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Lovely to Look At

Written: 1933 (music) 1935 (words)

Music by: Jerome Kern

Words by: Dorothy Fields

Music written for show, Roberta,1933, (not used in show, used only in movie, 1935), words written for movie, Roberta, 1935)
(song, words and music together, used in movie only)

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The Video above is from the recording Oscar Peterson and Fred Astaire Complete Norman Granz Sessions (December, 1952) with Fred Astaire, (vocals and tap) and the Jazz at the Philharmonic All Stars: Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Flip Phillips, tenor sax; Oscar Peterson, piano and celeste; Barney Kessel, guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Alvin Stoller, drums. The songs, written by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Arthur Schwartz, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans, Johnny Mercer, and the Gershwin brothers, are selected from Astaire's movies and stage shows. An extra treat: Fred adds some tapping to a few of his vocals, and, as if that weren't enough, plays piano on several tracks. Finally, Oscar adds a few compositions of his own to the mix.

Fred Astaire and
Oscar Peterson
with the
Jazz at the Philharmonic All Stars


"Lovely to Look At"

From the album Complete Norman Granz Sessions, December, 1952 (See notes below video for complete personnel).


More Performances of "'Lovely To Look At" in the Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet

Cafe Songbook Reading Room

"Lovely To Look At"

Critics Corner || Lyrics Lounge

About the Show and Movie, Roberta

(movie -- DVD)

Alyn Shipton,
I Feel a Song Coming On: The Life of Jimmy McHugh,
University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2009


Book Cover: Deborah Grace Winer, On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields
Deborah Grace Winer,
On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields, (foreward by Betty Comden)
New York: Schirmer Books, 1997


The 1933 Broadway show Roberta was based on the 1933 Alice Duer Miller novel titledĀ Gowns by Roberta. The music for the Broadway show was written by Jerome KernĀ and the book and lyrics by Otto Harbach. The show starred George Murphy, Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, and Sydney Greenstreet all of whom were soon to make their reputations in Hollywood. Roberta opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam theater November 18, 1933, and ran for 295 performances, closing on July 21, 1934. The Movie Roberta was first released March 7, 1935 in New York City.

The music for "Lovely To Look At" was written by Jerome Kern for Roberta the show, but it was discarded even before it was given a lyric. It was only sixteen bars long, one half the length of the typical AABA song format of the day, to which the Broadway producers objected. It's abbreviated size made it relatively unsalable as sheet music or a good candidate for singers to record. Nevertheless and not surprisingly, Kern was unmoved by these arguments and refused to change anything; and so the music that eventually became "Lovely To Look At" was left wordless on the shelf. The lyric for "Lovely To Look At" was finally written two years later by Dorothy Fields, who had been hired to write lyrics for new music by Kern for songs to be added to the score of the 1935 movie version of Roberta. Pandro Berman, the movie's producer, knew, however, that Jerome Kern's original score for the Broadway show contained that wordless sixteen bar melody. He also knew that Otto Harbach, lyricist for the Broadway show had never written words for Kern's 16 bars. But Berman needed another song for the movie, one to accompany models parading in a fashion show, so he asked lyricist Dorothy Fields who was already on board to write the words for Kerns new music, to provide a lyric for Kern's previously unused tune. She complied but with reticence and astonishment because Kern was not told about this. She reportedly said:

Would you believe that Berman had the temerity to film the new number and [only] then send the sixteen bar song to Mr. Kern? It took a lot of guts to put one over on a man as eminent and discriminating as Jerome Kern. I heard he was very severe and critical, [but] he was a dream [to me]. One day at lunch I asked him why "Lovely to Look At" had only sixteen bars, and he replied, "Because that was all I had to say" (Alyn Shipton, I Feel a Song Coming On: The Life of Jimmy McHugh, pp. 134-135).

Shipton goes on to note that at the time Fields wrote this lyric both she and her long time writing partner Jimmy Mchugh were under "joint contract" to RKO, the studio that produced the movie, and so his name, by contract, appears on "Lovely to Look At" along with hers as co-lyricists -- despite the fact that the lyric was written entirely by Fields.

On the video above (actually an audio-only track), Dorothy Fields
(among others) is interviewed. The entire audio is worth listening to
but, if you're in a rush, the portion concerning the writing of the lyric for "Lovely To Look At," as told by Fields herself, begins at 8:15 and continues through 11:33. (The above track is Part I of 2. Both parts can be found on the CafeSongbook page for Jerome Kern.)

