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Babes in Arms was not only a typical "Come on kids, let's put on a show" musical, but perhaps the first of its kind. The idea for it emerged while Rodgers and Hart were walking in Central Park and noticed some creative children making up their own games. It's plot was slight and far fetched but the Rodgers and Hart score produced more American standard songs than any other show by the songwriting team.
The story begins when a troupe of Depression era vaudevillians are unable to get work and so decide to light out for the territories in an attempt to make some kind of living-- leaving behind their kids to fend for themselves. The youngsters resist being sent to a work farm by putting on a show of their own to raise money for a local youth center. Nothing much comes of it until a deus ex machina in the form of a French transatlantic aviator crash-landing his plane in their midst generates enough publicity to make the kids' show a hit.
Babes in Arms tried out in Boston and then opened in New York at the Shubert Theater April 14, 1937. Despite its lack of the de rigueur line of semi-nude show girls to stir up ticket sales, it ran for the better part of a year (289 performances), closing December 18, 1937. Rodgers and Hart had decided they wanted this show to be all their own so they wrote the book as well as the words and music; and they brought in George Balanchine for the choreography. The cast was restricted to youngsters, many of whom eventually became stars, including Mitzi Green, Alex Courtney, Alfred Drake, Ray Heatherton, The Nicholas Brothers, Dan Dailey, Robert Rounseville, Grace MacDonald, and Wynn Murray.
The show within the show that the kids put on is a revue, and all but one of the Rodgers and Hart songs are the focal points for its skits. The only exception is "My Funny Valentine." It is integrated into the main story, Billie, played by Mitzi Green, singing it about her new love "Val," short for "Valentine," played by Ray Heatherton. Richard Rodgers has noted that because he and Hart were so interested in writing songs that helped to develop the story, they went so far as to change the name of one of their characters to Valentine to make the song fit the story. (Musical Stages, p, 181, hard-bound Ed.).
"I Wish I Were in Love Again" is introduced in the show by Grace McDonald (Dolores) and Rolly Pickert (Gus) singing a comic duet (Act 1, Scene 3) about a couple who has broken up; and although they love having ridded themselves of the trials and tribulations of their relationship find themselves bored without them.
Revivals: There have been no Broadway revivals of Babes
in Arms perhaps because despite the spectacular score, the book is just too slight and too dated; however, there have been two studio albums: one with Mary Martin on Columbia Records, from 1951; and one with Judy Blazer and Judy Kaye from 1989.This production uses the original 1937 orchestrations and therefore provides a rare opportunity to hear the musical portions of the show more or less as originally performed, before so many of the songs emerged as standards creating their own indelible impressions. There was also one New York concert revival by City Center Encores! in Feb. 1999, for which there is a cast album. Despite the lack of a Broadway revival, Babes in Arms has been mounted countless times in high school and stock productions using a revised book with a summer theater as the setting and in which the interns put on the show within the show.
The Lorenz Hart Website in its discussion of the revivals of Babes in Arms offers a refutation of the notion that Babes in Arms has never been recreated in its original form because the book is "too slight and too dated."
See IBDB.org entry for complete show production dates, complete cast, other credits, songs/sung by, Broadway revivals, etc.
"I Wish I Were in Love Again"
in the Movie Babes in Arms
"I Wish I Were in Love Again" was dropped from the film Babes in Arms. The Hollywood forces that created the movie version (in 1939, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney) inexplicably got rid of most of the great Rodgers and Hart songs from the show leaving only "Where or When" and the title song. Hollywood, perhaps recognizing its mistake did manage to use some of them later in the biopic Words and Music (1948).
See IMDB.com entry for Babes in Arms, the movie, (plot summary, cast, production credits, soundtrack info., etc.)
"I Wish I Were in Love Again"
in the Movie Words and Music
Words and Music, (1948), the very much less than accurate biopic of Rodgers and Hart, is nevertheless valuable for the performances of their songs. "I Wish I Were in Love Again" is sung by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney (playing Hart). Hart, dead by the time the movie was made, would have enjoyed the irony of Hollywood cutting the song from the movie version of the show he wrote it for but having the stars of that movie come back and sing it in this wildly inaccurate story of his life.
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney sing
"I Wish I Were in Love Again" in Words and Music, 1948.
Alec Wilder is fond of both the words and the music of "I Wish I Were in Love Again" but finally gives the nod to the lyric as being the more powerful element in the song:
Let me say that the melody, from the verse through to the end, is a perfect set of notes for the lyric. It is even strong enough to sustain itself as an instrumental piece. But once you've heard the lyric, your attention must be drawn toward the words.
