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UC grad Al Hague composes 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'

How Albert Hague won over Dr. Seuss

by Deborah Rieselman, originally printed in 2001

UC alumnus Albert Hague composed "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" as an audition piece to win the job scoring the 1966 TV movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” His agent cautioned him against using a quirky audition concept he had, but the composer said he knew best, and he was right. He nabbed the job within minutes.

In 1997, I had just wrapped up an interview with the charming Hague, CCM ’42, for the university magazine when I asked for a small favor. Would he please play a little piece of the Grinch's signature song for me? With a huge grin, he walked over to the grand piano in the middle of his airy Marina Del Rey living room, pulled out the sheet music (which he later autographed and gave to me) and launched into a 30-second mini-concert.

I kept my pocket cassette player's "record" button depressed, and for 10 years, it's been my own little treat. But for the holiday season, I thought I'd share it. The quality may not be great, and Hague's voice is hard to hear, but it may be the only chance you have to listen to the composer play and sing the piece, considering that he died in 2001.

AUDIO CLIP: Hear Al Hague play "You're a Mean One,
Mr. Grinch" on his piano and sing along. Recorded on
a cheap cassette recorder in his living room, but it's live!

Seuss picks Hague for the job

So here's the story of how Hague got the job to score the entire movie. I've told it many times, but never before put it in writing.

In the '60s, Hague was enormously famous on Broadway, having won a Tony Award in 1959 for his score for the musical "Redhead," directed by Bob Fosse. Hollywood, however, was a new environment for him.

"I had a young agent," he recalled, "who called to ask if I would like to work with Dr. Seuss. I saw an audition coming on, so I said, 'Absolutely. I'd love to.'"

But when Hague insisted that Theodor Seuss Geisel come to his house for the audition, the agent pointed out the request was inappropriate in the TV world. "You don't understand," she told her client. "This guy is from Hollywood. You have to go to him because he's more important."

"No, no," Hague replied. "Don' make him come to my house because I'm more important; make him come here because I have the better piano. And that will be understood."

She disagreed that anything would be so easily understood, but Hague won out when he countered, "I guarantee you this: If you make him come to my house, I'll get the job."

The famed children's author showed up with four other people -- major agents from the East Coast," Hague remembers. "I didn't know it then, but this meeting was for the company's largest account at the time.

Hague played only one piece, the signature song he had composed for the audition. "Afterward, Seuss looked up and said, 'Anyone who slides an octave on the word Grinch gets the job.' The whole thing took three minutes." (Note: If you read the lyrics below, the octave-long name occurs at the end of each stanza.)

When Jim Carrey made the story into a full-length feature film in 2000, Hague's song and much of his score accompanied the movie, and he was listed in the credits.

Hague was also well known for playing the role of Mr. Shorofsky, the music teacher, in the TV series "Fame" from 1982-87. In addition, his musical "Plain and Fancy," a story set among the Amish of Pennsylvania, is performed all year long, and has been for decades, in Nappanee, Ind.

In November 2001, Hague died at age 81. I guess it's time I share this little treasure with rest of the world.


"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.

The Grinch

The Grinch from the 1966 TV film.

Mr. Grinch,
You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.

Mr. Grinch,
I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.

Mr. Grinch,
Given the choice between the two of you
I'd take the seasick crocodile.

The Grinch with his dog

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks.
Your soul is full of gunk.

Mr. Grinch,
The three words that best describe you are,
and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots.

Mr. Grinch,
Your soul is an appalling dump heap
overflowing with the most disgraceful
assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable,
mangled up in tangled up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch,
With a nauseous super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse.

Mr. Grinch,
You're a three decker sauerkraut
and toadstool sandwich
with arsenic sauce.

Lyrics by Dr. Seuss, 1957