July 6, 2019

Did you know that Alan Arkin co-wrote "The Banana Boat Song"?

Before he was an actor, he was a member of the folksinging group "The Tarriers," and before Harry Belafonte had a big hit the the song, it belonged to The Tarriers:



From Arkin's IMDB biography:
He was born Alan Wolf Arkin on March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. His family were Jewish emigrants from Russia and Germany. In 1946, the Arkins moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, California. His father, David I. Arkin, was an artist and writer, who worked as a teacher, and lost his job for merely refusing to answer questions about his political affiliation during the 1950s Red Scare. His father challenged the politically biased dismissal and eventually prevailed, but unfortunately it was after his death....

[Alan Arkin] sang in a college folk-band, and was involved in a drama class. He dropped out of college to form the folk music group The Tarriers, in which Arkin was the lead singer and played guitar. He co-wrote the 1956 hit "The Banana Boat Song"...

In 1957 Arkin made his first big screen appearance as a lead singer with The Tarriers in Calypso Heat Wave (1957).... Arkin made his directorial debut with an Off-Broadway hit called "Eh?" (1966), which introduced the young actor, named Dustin Hoffman. He won a Drama Desk Award for his direction of the Off-Broadway production of "Little Murders" (1969), and another Drama Desk Award for "The White House Murder Case" (1970). He also directed the original version of Neil Simon's hilarious smash, "The Sunshine Boys" (1972), which ran over 500 performances.

Arkin earned his first Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his feature acting debut in a comedy The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966)...
I'm up to 1966 in my "imaginary movie project" and will have my notes on TRACTRAC soon.
Alan Arkin has been a strong supporter of an organic way of living and also a proponent for preservation of the environment and natural habitat. He has been avoiding the show-biz-milieu and is known as an actor who does not really care about prestigious awards, but values having a good job and being acknowledged by his peers. In Arkin's own words he wants to "Stay home for three months. Living as quietly as humanly possible."

51 comments:

Fandor said...

Hilarious scene looking for the keys...brilliant piece of business and real...anyone who has a wife with a purse knows this situation...funny here, not so much in reality.

Howard said...

Thanks for pulling Arkins success as a singer-songwriter-muscianWhat. Was Catch-22 chopped liver. His greatest role ever.

Fandor said...

Possibly, this bit could be used in a GEICO commercial.

khematite said...

Calypso Heat Wave (1957) also included a pretty great performance by Maya Angelou.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2lALEmcUl4

Fandor said...

Arkin was well cast a Freud in The Seven Percent Solution. Robert Duvall as Watson to Nicol Williamson’s Holmes played very well.

Nobody said...

Some of these Hollywood actors really are amazing people.

Nobody said...

Others... Not so much

James said...

The In-Laws is my favorite Alan Arkin movie (and one of my favorite movies ever). Playing off Peter Falk, I could watch his slow burn all day. Serpentine!

traditionalguy said...

Cultural appropriation, ahem. He will have to be stripped of all awards. He appropriated slave work songs. It is too horrible to think about.

Rory said...

Arkin was in a very weird but interesting called "Simon" in 1980.

Ann Althouse said...

"Thanks for pulling Arkins success as a singer-songwriter-muscianWhat. Was Catch-22 chopped liver. His greatest role ever."

You're criticizing me for not writing a post about things that are well known instead of the thing that surprised me and for highlighting the movie I just watched and am working on writing about? Jeez. I could have cut and pasted the entire bio... but why?

You should just say you loved him in "Catch-22." Why act as if I'm disrespecting something?

Howard said...

No, I'm criticizing the article you posted and the author of such. It's not always about you, even on your own blog

Shane said...

Um, Howard. It is always about Ann, at the most basic level.

Thanks, Ann!
You're the best.
Alan and Adam Arkin are wonderful and subtle in everything they do.

Howard said...

