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May 03, 2005

Harry Frazee III

I went to see the movie "Fever Pitch" with my wife. Yes, I know, Drew Barrymore alert, but it actually had enough humorous baseball moments to compensate for its basic chick-flicky nature ("Schilling's pitching on Friday...")

Anyway, in the movie of course they had to talk about the Curse of the Bambino and how Harry Frazee sent Babe Ruth to the Yankees to finance the musical No, No, Nanette.

So I was amused to read this story about Harry Frazee III, the grandson of the original (actually that link requires registration, but here's one from a couple years ago, and last year). It turns out he lives in Gig Harbor (which is west of Tacoma (which is south of Seattle)) and is a Mariners fan. And he also is trying to disprove the myth about his grandfather. Frazee III claims that his grandfather dumped Ruth because he was a pain in the clubhouse, not because he needed money for No, No, Nanette.

The popular conception is that NNN was a terrible flop, but in fact it wasn't. According to my book Broadway, The American Musical (companion to the PBS series of the same name), Frazee was already a successful producer. The Chicago tryout of No, No, Nanette ran for almost a year, becoming at the time the longest-running musical in Windy City history. By the time the show opened in New York, he had already sent several touring companies around the U.S. and opened a London production that had a two-year run. The show made Frazee a millionaire. Plus a 1971 revival ran for 891 performances on the Great White Way. The song "Tea For Two" is from No, No, Nanette.

Also, the timing is wrong for the traditional Curse story. Frazee traded Ruth at the end of 1919; No, No, Nanette didn't begin tryouts until 1924, and opened on Broadway on September 16, 1925.

Frazee later attempted a sequel called Yes, Yes, Yvette, which lost money (more than he made in the Ruth trade, supposedly). He died too, but I guess that was inevitable.

Posted by AdamBa at May 3, 2005 11:06 PM

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