Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025371, Sun, 4 May 2014 14:41:54 -0700

Re: SIGHTING: Francine Prose on HH re: Maurice Chevalier's "Thank
Heaven for Little Girls"
I believe you have to listen to the audio portion to hear what she says about Humbert Humbert, and the "sleaze" (or other such word) of the lyrics, reminding her of HH, and they play just enough of Chevalier's version to include, I noticed, the line "Those little eyes so helpless and appealing" -- which line, according to an Internet search, is not in the (vanilla) Perry Como version - ah, the 50s in the US, what combinations.  Were/are little girls' eyes helpless? whose eyes? 

Barrie Karp

Dear Barrie,

I know the song 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls' well, so was shocked that Francine Prose says of it that it is a hymn to pedophelia. What a perfectly dreadful woman. And the word she uses is not sleazy - but skeazy, a word I have never come across before and hope to avoid in future.

Further on the page she introduces the song this way: "Chevalier [Maurice Chevalier sings the song in the film 'Gigi'] was one of the many entertainers who had a slightly sketchy history of more or less performing during the Occupation. He certainly did not come out against the occupiers. Unlike, for example, Josephine Baker, who was working for the Resistance, he definitely was not. So after the war, he was in mild disgrace for awhile, and then that kind of cleared up in time for him to sing "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" in Gigi. It was not a song I was listening to writing the book, but it was something about the sketchy, skeezy moral quality of the time that I wanted to get in there. "

So "sleazy/skeezy" seems to refer to some entertainers who continued to perform in German occupied France, as well as to the song or even the story. Personally, I think Prose passes judgement too easily. 

My original response (before checking the link you provided) to you took up your apparent misunderstanding: 

Were little girls' eyes helpless? yes. compared to "one day when they will flash and send you crashing through the ceiling"! (Alan Jay Lerner).

Sleazy? I think not. Though set in the Belle Epoque in the amoral demi-monde, Gigi herself, quite like Lolita, is knowledgeable yet still innocent. Chevalier plays an old roue, at least one past conquest of whose, retains an untarnished fondness for him. Colette's masterpiece is of course a fairy tale (but one based on an actual event, to hear her tell it) and Lerner and Lowe re-tell it with wit and sophistication. But still suitable for little girls. I was one when I first saw it ...


Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/