Friday, 4 May 2012

The Top Ten Dowdy Nightdresses In A Movie Musical Number

Here at Sons Of Asaph, we've been tackling some pretty heavy questions lately. What is the greatest love of all? What is the true nature of the human heart? Which pop songs contain the best selection of rising string scales?

Worthy matters all, but now it's time to ratchet things up a notch. Because it has come to my attention recently that there is a great hole in the internet, a chasm of ignorance that is crying out to all mankind to be filled. And, as my great benefaction to the Universe, I am going to do just that. I dedicate this noble service to all peoples, past present and future, but especially to those of my friends who have recently had babies, and are thus very probably reading this at 3am whilst scraping regurgitated milk from their computer screen. Hello guys.

The great wrong that I am righting is this: There is no list, anywhere on the internet, of the Top Ten Dowdy Nightdresses In A Movie Musical Number.

Let me begin by saying that fixing this astonishing oversight was not easy - largely due to the strict guidelines a list such as this must adhere to, to wit:
  1. The nightdress must be dowdy - this is a family blog, after all. Unfortunately, the type of lady who is prone to singing in her nightwear leans more towards the picturesque peignoir than the frumpy flannel. I found more than enough material for the top ten skimpy nightdresses in a movie musical number. (After all, you don't need much material for a skimpy nightdress.)
  2. The nightdress must be a nightdress. Seems obvious, but it's not always easy to tell whether the complicated calico concoctions in question are meant for use during the night or the day. I had to enlist the help of my work colleagues in identifying the nature of Judy Garland's garb in this clip, for example.
  3. The nightdress must be worn in a movie musical number. A stage show that's been filmed doesn't count. (Which sadly rules out this rare clip of Carrie, The Musical.
  4. No children. After all, children's night attire should be nothing but dowdy.
  5. Most crucially, the nightdress must be worn by the person singing the song. Well, that's just common sense really.
Anyway, after many many long hours of head-scratching and youtube-trawling, at last I am proud to present to you The Top Ten Dowdy Nightdresses In A Movie Musical Number.

1) The Sound Of Music - My Favourite Things

You can't get much dowdier than this. This is a level of dowdy to which only an ex-nun can hope to attain. If you haven't had special nun training, don't even try it. You might sprain something.

2) Grease - Hopelessly Devoted To You

The classic. Before the final reel epiphany where she realised she could get her man back by sewing herself into reality-distortingly tight trousers, Sandy was the rare kind of girl who liked to moon around singing pretty songs in nice, comfortable, sensible nightwear.

3) My Fair Lady - I Could Have Danced All Night

The nightdress makes its appearance at 1:40, and is so dowdy that it takes two whole people to apply it to Audrey Hepburn. Trivia fans: Eliza only sings "I could have danced all night" twice because Alan Jay Lerner couldn't come up with a decent second line, and years later he was still having nightmares about it.

4) Gigi - Say A Prayer For Me Tonight

Lerner hated this tune. He thought it should be a 'cello solo. Loewe (composer) sneakily played it to the producers while Lerner was out of the room, they loved it, and so in it went. And thus was born this charming little duet for woman in dowdy nightdress and severely doped cat. (Yes, apparently the cat had to be drugged so it wouldn't scratch Leslie Caron's face off.)

5) On A Clear Day You Can See Forever - Go To Sleep

Alan Jay Lerner's third (count them!!) entry into the list. Not as dowdy as some, but bonus points for matching the bedlinen. Genius.

6) West Side Story - Tonight

Marnie Nixon's second entry into the list (she dubbed Natalie Wood here, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady). Fun fact: this movie makes me cry. And not a gentle, manly crying either. A proper uncontrollable snotty sort of crying that terrifies everyone who witnesses it. I don't know why.

7) Goodby Mr Chips - You And I

Okay, so I don't know for sure that Petula Clark is wearing a dowdy nightdress here, but given the dowdiness of the housecoat it seems like a safe bet. And her husband has a grey moustache. A man with a grey moustache is like the anti-Midas: everything he touches turns to dowdy. It's a pretty song though.

8) Thouroughly Modern Millie - Jimmy

Julie Andrews is the undisputed queen of the unalluring nighty. Though to be fair, this creation is bordering on the skimpy. And it's more pajama-based than nightdress-based really. Also it's perfect for running around dramatically in. So perhaps it doesn't deserve to be on this list. But I wanted to include the clip for Julie Andrews' heart-wrenching look-to-camera at 4:09. I defy anyone to watch that without going "Awww, Julie!" and trying to hug the screen.

9) Hit The Deck - Lucky Bird

I'm not quite sure what Jane Powell is wearing here. Maybe it's a peignoir. Maybe it's a pelisse. Maybe it's a yurt. But I reckon you could fit at least another two sopranos in it. And why is there a clockwork penguin in this song? (Next blog: Top Ten Movie Musical Songs Involving Clockwork Flightless Seabirds.)

10) The Harvey Girls - It's A Great Big World

This was to be the grand climax - not one, not two, but three dowdy nightdresses all singing in harmony while someone off-camera chucks leaves at the window. But, horror of horrors, youtube is denying all knowledge of its existence. I guess it got taken down for copyright reasons. The best I can do for you is to show you this still photo and let you chuck your own leaves at your screen:

And, instead, here's my backup song:

11) Three Daring Daughters - The Dickey Bird Song

Yes, the same Jeanette MacDonald who was famed for her skimpy negligees in the thirties had graduated to dowdiness by the late forties. It comes to us all eventually.

So that's it.
I hope you have enjoyed this song-filled safari of sober sleepwear, this harmonious homage to the homeliest horizontal habiliments, this shower of chanteuses' shapeless chemises... this ballad-bedecked bevy of boring bedwear... this lullaby-laden lecture on lackluster lingerie... this, um, okay, I'm out.
But I'll leave you all with this sage piece of advice from The Smiling Lieutenant (which features a brief cameo from a dowdy nightdress at 8:46).

Night night and sleep well, in whatever attire you choose.


  1. Brilliant post, thanks for sharing it!

    1. Very glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for stopping by.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The post about Nightdresses has been presented excellently.