Answer Man

Sarah Vaughan fan haunted by song in holiday movie

Julie Andrews and James Garner starred in “One Special Night.”
Julie Andrews and James Garner starred in “One Special Night.”

Q. About 15 years ago, there was a made-for-TV movie entitled “One Special Night” with James Garner and Julie Andrews. At one point, Andrews plays a CD of Sarah Vaughan. The problem is I love Sarah Vaughan, but I have yet to figure out the song she is singing. I would love to add it to my collection. Can you please help?

— T.J., of Belleville

A. My first attempt to find an answer for you stunned me. “He doesn’t know this song?” I thought. “How much of a Sarah Vaughan fan can he be?”

But further research produced a total shocker: The singer you likely heard in the film wasn’t sassy Sarah at all, nor was it a song that she could have sung because it was written nine years after she died. Yes, you were duped by the magic of Hollywood. Because of movie budgets, they’ve had you searching in vain for a song you never could have found. What I can give you, though, is what I think is a particularly fascinating example of how the Answer Man works. And, trust me, you’ll be rewarded big time in the end.

As I said, the answer I found initially after just a minute or two of work perplexed me. It came from this review of the 1999 flick by Tom Shales of the Washington Post:

“For good measure, we also get to hear Sarah Vaughan’s recording of ‘Tenderly’ on the soundtrack, accompanying a deftly done winter montage,” Shales wrote.

Wow, that’s odd. Even I, who am no expert on pre-rock-era music, can hum “Tenderly” in my sleep. It’s a beautiful 1946 classic — “The evening breeze caressed the trees tenderly” — made even more powerful by Vaughan’s incredible interpretation. It’s one of her signature songs.

This can’t be, I thought. Could there be another song with the same name? Further searches turned up nothing. Before I put something in the paper, I decided to watch the movie myself and see if Shales’ review jibed with the actual scene. Well, lucky me — someone has uploaded the entire movie without commercials on YouTube. So Saturday night I settled back to solve the mystery.

This is one of those holiday movies you need to watch when your faith in mankind needs restoring. After the first 10 minutes, you’re 99 percent certain how it’s going to turn out, but with the star power of Garner and Andrews, you can’t resist watching it just to feel all warm and gushy at the end.

Garner stars as a cantankerous older man whose wife is dying of Alzheimer’s disease in a care center. He has two daughters. One has stayed in her hometown and is doing her best to raise her young son after separating from her overworking lawyer of a husband. Just to make things more interesting, she’s also seven months pregnant. The other daughter has distanced herself by opening an art gallery in the big city, but has returned for Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, Andrews plays a headstrong pediatric cardiologist whose own heart grew cold after her husband died a few months earlier of prostate cancer.

Add a snowstorm that traps the two stars in an empty cabin for the night and probably anyone older than 10 could finish writing this Hallmark-card of a script. But I was hooked and had no trouble making it to about the 70-minute mark when Andrews slips that disc into her car CD player. You’re expecting Bach or Mozart since she has a passion for the classics. But, no, it’s Sarah Vaughan, probably because Garner earlier told her he favored the big band jazz era, and the good doctor has fallen for him like a ton of stethoscopes.

Well, at least it sounds like Vaughan, but it sure wasn’t the “Tenderly” I know.

“Life is just breathe in and out again,” this song starts. “Keep it short, keep it simple, they say.”

OK, what’s going on? Is this some long intro I had never heard before? Internet searches again produced nothing. I decided to find and write Richard Bellis, who is credited for handling the movie’s music. I hoped he might be nice enough to get back to me within a couple of weeks. On Sunday morning, I found his answer already in my e-mailbox.

“Well, we fooled him and apparently did a pretty good job if he has a Sassy collection,” he began.

I could almost hear him chortling. Bellis, who has worked on dozens of films, then explained what happened.

“The production company could only afford to license the Sarah Vaughan version of ‘Tenderly’ for the initial two network (showings) of the movie,” he wrote. “I was hired to score the movie, and my wife, Gloria, and I wrote the song ‘Seeing You’ for the ‘foreign’ or international version of the film. We cast a jazz singer by the name of Carmen Lundy to channel Sassy, and she apparently did a helluva job.”

Indeed she did. We’re betting you were fooled by the substitution of Lundy singing “Seeing You” for Vaughan’s “Tenderly” by the time you saw the film. But just so there are no hard feelings, here’s your reward: Bellis was gracious enough to send me an mp3 copy of Lundy’s performance, which I will send on to you. The magic of Hollywood lives on.

Today’s trivia

In what country would you find construction projects delayed or canceled to ensure that elves aren’t disturbed?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: On May 24, 1915, Arthur Hale, a civil engineer in Maryland submitted a radically new idea to enhance traffic flow to the U.S. Patent Office. Nine months later he was issued Patent No. 1,173,505 for a “Street Crossing” that we call a cloverleaf interchange. And, in 1929, drivers reportedly negotiated the first cloverleaf at Route 25 and Route 4 in Woodbridge Township, N.J. The first one west of the Mississippi is thought to have opened Aug. 20, 1931, at Watson Road and Lindbergh Boulevard in St. Louis.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or call 618-239-2465.