|The Films of Petula Clark |
Petula Clark rehearses with Fred Astaire and Don Francks for her first Hollywood film, Finian's Rainbow, on theater-in-the-round at Warner Bros. studios.
Below, Pet, 33, is a bi-generational, multilingual hit.
|Petula Clark |
After 32 million records she goes "Downtown" Hollywood
by Susan Vibert
I was 10 when I first saw her sing on BBC TV. At 16 I was dancing to her Ya, Ya Twist. My parents remember her as Britain's Shirley Temple, singing to the troops in the Second World War. But when I left England I thought I had also left behind me all those British institutions, like egg cozies, double decker buses and Petula Clark.
"I enjoy this immensely," Pet chuckles. "It's a riot trying to keep up with Fred Astaire's dancing, and Tommy is a scream." Compatriot Tommy Steele says of Pet, "The word is talent. She's got loads of it.
Petula says:"...I'm no message singer. I just want my audience to feel happier, warmer and more confident. I am perfectly aware of all the horror in the world. I know everything isn't all honey and fabulous. But I use my music to combat my fears, not to express or dwell on them.
I want to be judged by my work, not by any great remarks I might make. You know, I don't know that I am even all that interesting to talk to. I only feel exciting when I am up there on stage. There is nothing like the physical sensation of singing. I vibrate with excitement. I can feel it. That's my world up there, with a big band shoving me along.
The theater seems to be the best way to reach people. There's so much emphasis on things that we are losing touch with people but I seem to be able to make contact when I sing. That's why I like to sing to a mixed group of old and young. Each group accepts something they wouldn't have if the other group hadn't been there. You can get very close to an audience during a two-hour concert. I arrive on stage as a stranger and leave as a friend. Just about the most exciting time is when people come and talk to me afterwards. I always sign autographs. It's a good way to meet people. They often come and unload their problems to me. I don't know why. They just do. I could go on talking to them for hours, young and old.
That's when my husband comes in. He always hurries me on. He is very important in all of this. He's French, realistic and practical. As my manager he looks after the business side.
"I use my music
my fears--not to
He and my farther are the two people who have helped me most. My father was always mad about show -biz and still is. It was he who started me on my way. My first appearance was at a local church social when I was seven. I was given spirituals to sing. Now I choose my own numbers!
I like to sing outgoing songs. Tony Hatch writes most of them now. He's English too and seems to be able to find just the right way of saying things. His biggest hits are" Downtown, I Know a Place, Round Every Corner and Don't Sleep in the Subway. I write songs too, usually music but sometimes the lyrics.
Of course, some of those I write are very personal, especially Two Rivers. Only I can sing that. The two rivers are the Seine and the Thames.
It's about our marriage. I wrote it to explain to my family and to the people of England why I had gone over to France and married a Frenchman. They hadn't been able to understand it at first. I still love England. And I have great faith in the youth over there. They are very serious people.
Two homesick Celts (Fred Astaire) and his daughter, Sharon (Pet) sing How are Things in Gloccamorra?
At the mike
and on the set
Director Francis Ford Coppola discusses a scene with Pet
You know when Claude and I first met I couldn't speak any French and he didn't know a word of English. Then he started studying secretly in the bathroom, and I picked up French to such an extent that I was sent to Algeria and Tunisia as a French artiste.