Like many people in America I was first exposed to the glamor and excitement of New York City and Broadway musicals by watching “I Love Lucy” on TV in the 1950s. The 1955 episode “Lucy and the Dummy” featured a clip of Frank Sinatra singing “Adelaide” from the production “Guys and Dolls.” In the 1957 sixth season, episode “Lucy’s Night in Town” the Ricardos and the Mertzes have four carefully hoarded tickets to the Broadway musical hit “The Most Happy Fella.”
Both “Guys and Dolls” and “The Most Happy Fella” had lyrics and music by Frank Loesser. Loesser was a master of lyrics and wrote the words to many successful songs written by other people – “Two Sleepy People,” “Heart and Soul,” “I Hear Music,” and “See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have.” His first hit with both lyrics and music was “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” from World Way II. Finally, he began writing words and music for his own tunes. On Wednesday, my hair stylist, Sharon Leverson of Positive Image on Sixth Avenue was bemoaning the fact that some people are complaining about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I would have nodded my head in agreement, but Sharon had scissors close to my right ear at the time . . . and that’s my good ear.
The day before I had just read about Deana Martin, Dean Martin’s daughter, who sings the song as part of her act. Her father had a hit with the song. The song was written by Frank Loesser. Loesser created lyrics that rang true . . . sounded down to earth . . . and yet romantic at the same time. It’s poetry for people who would never read poems on their own. They tell a story and lead you by the mind down a friendly path that seems familiar as it engulfs you and creates a smile.
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a duet, and Loesser really, really, shines with duets like the opening number “Fugue for Tinhorns” (“I got the horse right here, his name is Paul Revere”) from “Guys and Dolls.” Loesser wrote “Baby” for he and his wife to sing at Hollywood parties. People loved the song and loved to hear the two of them perform the “flirty” tune. In the song, the female is coming up with excuses to leave and the male is coming up with reasons to stay. Some people are now complaining that the song smacks of harassment and sexual abuse. By the end of the song, both the man and the woman are singing the same lyric . . . true love. The tune was “their” song: Frank and Lynn . . . until Frank sold the song for the movie Neptune’s Daughter in 1949 and ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
“I really can’t stay (Baby it’s cold outside)
I gotta go away (Baby it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (Been hoping that you’d dropped in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice)”
“Guys and Dolls” remains one of the most produced musicals of all time. Not so with “The Most Happy Fella,” which has been described by some as operatic. I re-watch “Guys and Dolls” whenever I see it on streaming video channels. I would love to see “The Most Happy Fella,” again. It was the all-school musical at Clover Park High School in my junior year. My two favorite teachers, Mrs. Virginia Heidbreder (drama and speech) and Ron Mellom (concert band and orchestra) were involved in the production along with my buddy Ken Armitage (student director). I wish I had been more involved in the show.
At the beginning of the year had I signed up for television production, so every afternoon during the school week I was at the vocational school learning camera work, floor directing, switching, and announcing. A friend of mine was taking a similar course for radio. He had his own radio program, so I appeared on his radio show hyping the high school musical in a very bad Italian accent. The story was a romance between an older Italian-American man and younger woman. I loved the music. Some was more involved than pop tunes, but it still had the very popular songs: “Standing on the Corner,” and “Big D.” My favorite song from the musical is “Ooh, My Feet” (Blue Plate Special Ballet). Many’s the time I’ve sung that song to myself after a hard day working.
Ooh, My Feet
“Ooh my feet! My poor, poor feet!
Betcha your life a waitress earns her pay
I’ve been on my feet, my poor, poor feet
All day long today”
Of course I have a Frank Loesser songbook. I doubt a month goes by without me playing his songs on my baby grand. My favorite Loesser songs? “I’ll Know (Guys and Dolls), Sue Me (Guys and Dolls), and “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So” (Perils of Pauline), which was also nominated for an Academy Award. My favorite Frank Loesser song you’ve never heard of? “Bloop Bleep” about a leaking faucet and an upset stomach.
Good news on the cold front . . . “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” with all the hubbub about the song, Dean Martin’s version of the holiday song is again a hit. It just rose to No. 10 in a major Billboard ranking.
Joan Campion says
Many good duets from those years and shows which also made for good entertainment on the TV Variety shows when they existed. As for Baby, it’s like everything else these days, it goes political. In keeping with stage lingo, “It’s much ado about nothing”.
Don Doman says
Thanks for continued reading and commenting as well.
Political and sensitivity . . . some good and some bad. A friend mentioned she saw White Christmas at TMP. I had to ask, “In the original Holiday Inn version Bing Crosbie does a musical scene in blackface. They didn’t do that did they?” She responded, “No.”
Thanks, again for sharing.