Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Great Dane Pt 1




Of all of the live performances that I've been fortunate enough to witness, my two favorites were both given by the same man:  Victor Borge.






I was lucky enough to see him twice in the 1980's, including his 80th Birthday tour - and of course, I've seen his PBS specials many times.   If you don't know this Great Dane, then prepare yourself for a good time.


But first, a little about the man who narrowly escaped the Nazi's clutches, and who emigrated to the United States and became a radio star before he learned the English Language.



Born Børge Rosenbaum in Copenhagen, Denmark, Borge took up piano at the age of 3, and it was soon apparent that he was a prodigy.  In 1918, at the age of 9, he was awarded a full scholarship at the Royal Danish Academy of Music.


Borge's first few years were spent as a classical concert pianist. Later he  added his signature blend of piano music and jokes, which expanded his appeal. In 1933, he married American Elsie Chilton, and began touring extensively in Europe, playing classical music, and telling anti-nazi jokes.


Reportedly, Hitler was incensed by Borge's taunts, and after Germany invaded Denmark, Borge managed to escape from Europe on the last passenger liner (USS American Legion) to leave prior to the war.


He arrived in the United States with only $20 in his pocket. 


Despite not speaking English, Borge adapted his jokes to an American audience, learning his lines phonetically.   He took the name Victor Borge, and in 1941 he was featured on the Rudy Vallee radio show. 


Soon after, he was hired as a regular on Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall, and would appear on a number of other radio shows as well. 


He was pronounced "the best new radio performer of the year" in 1942  by the American press, and became a naturalized American citizen in 1948.

His radio career expanded, and in 1946 NBC gave him his own radio show.  When television came around, his physical humor translated extremely well to the new medium. 


In the 1950's, his broadway show, Comedy in Music, ran for 849 performances - a record for a one-man show.



Watching Victor Borge perform is to watch a man genuinely amused by his own success.   He's obviously having a good time, loves to interact with the audience, and appears to be enjoying the show as much as the audience. 


A more beloved performer would be hard to find. 


Although famous for his comedic piano playing, Borge also created `Phonetic Punctuation' and `inflationary language'  - both of which became signature comedy pieces for him.




First we have the Victor Borge Collection of audio files, available from the Internet Archive, followed by a selection of video clips of Borge performing over the years.


Victor Borge - a Mozart Opera                 8.9 MB

Victor Borge - All the Right Notes, Not Necessarily in the Right Order                                                       6.8 MB

Victor Borge - Brahms Lullaby                  3.3 MB

Victor Borge - Comedy in Music               25 MB

Comedy In Music, Pt. 2                            14 MB

Victor Borge - Denmark, My Native Land 1.3 MB

Victor Borge - Family Background             1.2 MB

Victor Borge - Friedmann Wiener Tanz 2  3.3 MB

Victor Borge - Happy Birthday                  15 MB

Victor Borge - Hungarian Rhapsody          19 MB

Victor Borge - in London                          3.0 MB

Victor Borge - Inflationary Language        5.0 MB

Victor Borge - Johann Sibelius Bach

& Family                                                   1.3 MB

Victor Borge - Live at the London

Paladium                                                   20 MB

Victor Borge - Live in Boston in 1953       15 MB

Victor Borge - Medley of Popular Songs   14 MB

Victor Borge - Mozart Opera by               8.9 MB

Victor Borge - Phonetic Punctuation       7.2 MB

Victor Borge - Rachmaninov Excerpts      3.2 MB

Victor Borge - Requests                           14 MB

Victor Borge - Saliere Opera                     7.9 MB

Victor Borge - Sweetheart                       9.7 MB

Victor Borge - Three Borge Fav                12 MB

Command Performance                            6.8 MB

Command Performance                            7.5 MB

Command Performance                            7.0 MB

xMail_Call_xxxxxx_Victor_Borge.mp3       30 MB




In my next blog, I'll highlight some of the memorable video performances by Victor Borge available on the Internet.

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