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2021 HOLIDAY ADVENT CALENDAR
DAY 2




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DOROTHY FIELDS
1905 - 1974

  



Lyricist Dorothy Fields was born into show business royalty. 

Her father was Lew Fields, half of Weber and Fields, the premier comedy act in vaudeville at the turn of the century, and later an important Broadway producer. 





Over a half-century, Dorothy, one of a tiny handful of successful female songwriters, wrote 400 songs for nightclubs like the legendary Cotton Club, for Broadway, and for Hollywood with a variety of top-flight composers.




But first -- the 10 featured items from our website today:



 
JOE BLITMAN'S
OH, YOU BEAUTIFUL DOLL
25th Anniversary Re-Issue

NOW ON DVD

(1994/2019)
$19.99



STILL POPPIN' KEEKI
(METEOR COLLECTION)
(2021)
$149.00


CHA CHA AT THE DANCE
in "GREASE"
(2008)
$59.00


SKIN DIVER
NRFB
$115.00

PEPPERMINT KELLY
NRFB
$9.99


BRUNETTE #6 PONYTAIL BARBIE
(1963)
$239.00

COUNTRY FAIR
Excellent+ & Complete
$49.00


IT'S A DATE
(Francie Outfit)
Near Mint & Complete
$69.00


MARISA BEACH BABY
MODEL OF THE MOMENT
(2005)
$49.00

SOLD - SORRY


HALLMARK
BARBIE SHOE ORNAMENT
(BARBIE CONVENTION EXCLUSIVE)
NRFB
(2020)
$59.99


GIFT CERTIFICATES
IN ANY AMOUNT YOU WANT






Dorothy Fields started writing songs professionally when she was 23, teaming for 7 years with the composer Jimmy McHugh: 




From the very beginning, her gift for inventive, conversational lyrics was evident.

Here are four standards Dorothy wrote with McHugh:

#1 -- “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” 

The song was introduced by Adelaide Hall at Les Ambassadeurs Club in New York in January 1928 in Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1928 Revue.




 
 
It is performed here by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga:




#2 -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street.

It was introduced in 1930 by Harry Richman in the Broadway musical Lew Leslie's International Revue, which also starred Gertrude Lawrence.





Here the song is performed by jazz singer/pianist Diana Krall.   (If you aren’t familiar with Diana Krall, you may have heard of her husband — Elvis Costello.) 

As you'll see in this clip, Fields had a knack for writing feel-good lyrics:


On The Sunny Side of the Street


#3 -- “I’m In the Mood For Love.

The song was introduced by Frances Langford in the 1935 movie "Every Night at Eight."  It went on to become Langford's signature song.




Here, it is charmingly warbled by Dean Martin:
 
I'm In the Mood for Love



and, finally, #4 -- “I Feel A Song Coming On.”

Also written for the movie "Every Night at Eight," it is sung here by Judy Garland on an episode of her TV series:



I Feel A Song Coming On


With composer Jerome Kern, Fields wrote songs for two Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies. 





The first movie was "Roberta," from 1935, which boasts the ironically-titled song “I Won’t Dance”:



I Won't Dance



The next year, Fields and Kern wrote a bunch of standards for the movie “Swing Time”:




including another one of those Dorothy Fields-patented “Feel Good” songs - “Pick Yourself Up,”  sung-and-swung here by Mel Torme' and George Shearing (with a little help from Johannes Sebastian Bach): 


 
Pick Yourself Up


Dorothy Fields wrote “funny,” too.  A great example of her rhymed humor can be found in “A Fine Romance”:


  A Fine Romance


But the crown jewel of the “Swing Time” score is the timeless ballad “The Way You Look Tonight." 

It won the Best Song Oscar in 1936 -- the first time a woman had ever won the award (and a feat not matched until 1968!). 




Here’s Rod Stewart’s rendition:



The Way You Look Tonight


Over the next 30 years, Dorothy Fields spent much of her time writing, with her brother Herbert, the book (also called the libretto) for a series of hit musicals, including three by Cole Porter -- "Let's Face It," "Something For the Boys," and "Mexican Hayride"  -- and "Stars In Your Eyes" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Arthur Schwartz.




There is precious little to say about Dorothy Fields' personal life.

She seems to have been a very nice upper-middle class lady.  There are almost no anecdotes to find about her in memoirs and histories of the golden age of songwriting. 

It is known that her first marriage didn’t take.  But the second one --  to Eli Lahm -- did, producing a son and a daughter. 

She and Eli had been introduced by a close friend of his -- Herbert Sondheim -- who just happened to be Stephen Sondheim’s father.  Stephen Sondheim grew up calling her Aunt Dorothy. 

It is known that she was a very hard worker -- 8 hours a day, like clockwork, when she was involved in a project.  And she liked to start early in the day, often waking up her night-owl collaborators with pre-9:00 a.m. phone calls.


She was signed by Rodgers and Hammerstein to write the lyrics to Jerome Kern’s music for “Annie Get Your Gun,” but Kern’s untimely death sent the producers to Irving Berlin to write the score himself. 





Dorothy and her brother wrote the book for the musical -- which ran almost 3 years.




It wasn’t until 1966 that Fields had a hit musical where she did the lyrics, this time with composer Cy Coleman for the Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon musical, “Sweet Charity.”




She was in her 60’s, but she wrote with the verve, vivacity -- and the zingers -- of someone half her age. 






The big hit from “Sweet Charity” is “Hey, Big Spender.”  Here it is from the movie, with all of that fabulous Bob Fosse choreography performed by Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly and company:



Hey, Big Spender


Broadway Backwards is an annual charity event that takes songs and switches the genders of who normally sings them.  Here is “Hey, Big Spender” done by men with the same Fosse choreography:



In 1973, Cy Coleman teamed with Fields to musicalize the play/film “Two for the Seesaw.”





It was during the long out-of-town tryout for this show, renamed “Seesaw,” that Dorothy did something very fitting for someone so adept at writing romantic songs: 

She came across a chorus member quietly crying in a corner.  Dorothy asked what was the matter, and the woman said she desperately missed her boyfriend, but they couldn’t afford for him to buy an airline ticket to come visit her. 

Dorothy reached into her purse, took out her checkbook, wrote a check for $300, and handed it to the astonished woman, saying: “You must always have romance.”

It’s fitting that Dorothy Fields' last hit was another “feel good” song -- “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish” -- performed here by Tommy Tune (who won a Tony for it) at the start of his career.


It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish









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