OK, I clicked through. You did edit it out, so it was your doing:

He followed with what remained his best known role as Captain Yossarian in Catch-22 (1970), directed by Mike Nichols and based on the eponymous anti-war novel by Joseph Heller. In it Arkin arguably gave his strongest performance, however, his career suffered because the film initially did not live up to expectations.

I'm sorry if you were offended because that was not my intention. I try to be very explicit when I aim to offend.

traditionalguy said...

Alan Arkin was not that well known to me although he did a ton of roles. He was a nice guy.It must be his role in The Russians are coming that made him interesting.

JAORE said...

Whew,the gap from that to Belafonte....

One small step for a singer, one giant step for that song.

wild chicken said...

Ehh, liked the actor but that was one of those songs you heard a little too many times back then, like Aba Daba Honeymoon and Big John.

Leslie Graves said...

I saw TRACTRAC on television ... maybe when I was 14 or 15. My siblings and I loved it and went around the house saying "We are Norweg-ans, of course" for weeks.

Ann Althouse said...

"No, I'm criticizing the article you posted and the author of such. It's not always about you, even on your own blog."

The article I posted? It's the IMDB bio, which, if you read the whole thing, has all the movies he's in, including "Catch-22." You can only be criticizing me for not copying more of the bio.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm sorry if you were offended because that was not my intention. I try to be very explicit when I aim to offend."

I accept your apology.

Mattman26 said...

Back to decaf for Howard.

David Begley said...

Big money with that song. The IP system for songs worked well then.

Fernandistein said...

The people sitting in the car reminded me of "Blue Velvet". For no good reason that I can think of.

John henry said...

I didn't know about the Banana Boat song but did know Arkin was a folkie.

I had an aunt who, in the 50s and 60s was a reviewer for Folkways Records. She used to give us the records when she was done. Lots of great stuff like Peggy seeger and Ewan McCall, the Almanac Singers protesting HUAC some weird stuff like Navaho chants.

I have a 10" album from about 1950 of Alan Arkin singing children's songs. Just him and a guitar. Pretty good.

John Henry

Georgia Lawyer said...

Coupe de Ville was a box office flop in 1990, but very entertaining. As always, Alan Arkin was great. The film was not available on DVD or tape when I searched a couple of years ago.

Phil 314 said...

“Emergency, emgency everyone to get from street”.

Nearly 50 years later “Argo fuck yourself”

Phil 314 said...

And he was great in “The Kominsky effect”.

John henry said...

For those ignorant of history, the Red Scare actually started in 1919 with the Palmer Raids of Woodrow Wilson.

Going strong in 1947 with Truman's imposition of loyalty oaths for all govt employees.

John Henry

Swede said...

He was very funny in his small role in Grosse Pointe Blank.

Amexpat said...

Arkin has always been likable in the roles he plays. Even when the character he plays is not particularly likable, such as in Glengarry Glen Ross. Something in his countenance exudes "menshness" (not sure if this is a word, but can't think of anything better).

Temujin said...

One of my all-time favorites. He's a great actor, in both comedy and drama. Has a unique, Arkinesque speech pattern. Totally his own sound. But he's a great one. I did not know he wrote the Banana Boat Song. I won't hate it as much now. I did love a number of his flicks though:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
The In-Laws (if you have not watched this original with Peter Falk, watch it and laugh out loud.)
Wait Until Dark
Popi
Catch-22 (he was born to play Yossarian)
Little Murders (a Jules Feiffer classic which Arkin Directed and played a role in)
Glengarry Glen Ross
Slums of Beverly Hills (another under rated comedy great)
Little Miss Sunshine...and on and on...

Quaestor said...

Daylight come an' me wan go home

A Nooyawk Jew with a Stalinist heritage writes a song using melanistic Third World dialect and enjoys a long and lucrative career.

The same guy performs as a folksinger in a group calling itself the Tarriers, a term used by Irish Catholic railroad workers whose main tasks were blasting and tunneling.

