Monday, February 16, 2015

Zelda's "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers"

While Zelda Fitzgerald was in the throes of her ballet obsession, beginning in 1927, a couple of years prior to her very first breakdown (and while she was living with but emotionally estranged from husband Scott), she apparently spent hours daily at home performing to this instrumental. Says houseguest-at-the-time John Biggs (an F. Scott Fitzgerald classmate at Princeton and later a judge and executor of Scott's estate):

"...she would 'start at six or seven o'clock in the morning and...had one tune she used to play constantly, 'The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.' She would keep it up until ten o'clock at night when she would drop from sheer exhaustion.' So often had he heard the tune played there that he said the melody was 'engraved on every organ he possessed.' The repetitious music and Zelda's practicing disturbed Scott enough to make him move his writing desk from the main part of the house into the library."

The Wikipedia entry,,
explains that the tune was initially written in 1897, then became an American hit with lyrics by Ballard MacDonald in 1922 (which is when Zelda would have first heard it):

The toy shop door is locked up tight
And everything is quiet for the night.
And suddenly the clock strikes twelve,
The fun's begun!
The dolls are in their best arrayed,
There's going to be a wonderful parade.
Hark to the drum,
Oh, here they come, cries everyone
Hear them all cheering,
Now they are nearing,
There's the captain stiff as starch.
Bayonets flashing,
Music is crashing,
As the wooden soldiers march;
Sabers a-clinking,
Soldiers a-winking,
At each pretty little maid.
Here they come!
Here they come!
Here they come!
Here they come!
Wooden soldiers on parade.
Daylight is creeping,
Dollies are sleeping.
In the toy shop window fast;
Soldiers so jolly,
Think of each dolly,
Dreaming of the night that's past.
When in the morning,
Without warning,
Toyman pulls the window shade,
There's no sign the Wood brigade
Was ever out upon parade.

More from Wikipedia: "In 1923, Lee DeForest filmed "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers", performed by Balieff's company, in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The film premiered on April 15, 1923 at the Rivoli Theater in New York City, and is now in the Maurice Zouary collection at the Library of Congress." [Again, this something that Zelda would almost surely have seen.]

I was unable to find the DeForest film, but here is a 2008 amateur junior ballet version from Fort Worth (I hope to god Zelda wasn't doing this kind of thing for 12 hours a day, but I fear she might have been; I think Scott is a bit of a dick, but I do feel sympathy for him in this instance):

And here's a painting by Zelda of ballet dancers:
I pretty much see EVERY bit of passive-aggressive Zelda symbolism in all of the above!

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