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A Fine Romance
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Recorded (78 rpm, 10" Vocalion 3333) in New York on September 29, 1936, Irving Fazola from the Bob Crosby band on clarinet, Clyde Hart on piano, Bunny Berigan on trumpet, Dick McDonough on guitar, Artie Bernstein on bass and Cozy Cole on drums.
Swing Time, directed by George Stevens with a script by Howard Lindsay and Allan Scott is the sixth Astaire-Rogers movie and the first to be have all the songs written by the team of Jerome Kern (music) and Dorothy Fields (lyrics). (Roberta, the third film in the series,which was based on a Broadway show, included two songs --written expressly for the film--with lyrics contributed by Fields: "I Won't Dance" and "Lovely to Look at.")
The movie is the story of how John "Lucky" Garnett (Fred Astaire), a dancer and gambler who meets and falls in love with Penny Carroll (Ginger Rodgers) a dancing teacher. Lucky is engaged to the daughter of a wealthy family in his home town in upstate New York and when he fails to arrive in time for their wedding, he is told by his fiance's father that he can't marry his daughter until he proves himself a responsible fellow by earning $25,000. Lucky and his sidekick, magician Everett "Pop" Cardetti (Victor Moore), take off for New York City in hopes of finding the money but instead Lucky finds Penny. The remainder of the movie is a series of comic ups and downs for their relationship, most of which provide the opportunity for a song and/or dance--some of the greatest in the history of film..
"A Fine Romance" is performed by Penny/Ginger and Lucky/Fred when the two of them along with their older companions Mabel and Pops have gone for a drive in the snowy countryside. The setting is a romantic one but Lucky, although he is falling for Penny, feels he must keep his distance because he is still engaged to the girl back home. Once she starts to lament to him in song (and this is the first time in their screen relationship that Ginger sings to Fred) that this is not the way a fine romance should proceed, he changes his plan and tries to show her how he feels. As fate and Hollywood would have it, Pop intervenes, first with a snowball to remind Lucky of his obligations and then by spilling the beans about Lucky's engagement to Penny. Penny becomes as cold as the snow and Lucky becomes mightily confused -- especially when the scene ends with the windshield wipers of the convertible Penny drives off in throw snow in Lucky's face.
"A Fine Romance," Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
in Swing Time, 1936
"A Fine Romance" is reprised in the finale of Swing Time with all the major characters singing a snippet (with new lyrics). Last of all comes Fred/Lucky) singing it" to Ginger/Penny (as she sang it to him earlier), while she sings, "The Way You Look Tonight, "to him, as he sang it to her earlier -- a fine ending to a fine movie.
The Ten Movies Co-starring
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
1) Flying Down to Rio (1933); 2) The Gay Divorcee (1934); 3) Roberta (1935); 4) Top Hat (1935); 5) Follow the Fleet (1936); 6) Swing time (1936); 7) Shall We Dance (1937); (8) Carefree (1938); (9) The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939); 10) The Barkleys of Broadway (1949).
(This section is currently in preparation.)
Click here to read the lyrics for "A Fine Romance" as sung by
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
Ella and Louis (with Oscar Peterson, piano; Herb Ellis, Guitar; Ray Brown, Bass; Louie Belson, drums sing the stanzas of the refrain, all of which begin with the phrase "A fine romance" in a different order than the one presented in the sources shown below; but as for that, Fred and Ginger do not follow the order in the sources either. Louis and Ella also change the lines "A fine romance, with no clinches, / A fine romance, with no pinches" to "A fine romance with no glitches, / A fine romance with no bitches." (Ed. note: We speculate that Fields originally wrote it one way but that got changed for Fred and Ginger as the film was being shot; and Louis and Ella had a different idea altogether. Neither version presents a challenge to the greatness of the song. It comes out wonderfully in both.)
Deborah Grace Winer quotes lyricist Sheldon Harnick on "A Fine Romance": "For me, one of Dorothy Fields' special gifts was her magical ability to mix sophisticated and imaginative ideas with utterly prosaic, 'kitchen sink' words and images. . . . A splendid example is 'A Fine Romance.' How I envy the mind which could come up with: 'We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes / But you're as cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes.' And this memorably unhackneyed couplet is followed a moment later by the equally wry lines: 'I've never mussed the crease in your blue serge pants / I've never had the chance / This is a Fine Romance'" (p. 100).
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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet: Selected Recordings of
"A Fine Romance"
(All Record/Video Cabinet entries
include a music-video
of this page's featured song.
The year given is for when the studio
track was originally laid down
or when the live performance was given.)
(*indicates accompanying music-video)
Performer 1 (year)
Performer 2 (year)
Notes: (Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)