1935 was a year of writing partner transition for Dorothy Fields. Irving Berlin's song "Change Partners" of 1937, was not about Dorothy but the title would fit because in 1935, her most important lyrics were not written for music by Jimmy McHugh as had been most often the case during her career up to that point, but rather by the songwriter from an earlier generation who had been her idol, a man she had never even met depite him being a friend of her show biz family, the senior statesman of American songwriting, the Dean, as he was known among his fellow songwriters, Jerome Kern. Her first lyrics were for three songs that were not inlcuded in the Broadway version of Roberta but would be added to the score for the movie: "I Won't Dance,"* " I Dream Too Much" and "Lovely to Look At." As her biographer Deborah Grace Winer put it, "Dorothy was rapidly heading for an Oscar. When she finally got it, it was not McHugh who was beside her, but Kern." (Winer, p. 80). (--The Oscar winner was to be, of course, "The Way You Look Tonight" from the 1936 movie Swing Time). Winer also points out that Dorothy could have been heading for difficulties not only because producer Pandro Berman would put Kern's sixteen bars with its new lyric ritht into the movie without prior approval from the Dean, but also because he double tasked Field. He wanted her lyric to accomplish two purposes simultaniously: to be an accompaniment for glamorous models in a formal fashion show as a tender love song. And he wanted the lyric to be ready, literally, "tomorrow."

Apparently this was no problem for the talented Fields. It must have been as easy as falling out of bed, because she had it the next morning. Berman loved it. Irene Dunne sang it beautifully in the films finale, and when Eddy Duchin and his orchestra recorded it, the public loved it also. Duchin's recording quickly went to number one on the charts. And most critically, when the sometime crotchety Kern heard his music with her words -- already in the movie-- for the first time and without ever even having met her, he loved it too. It was, mutual affection at first sight for Kern and his new young lyricist, an affection that would last for the remainder of the composer's life.

"Lovely To Look At" is used twice in the film. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sing and dance to smippets from "Lovely To Look At," but it is only Dunne who sings it fully, including the verse, during the film's fashion show finale. Here, while Irene Dunne's character is singing the song she sees Randolph Scott (John Kent) and realizes that all is well with their romance. So it is at this point that the song becomes the love song producer Berman wanted, as well as the accompaniment for the parade of models.

In this scene from the 1935 movie Roberta, Fred Astaire (Huck Haynes) is conducting the fashion show orchestra as Randolf Scott (John Kent) gazes lovingly at Irene Dunne (Stephanie) singing "Lovely To Look At." Here, "Lovely To Look At" is simultaneously serving the dual purpose required by producer Pandro Berman: musical accompaniment for the models and love song. We look at the lovely models parade while John's gaze and smile announce his love for Stephanie. Dorothy Fields' lyric supports both.

Earlier in the film (See clip below.), the song was played (and sung) by the fashion show orchestra led by Huck Haines (Fred Astaire), where it served Berman's other purpose as an accompaniment for the lovely-to-look-at models.

Other songs written for Roberta currently included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook:

1. I Won't Dance (movie only with lyric by Dorothy Fields) -- This song, with a lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II, was originally written for a show, with music by Kern, for the London stage entitled Three Sisters. (1934).

2. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (show and movie)

3. The Touch of Your Hand (show only)

4. Yesterdays (show and movie)


For a complete listing of songs used in the original production of the show, see IBDB song list.


For a complete listing of songs used in the movie, see IMDB soundtrack.

*The music for "I Won't Dance" was written by Kern, originally for the musical Three Sisters, produced for the London stage in 1934, the book and lyrics for Three Sisters were by Kern's writing partner for Show Boat, Oscar Hammerstein II. When "I Won't Dance" was interpolated into the 1935 movie version of Roberta, it got new lyrics, more suited to its new context, by Dorothy Fields.


Ultimate Collectors Edition
(box set including all of the Astaire / Rogers movies)


book cover: Charlotte Greenspan, "Pick Yourself Up: Dorothy Fields and the American Musical
Charlotte Greenspan
Pick Yourself Up: Dorothy Fields
and the American Musical

New York: Oxford University Press,

Critics Corner
a widely reprinted Kern anecdote and quotation When Kern was asked why the music for "Lovely To Look At," written for the score for the Broadway show Roberta but never used in that production, was so short (only sixteen bars instead of the typical 32), he responded in his usual terse fashion, "I had nothing more to say."

CD cover: Irene Dunne Sings Kern and Other Rarities
Irene Dunne Sings Kern and Other Rarities


The track for "Lovely To Look At" (from the score for Roberta) on the album shown above was recorded on April 4, 1935.
Dunne is accompanied by Nat (or his brother Jack) Shilkret's Orchestra.

Michael Feinstein, as part of the liner notes for this Irene Dunne collection (for which "collector" Feinstein supplied the original recordings), relates the following incident that took place when he was a young man living in Hollywood and was often hired to play the piano at parties.

One night I was hired to play for a wealthy Beverly Hills couple who lived down the street from Fred Astaire, and among the guests who filtered into the music room after dinner was Irene Dunne, still glamorously unmistakable although old and fragile. Eventually a sing along ensued, and among those who lifted their voices in song were Jimmy Stewart and Loretta Young. Irene however remained silent through out. At one point someone asked her to sing and she wistfully replied "Oh, I don't sing anymore". But after a few minutes she looked directly at me, smiled and said, "do you happen to know an old song called 'Lovely To Look At'?" I immediately began to play it and she sang the song with gusto and held the penultimate note for a beautiful eternity. The group went wild and Irene was thrilled. It was probably the last time she ever sang, and I was humbled to be a part of it.