(American Popular Song, p. 204, hard-bound edition)
Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, America's Songs, New York: Routledge, 2006.
Philip Furia and Michael Lasser shine a light on the dark, masochistic character of " I Wish I Were in Love Again":
For Furia and Lasser the bottom line of the song is the pushing of romance "to a masochistic extreme." Humans wish to be in love even when they know "how bad it feels, looks and even smells." They point out how Hart ironically enumerates love's charms: "the blackened eye"; the "conversation with the flying plates"; and "the self-deception that believes the lie"of statements like "'I'll love you til the day I die'." They conclude the song is Lorenz Hart's "backhanded tribute to [love's] power" (America's Songs, p. 139, hard-bound Ed.).
David Lehman concurs with Furia and Lasser" on the masochistic nature of Hart's lyric:
Hart is peerless at the melancholy of sexual attraction, the masochism of the smitten lover. Given the choice between a quiet healthy life and the classic quarrel of a man and wife, Hart's lover knows exactly which to prefer. From "I Wish I Were in Love Again," this couplet sums up the whole logic of romance in a noir mode:
The words "I'll love you till the day I die,"
The self-deception that believes the lie--
Philip Furia uses the words of "I Wish I Were in Love Again" to illustrate characteristic elements of "Society Verse," a type of light verse that virtually defines the nature of so many Songbook lyrics, lyrics with a sophisticated subject matter expressed in everyday, unsentimental language, language that "is never formal and elevated but 'terse and idiomatic and rather in the conversational key'.
When love congeals, it soon reveals
The faint aroma of performing seals,
The double-crossing of a pair of heels,
I wish I were in love again."
Gerald Mast gives Hart's love lyrics an oxymoronic and paradoxical spin:
If love for Hart can be a joyous agony, it can also be a pain in the neck. In "I Wish I Were in Love Again," the singers are caught between the pain of being in love and the pain of not being in love. In love there are sleepless nights and daily fights. Out of love you miss the kisses and you miss the bites. You're sane, but you'd rather be gaga or punch drunk. . . . Only one thing is sure with a Hart love lyric: you can't win one way or the other.
Ed.'s note: Sinatra omits the verse and proceeds to sing the two refrains much as Hart wrote them with only one interesting change. For the first refrain, Hart's line reads, "But / I would rather be gaga." For the second refrain Hart changes the line up just a bit having it read, "But I'd rather be punch-drunk." Sinatra sings the second version, the one with "punch-drunk" instead of "gaga, "for both refrains. No doubt Hart used them as being more or less synonymous terms, having the singer mean he/she would rather be partly out of his mind than sane, not "all there" as he puts it, because you have to be "gaga" and/or "punch-drunk" in order to be in love. Why Sinatra excised "gaga," we don't know. One can only wonder if he had known of his latter day colleague, Lady Gaga, would he have understood the word better and sung the first refrain as Hart wrote it.
Had he, he would have been swimming against the tide of this time. It has been suggested that "gaga" is (or was c. 1956) a figure of speech more typically applicable to an off-kilter woman and "punch-drunk" to a man in a similar state, hence Sinatra's choice. This notion is supported by the Garland/Rooney duet from 1948 (See above.) in which she sings, and acts out, the "gaga" line; whereas, he does the same for "punch-drunk." It is likely that Grace McDonald and Rolly Pickert divided the lines this way in the original Broadway production of Babes in Arms in 1937. Stacey Kent's rendition confirms the idea that the issue is a period sensitive one. In her 2001 recording, she enunciates "punch-drunk" twice, singing both refrains as Hart wrote them and then repeating the second refrain. Apparently she is beyond any femine aversion to such language. 2012 should further bear out this change with a vengence when women's boxing becomes an Olympic event for the first time, so that women can experience being punch-drunk literally instead of just as a result of love. This makes Ms. Kent's version an ironic foreshadow in song of what is now happening in the ring. This commentator prefers Hart's metaphorical "punch-drunkeness" for both sexes.
The complete, authoritative lyrics for "I Wish I Were in Love Again'" can be found in:
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The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet: Selected Recordings of
"I Wish I Were in Love Again"
(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)
Notes: This is a four CD box set including two takes of "I Wish I Were in Love Again," both recorded with vocal by Garland and piano accompaniment by Eadie Griffith and Rack Godwin in Hollywood on November 15, 1947. Click here for Less expensive individual CDs containing versions of the song--including duet with Rooney. Video: See below for live duet with Mickey Rooney in Words and Music, 1948)
Notes: The recording was made on November 20, 1956 and is Sinatra's only recording of the song. Click here for other Sinatra albums containing this track. Video: For streaming lyrics, watch and listen in the Cafe SongbookLyrics Lounge, this page.
