Petula Clark was one of the more unique artists of the British Invasion of The United States in the sixties. She was a solo performer, she was female, and she was in her mid-thirties when she had such hits as “Downtown”, “I Know A Place,” “My Love,” “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love,” and many more. While the hits slowed down in the seventies and stopped in the eighties, she continued to perform in movies, on stage, and as a Vegas and theater act. Now in her late 70s she continues to tour and perform.
The Infinity Entertainment Group has issued a DVD of her 1969 NBC Special. The show is dated but serves as an interesting look into network television of the late sixties. Artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and hundreds more cutting edge rock groups were churning out some of the most creative music in history, but it was typical of the networks to turn to artists like Clark for television specials.
Portrait Of Petula Clark will probably appeal to her fans but not convert many new ones. In some ways it tries to change her from a pop singer to a song and dance entertainer. Her forays into show tunes and easy listening songs play away from her strengths. Just by the fact that Andy Williams is one of the guest stars should provide a hint as to the content.
The show is divided into segments representing the cities of Paris, London, Geneva, New York, and Los Angeles. She dances in a Paris saloon with French singer Sacha Distel, goes on a picnic with Andy Williams, performs with British actor of the day Ron Moody, and sings to her children which actually was the most entertaining segment. She performs such songs as “This Girl’s In Love With You,” “My Funny Valentine,” “When I Was A Child,” and “You and I” from her starring role in the movie Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Her duet with Andy Williams on the Roger Miller tune “You Can’t Rollerskate In A Buffalo Heard” is one for the ages. Clark has an excellent voice and deserved better material.
After 55 minutes of traveling from city to city and watching one production after another, the special ended with Clark just simply singing three songs. I would have preferred a full 65 minutes of this type of performance. “I Know A Place” and “My Love” being sung by Petula Clark is the way I like to remember her. Sandwiched in the middle was another performance from Goodbye, Mr. Chips which was equally excellent.
I don’t know how many times I will revisit a Portrait Of Petula Clark but it was a nice look into a simpler time of television.