Do you remember an old movie called The Bishop’s Wife? Not the more modern version with Denzel Washington but the black and white version with Cary Grant and Loretta Young. It’s been years since I’ve seen it but I still remember the boys choir and how they showed up for practice and sounded great. They were just regular guys, street tough and sassy, but when they sang they seemed transformed.
Anyway, that was the Mitchell Boys Choir. They were a famous group that began in 1934 and were in lots of films, sometimes appearing as a choir and other times just on the soundtrack. Another famous film was Angels with Dirty Faces and they can be heard in White Christmas, Going My Way, Yankee Doodle Dandy and a lot more.
Someone turned me on to one of their songs so I ordered the CD The Mitchell Boys Choir Sings. This is an oldie that has been remastered from the original but it sounds pretty good, just a little fuzzy. It’s too bad that this reproduction doesn’t say anything about the date of the original recording because I would really like to know. By the haircuts I would guess it to be from the early ‘60s.
The songs are pretty corny, the sort of thing that Aunt Bea would have liked back in Mayberry. It opens with an Italian song Come Back to Sorrento and goes on to The Happy Wanderer (Val-deri,Val-dera), Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and That’s an Irish Lullaby.
Appropriately for Mother’s Day there is That Wonderful Mother of Mine.
The song I like best is When You Wish Upon a Star, from Disney’s Pinocchio. They sing it with that old fashion warbling falsetto that you hear in other Disney music like the songs from Snow White. I smile whenever I hear it.
“Bob Mitchell was a musical prodigy who got his start as a 12-year-old in 1924 playing the organ at the Strand Theater in Pasadena for silent movies… Mitchell and the choir were featured in a special short documentary film, Forty Boys and a Song (1941), which described the choir and showed the students rehearsing at their school desks as Mitchell provided instruction. The film was nominated for an Academy Award (for Best Short Subject, One-reel).”
His boy’s choir also recorded with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and he received several illustrious honors including a Silver Medal from Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco, a Medal from the Pope and the Boy Scouts of America.
The group was also known by other names such as the St. Brendan's Boy's Choir, St. Brendan's Church Choir and the Mitchell Choirboys.
Robert Mitchell died on July 4, 2009.