Notes: The performance on the video below is similar to but not exactly the same as the one on the albums referenced above. The album track was recorded live at The Village Gate, New York, in December 1965, and originally released on Mainstream (MRL 800) Woman Talk. The video below is Carmen performing in Germany, c. 1965, accompanied by the Clarke-Boland Big Band.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)
Notes: Bennett originally recorded 20 Rodgers and Hart tracks at CBS studios in NYC, September 28-30, 1973, with Ruby Braff, trumpet, George Barnes and Wayne Wright, guitars, and John Giuffrida, bass. After much ado about many things, they were eventually released on two albums through the private Improv label in 1976 and 1977. Rhino records has reissued the original sessions in remastered sound on one CD, which is a great thing for everyone.
Notes: Studio LP originally recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios, NYC, October, 1975 with personnel: Bobby Short (vocals, piano); Beverly Peer (bass); Richard Sheridan (drums, percussion). Short, master cabaret pianist and singer held forth at the Cafe Carlyle in NYC for several decades. Its hard to think of performers who served Rodgers and Hart, especially with Hart's tender yet bitter ironies, better than he.
Notes: In 1958, Clooney recorded "I Wish I Were in Love Again" as a single on Coral which then appeared on the LP Swing Around Rosie. On this recording she is accompanied by The Buddy Cole Trio.
In 1989 she recorded the song for Concord Jazz on the album Show Tunes. The track has been re-released on The Best of the Concord Years. Personnel on this album includes Scott Hamilton (tenor sax), Warren Vache' (cornet), John Oddo (piano), John Clayton (bass) and Jeff Hamilton (drums). The great preponderance of songs on the Concord collection are jazz inflected versions of American Songbook standards (no music video currently available).
"The fact that one of the most successful pop singers of the '50s went on to become one of the most acclaimed jazz singers of the '80s and '90s shouldn't be marked up to the simple attrition of the WWII generation of jazz vocalists. Rosemary Clooney was comfortable (and skilled) singing in many different circumstances, and the fact that she could exhibit endless reserves of patience when forced to record pop fluff during the '50s by no means affected her love for the Great American Songbook — it may actually have intensified it" (from iTunes review).
Notes: Mitchell's venture into jazz inflected Songbook selections was recorded in 2000 at Air Studios, UK and includes arrangements by Gordon Jenkins and Vince Mendoza.
"Joni Mitchell is no stranger to jazz, as evidenced by her work with the legendary bassist and composer Charles Mingus toward the end of his life. On her 20th album, Mitchell forgoes the outer reaches of Mingus's jazz in favor of interpreting more traditional American vocal pop. By interpreting material normally associated with Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, the Canadian iconoclast travels down the same road as her old pal Linda Ronstadt. Unlike Ronstadt's mid-'80s three-album foray with Nelson Riddle into the great American standards songbook, Mitchell approaches this project on a more personal and conceptual level, as she traces the arc of a modern romantic relationship.
"Backed by the billowy sounds of the London Symphony Orchestra, Mitchell's burnished vocals provide a perfect match as she goes from discovering love ("At Last") to seeing it begin to crumble ("Sometimes I'm Happy") and ultimately collapse ("Stormy Weather"). Jazz greats Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock add some bite to the lush orchestrations. Mitchell weaves a personal touch into the conceptual framework by including a radically altered version of her own "A Case of You" and "Both Sides Now." BOTH SIDES NOW provides a haven for pop-vocal fans whose definition of the genre begins and ends with Sinatra" (from CD Universe Product Description).
Notes: Studio album recorded at Ardingly, England, July-September, 2001 with Jim Tomlinson, tenor sax and flute; Colin Oxley, guitar; David Newton, piano; Simon Thorpe, bass; Jasper Kviberg, drums. Video: Same track as on album referenced above (Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)
Notes: Scott Yanow describes Akers on this studio album as a "superior cabaret singer" who sticks to the lyrics as written while being accompanied by jazz inflected sidemen including Dave Schiavone (flute, saxophone); Don Rebic (piano); Chip Jackson (bass instrument); Eric Willis (drums)-- from CD Universe.