March seems the perfect month to feature some of the marching songs that pop up in pop culture.
And with daylight saving time starting this weekend, a bit of end-of-winter marching exercise should be a good way to get in shape for those early-spring evening walks.
To start with, you’d probably expect many of the marching songs to have military overtones (and you’d be right) but you might not expect so many of them to feature failed love affairs. Here are three marches with romantic plots:
Marching away the lovesick blues
• Vaughn Monroe’s “Sound Off.” Plot: Boy loses girl, boy keeps marching.
• Patti Page’s “Left Right Out of Your Heart.” Plot: Boy cheats on girl and gets dumped.
• Jimmie Rodgers’ “Tucumcari,” complete with a clever reference to his first hit, “Honeycomb.” Plot: Boy loses girl, boy finds another girl. (The song starts at the 2-minute mark of this grainy late-‘50s clip from “The Jimmy Durante Show.”)
Hit songs from movie marches
Mitch Miller scored big with two late-’50s marching songs from the movies:
• “March From the River Kwai and Colonel Bogey,” from the 1957 film “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”
• “The Children’s Marching Song,” from the 1958 film “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.” Spoiler alert: The next sentence gives away the ending.
This inspiring scene — when Ingrid Bergman and the Chinese kids come marching into town at the 6:20 mark of this film clip — will leave some of you simultaneously beaming, cheering and crying.
Minnesota and the March King
There’s even a Minnesota connection to the March King himself, John Philip Sousa, albeit an unhappy one. Sousa was commissioned to write a march — “The Foshay Tower (Washington Memorial) March” — for the September 1929 opening of the landmark Minneapolis skyscraper. Unfortunately, just weeks later, the stock market crash wiped out businessman Wilbur Foshay’s fortune, resulting in a bounced check. An irked Sousa subsequently forbade the playing of the march until the debt was settled, which didn’t occur until the late 1990s. You can read about the dispute here.
Memorable movie endings
I’ll close with two “marching songs” that are used equally effectively — but in dramatically different fashion — at the conclusion of two memorable movies:
• It’s another Sousa encounter, this time in National Lampoon’s 1978 “Animal House.” The concluding chaos of the homecoming parade includes the oblivious Faber College band marching earnestly down a dead end while belting out Sousa’s “Washington Post March.”
• Billy Wilder’s 1953 classic World War II film “Stalag 17” poignantly wraps up with an American POW whistling the start of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” (The American version of this Irish-based folk song dates to the Civil War.) Spoiler alert: This film clip gives away the ending (and the traitor — a Minnesotan no less).