocking lyrics were not used in the film, British audience members of the time knew them well enough to mentally sing along when the tune was heard.*

“Colonel Bogey March” was also whistled in several TV series, like Friends, Doctor Who, Lost, etc.

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