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Work

Jerome Kern Composer

Swing Time, musical   

Performances: 3
Tracks: 3
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Musicology (work in progress):
  • Swing Time, musical
    • The Way You Look Tonight

The Way You Look Tonight

As the Great Depression deepened into worldwide disaster, Broadway was finding it harder to draw audiences and keep them coming, while Broadway composers resorted increasingly to the blandishments of ready Hollywood cash. With the wavering success of Roberta on Broadway over 1933-1934—largely owing to the runaway popularity of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"—and the failure (a mere 72 performances) of Three Sisters at London's Drury Lane in 1934, Jerome Kern returned to Hollywood to add numbers for the filming of Roberta. For the lyrics, he hired Dorothy Fields, who had been noticed for her contributions to Blackbirds of 1928 and The International Revue—in particular, the former's sassy "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby!" (music by Jimmy McHugh) with which "Ukulele Ike" Edwards had scored a hit. For Roberta, she wrote the lyric for "Lovely to Look At" and revised Oscar Hammerstein's lyric for "I Won't Dance." The chemistry—the shared intuition that makes a great songwriting team—was immediate and lasting. Fields towered above the diminutive Kern, calling him "Junior," which he delightedly accepted. When RKO called him back to Hollywood in summer 1935 to write songs for soprano Lily Pons' film debut I Dream Too Much, Kern asked for Fields to be his lyricist. In December of that year he and Fields were in Hollywood again to provide songs for the sixth Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire pairing, provisionally titled I Won't Dance and eventually released as Swing Time. For Kern, it was the beginning of a domicile that would hold him—with a brief return to New York in 1939 for his musical Very Warm for May—until the end of his life. Hollywood in 1936 was host not only to Kern but to Irving Berlin and the Gershwin brothers, all of whom met often at parties. Swing Time is often regarded as the best of the Rogers/Astaire films, rivaled by Top Hat (1935, score by Berlin) and Shall We Dance (1937, words and music by the Gershwins). For it, Kern and Fields outdid themselves with "Pick Yourself Up," "A Fine Romance," "Never Gonna Dance," "Waltz in Swing Time," "Bojangles of Harlem"—which Astaire transformed into a stunning tribute to dancer Bill Robinson—and the crowning moment, "The Way You Look Tonight," sung by Astaire, with its plea to "never, never change" timelessly capturing the evanescence of romantic love. In 1937 "The Way You Look Tonight" won the Oscar for Best Song.

© Adrian Corleonis, Rovi
Portions of Content Provided by All Music Guide.
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