I’ve been watching my way though Zorro recently, and one of the things that’s consistently struck me is the music. For one thing, the show will routinely take a minute to just let major, or even minor, characters sing. This isn’t just “we have Annette Funicello, so let’s make her sing.” This is, “Hey, maybe Sergeant Garcia needs an ironic musical number about the difficulties of being a soldier.” That song, “Here’s to a Soldier of the King,” was credited to Gil George, as was “Soldier’s Sweetheart,” sung in lovely harmony by pretty much all the lancers. Gil was in fact Hazel, whose life is so obscure she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.
In fact, I am once again relying on an obscure fan page for information, but if what it says is accurate, man, she’s a fascinating figure. A miner’s daughter from Bisbee, Arizona, she witnessed the infamous Bisbee Deportation. She apparently spent time as a ward of the court. She became a psychiatric nurse, and some time in 1940, she went to work as a nurse at Disney. In fact, she was Walt’s personal nurse, helping him recover from a polo injury sustained in 1938.
How she went from there to songwriting, I don’t know, and no one’s telling me. Maybe no one asked. She worked with Disney composer Paul Smith as well as, from what I can tell, by herself. She supposedly wrote over ninety songs for Disney, though no one’s giving me a comprehensive list. She did a lot of writing for the Mickey Mouse Club, and some songs for Zorro, and assorted theme songs for movies people mostly don’t remember for the music. So I get why she doesn’t always come up in discussions of Disney composers.
But there’s a big space between “always” and “never” that has room for her. Yeah, it’s weird that there are random songs in Zorro, but they’re good songs! Several of the songs she wrote were staples of the Disney Channel programming of my childhood. And being a songwriter for The Mickey Mouse Club means that people of my mom’s generation can quite probably still sing some of her songs just from hearing the name. Maybe she didn’t write the theme song, but come on—she should at least have a Wikipedia page.
And apparently, when she was being interviewed for various biographies about Walt, the writers didn’t think her songwriting was worth mentioning. She was Walt’s confidante, and they talked to her about that, but it seems no one talked to her about her own work. And she didn’t even really want to tell them about Walt, much, because she was still keeping his confidences. So there were only so many stories she was willing to share.