I watched David Lean's classic The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957 this evening on TCM. I couldn't help but wonder about that great familiar theme song; the one that makes you want to whistle along.
The version I remember from grade school was known as "Comet". The silly lyrics went something like this:
Comet, it makes your teeth turn green;
Comet, it tastes like Listerine;
Comet, will make you vomit;
So get some Comet and vomit today.
The "Colonel Bogey March" is a popular march that was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881-1945), a British military bandmaster who was director of music for the Royal Marines at Plymouth.
Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase (a descending minor third interval) instead of shouting "Fore!". It is this descending interval which begins each line of the melody. Bogey is a golfing term meaning one over par. Edwardian golfers in North America often played matches against "Colonel Bogey".
The sheet music was a million-seller, and the march was recorded many times. Many popular lyrics circulated and the best known, which originated in England at the outset of World War II, goes by the title "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball".
Hitler has only one left ball
Göring has two but they are small.
Himmler was somewhat similar
And poor old Goebbels has no balls at all
The English composer Malcolm Arnold added a counter-march for use in The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was set during World War II. Although the vulgar lyrics were not used in the film, British audiences of the time fully understood the subtextual humor of "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" being sung by prisoners of war. Because the tune is so identified with the film, many people now incorrectly refer to the "Colonel Bogey March" as "The River Kwai March".