Resultant questions:

1) What the hell is "folk music"? Can folk music be the creation of someone not part of the folk? Can folk music be the creation of any particular person? Isn't mid-20th-century folk music just Marxist-Leninist fiddle and banjo crap?

2) Did the Tarriers include an Irish Catholic member? Would an Irish Catholic musical group called the Mohels be appropriately named?

2) If Alan Arkin isn't guilty of Red Diaper privilege then isn't the whole white privilege canard a monumental fraud?

William said...

It truly sounds like an authentic folk song, especially when Belafonte sings it. Maybe it sounds so authentic because Arkin and I share tbe same sensibilities, and we know what real folk music should sound like. We're not like those Jamaican longshoremen who are into that weird reggae shit....I feel vaguely conned. Well, Danny Boy was written by a Brit.

William said...

Jamaican dockworker was a reach for Arkin, but he pulled it off. I always thought he could have brought something to the role of Malcolm X if Spike Lee had offered it to him.

chuck said...

I thought it a dull movie, full of self important ideas of great triviality. Perhaps my inner deplorable was manifesting like the Alien bursting from the chest of Kane.

chuck said...

> What the hell is "folk music"?

Gospel music, the rest is just cultural appropriation.

Unknown said...

"They tell me to sing while I slave,
but I just get bored …
I ain't going to work on Maggie's Farm no more."

Yes, what are the boundaries of folk music, who gets to say, and who cares.

John Evans said...

I saw Heart Is A Lonely Hunter and Wait Until Dark at a drive-in double feature. Talk about two different roles! He was absolutely terrifying in the latter.

rcocean said...

I never would've believed that Arkin was involved in writing the banana boat song. Although, you don't have to be Rodgers and Hammerstein to write:

Daylight come and me want go home
Dayyo
Daylight come and me want go home

As for the melody, I'm sure that it was "appropriated" from some native calypso song. But give them credit for putting it all together in a song that was made memorable by Harry Belfonte.

rcocean said...

Banana Boat is one of those songs that is made by the Singer. Belefonte owns it. I"ve never heard anyone else come close.

rcocean said...

It reminds me of "Route 66" and Nate King Cole or "New York, New York" and Sinatra. The singer makes the song.

John henry said...

Asleep at the Wheel "own" Route 66. Especially when they still had Elizabeth McQueen

John Henry

John henry said...

Harry B is as entitled to sing the song as Arkin:

His mother was born in Jamaica, the child of a Scottish white mother and a black father. His father also was born in Jamaica, the child of a black mother and Dutch Jewish father of Sephardi origins.

John Henry

khematite said...

"All music is folk music. I ain't never heard a horse sing a song."
---Louis Armstrong

BJM said...

Didn't the actor John Philip Law, who portrays the young Russian sailor, also appear as the angel in Barbarella?

Yes. He did.

YoungHegelian said...

Hey, if a Ukrainian Jew can write some of the best known cowboy-movie songs, then a NY Jew can write a fake Jamaican song!

Don't even get me started on "White Christmas"!

fleg9bo said...

As far as I'm concerned, Arkin's career highlight was "Freebie and the Bean." Nothing else comes close.

Trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xptt_-wqD3Q

Robert Cook said...

Akan Arkin is great in everything I have ever seen him in.

Deb said...

Sorry if someone already mentioned this, but that song always makes me thing of this

Nichevo said...

Howard said...
No, I'm criticizing the article you posted and the author of such. It's not always about you, even on your own blog

7/6/19, 7:57 AM

Howie, Howie, Howie! That is the stupidest thing you've ever said on this blog. Despite all of your many stupidities, it could almost be said to be the first truly stupid thing you've said on this blog.

Everything here is about Althouse. That's who she is. That's the kind of person she is. World ends, Ann Althouse hardest hit.

But, since you have cucked out and apologized to her, you will be allowed to continue to exist for now. Semper Fag!

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