Wednesday, November 14, 2007

She Is Not Dead, But Sleepeth

Joyce Jameson - He Is Not Dead But Sleepeth

At the moment, I've been listening to the above song on repeat for close to 12 hours in my various little pet projects and appropriately stubborn reluctance to sleep. I recorded it from a DVD of the movie, The Comedy of Terrors.
This is the best summary I've found, although it is from a website dedicated to Basil Rathbone, who plays the Shakespearian Mr. Black, the land lord. Mr. Black threatens eviction to local Undertaker, Mr. Trumbull (Vincent Price, whom I did not find a fansite for at this time, oddly), a drunkard who has been getting on by killing people and charging their families to bury them, even dumping the dead out of their casket when mourners are not looking so that he can use said casket for the next burial.

Peter Lorre (who plays The Raven wonderfully in another Edgar Allan Poe spoof) is Trumbull's ogre-like half-wit assistant, Gillie who has the hots for Trumbull's wife Amaryllis, a tone-deaf opera singer and subject of her husband's vitriolic sarcasm throughout, played by Joyce Jameson.

Mr. Black ends up being the next lucky victim, although he's prone to catalepsy, and can seem to be dead for several hours. After being falsely pronounced dead a few times, he finally ends up in a casket long enough to make it to a funeral, and that's where the above song comes from. Amaryllis sings He Is Not Dead But Sleepeth, with her oppressive voice, breaking flower pots and disturbing Rhubarb The Cat as a prelude to a damn funny eulogy laced with black humor by the bumbling Mr. Hinckley (Boris Karloff!). "... {the departed} whom the pious and unyielding fates have chosen to pluck from the very prime of his existence and place into the bleak sarcophagus of eternity..." The soundtrack is by Les Baxter!

Boris Karloff and Joyce Jameson

In the recording, we hear some sobbing in the background, Vincent Price playing the organ and answering Peter Lorre with a nonchalant "I wish her vocal chords would snap" when Lorre, visibly panting and enamored with Trumbull's wife, says "I wish she would have picked another song" at a convenient break in the song. Plus there's a startled Mr. Hinckley, awakened and mumbling from a nap, a comment from Rhubarb when Amaryllis is doing her loud finale/shreaking to the point of breaking glasses bit for a second time. For some reason, there is an inherent distortion in the recording that I couldn't avoid, and chose not to repair, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless, and if you want a copy to record yourself, you can download or rent The Comedy Of Terrors for $3.99.

As for the origin of the song, The Skeptical Review compares two biblical writings and tries to make sense of inconsistencies which can be summarized in this paragraph about Jairus's 12 year old daughter who died and was brought back to life by Jesus as found in Mark ch.5, vs.22-24 & 35-43 and Luke 8:52):

"She is not dead but sleepeth.": A sermon preached at Westminster Abbey, on Sunday, December 9, 1849, being the Sunday after the death of Her Majesty Queen Adelaide

They came to Jairus's house and entered. They saw the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. Jesus said to the crowd as he stood in the doorway, "Why make ye this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." As Jesus walked into the room, he said to others, "Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth." Some, who had seen the child, said that she was dead. Jesus desiring that all should leave called out so that all can hear, "Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth." And the people laughed him to scorn, because they knew that the child was dead. After the crowd was removed, they went to where the child lay. Jesus took the child by the hand and said, "Talitha cumi," which is, being interpreted, "Damsel, I say unto thee, arise" or "Maid, arise." Then her spirit came again and she arose right away.

The site WHERE ARE THE DEAD? uses this quote and many more to argue the perspective of life after death even in biblical times.

"She is not dead but sleepeth", a bed or a cradle, is a "denial of death" used on tombstones.

At the moment, I cannot find any lyrics or musical history for this song, despite a couple hours of effort and a bit of distraction, but I have found some interesting funeral services that, to me, would sound kind of cultish if taken out of context. "Cor.15:56: The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law" sounds downright Satanic!


Speak on Scriptures such as those listed below. Impress on your audience the reality of the resurrection. The Christian faith is founded on the fact that Jesus (Yeshua) died for our sins and rose from the grave! And that all who believe on him will also rise from their graves and live for all time! These are absolute facts. Preach them!
They 'all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.(Luke 8:49-56)
Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. (John 11:1-44)
I am the resurrection and the life. he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Rev.21:1-4)
The Apostle Paul writes further in:
1 Cor.15:
51: Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53: For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54: So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55: O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56: The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law 57: But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

Joyce Jameson, Date of Birth : 26 September 1932, Chicago, Illinois, USA - Date of Death : 16 January 1987, Burbank, California, USA. (suicide) was a classic example of the professional "dumb blonde" with a diametrically opposite off-screen personality. Entering films as a chorus member in the 1951 version of Showboat, Jameson honed her musical comedy talents in several satirical revues staged by her onetime husband Billy Barnes. Intelligent, sensitive, and extremely well read, Jameson nonetheless found herself perpetually cast as an airhead or golddigger. In films, she was seen in such roles as a Marilyn Monroe wannabe in The Apartment (1960) and a call-girl who runs screaming from her room when she thinks Jack Lemmon is about to paint her body in Good Neighbor Sam (1963). One of her more unorthodox film assignments was as the vulgar, unfaithful wife of Peter Lorre in Roger Corman's Tales of Terror (1963), in which she and her paramour Vincent Price are walled up in Lorre's wine cellar. One year later, she was reteamed with Lorre and Price in the raucous A Comedy of Terrors (1963), where she was more typically cast as a nitwit. Her later films include The Outlaw Josie Wales (1976) and Hardbodies (1981). Joyce Jameson was a fixture of 1950s and 1960s TV, playing a variety of buxom "straight women" for such comedians as Steve Allen, Red Skelton and Danny Kaye. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

List of Joyce Jameson's Broadway appearances

Episodes of Andy Griffith and The Twilight Zone episodes featuring Joyce Jameson that you can see via TiVo

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