"Lovely To Look At"
"The Folks Who Live
on the Hill"

book cover: "The Jazz Standards" by Ted Gioia
Ted Gioia
The Jazz Standards:
A Guide to the Repertoire
New York:
Oxford University Press, 2012,
(harcover Ed. shown)


Biographies of
Jerome Kern:

book cover: Jerome Kern by Michael Freedland
Michael Freedland
Jerome Kern: A Biography
New York: Stein and Day, 1978

book cover: Jerome Kern by Gerald Bordman

Gerald Bordman,
Jerome Kern His Life and Music,
New York: Oxford University Press (1980)

book cover: Stephen Banfield "Jerome Kern"
Stephen Banfield
Jerome Kern
(Yale Broadway Masters Series)

New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2006

Two mid-1930s ballads with music by Jerome Kern have considerably different recording histories, especially with regard to jazz artists. As explained above on this page, the song "Lovely to Look At" (music and lyrics together) did not exist before the 1935 movie Roberta. Once Dorothy Fields supplied a lyric for Jerome Kern's previously unused music, the song was was added to the score and used in the 1935 film. Only then did recordings begin to get made. Most of the recordings of the song that arrived on the heels of the movie were by ballroom style dance bands with crooning style singers. The very first of them by Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra with vocal by Lew Sherwood and another by Leo Reisman and His Orchestra with vocal by Phil Duey both made the pop music charts. Neither, however, could be called a jazz rendition, even by the looser definition of jazz of that period.

It wasn't until the early fifties when Astaire himself was recording a history of his own vocal work (The Astaire Story) and chose first rate jazz musicians to accompany him (See above.) was there a rendition of "Lovely To Look At" that could be described as jazz or jazz inflected. Also about that time (from the early 1950's through the 1970s) several other jazz style recordings, both vocals and instrumentals, appeared. (See recordings by Ziggy Elman, David Allyn, The Oscar Peterson Trio, Lucky Thompson and Mark Murphy in the Record-Video Cabinet, this page.) but none of them featured top flight jazz vocalists during a period when the likes of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and others were already prominent, and the same was true for instrumentalists. This relative lack of enthusiasm for recording "Lovely To Look At" by jazz artists -- despite the 1952 Astaire/Peterson album as well as a major motion picture released by MGM during that year featuring the song and taking "Lovely to Look At" for its tilte -- is a little hard to explain:

Contrast this history with another Kern ballad "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" of the very next year. This song was every bit as sentimental as "Lovely To Look At," yet had jazz artists signing up right and left to record the song. (See the Record-Video Cabinet on the Cafe Songbook page for "The Folks Who Live on theHill." Why this difference? And for that matter why are two other Kern songs ("Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Yesterdays") also from Roberta included in Ted Gioia's book The Jazz Standards while "Lovely To Look At" isn't. To understand why, we need to consider yet another Kern song Gioia not only includes in his canon of Jazz standards but of which he writes, "I am tempted to say" ["All the Things You Are"] is "my favorite jazz standard," -- a statement which he then confesses a "need to immediately clarify":

Frankly I am not especially entertained by the song as written by Jerome Kern -- the melody, with its predictable whole notes and chord tones, moves with an austere, quasi-mathematical precision that leaves me cold -- but the piece represents, to my mind, an exciting set of possiblities as a springboard for jazz improvisation [emphasis ours]. I love this song less for what it is, than for what it can be. (Gioia, The Jazz Standards, p. 15, Hardcover, Ed.)

In the above passage, Gioia not only explains his feelings about why he is, like scores of jazz singers and instrumentalists, so attracted to "All the Things You Are," (a song Gioia might have preferred to have given the title "All the Things You Could Be"), but also reveals to us why one song that has become a pop standard (or at least very popular) may or may not become a jazz standard. Why for, example, so many jazz artists have tried their hand (or mouth or voice) out on "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" and so few on "Lovely To Look At." After all, the very fine jazz musicians accompanying Fred Astaire on "Lovely To Look At" were not primarily interested in the improvisational possibilities inherent (or not) in that Kern composition but interested in it mostly, no doubt, as part of a project to tell Astaire's story musically. No doubt they managed to do some good jazz stuff with "Lovely To Look At" but still not enough was there to set off a 'crescendo' of jazz inflected recordings. It didn't have what "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" Had" or centainly not what "All the Things You Are" had -- that certain chord structure or other something that would make jazz artists love it "for what it [could] be."

album cover: "The Astaire Story"
The version of "Lovely To Look At" on this album can be heard on the Main Stage, above.


The clip just above from the 1935 RKO movie Roberta includes the first time we experience "Lovely To Look At" in the film, albeit in an abbreviated form as part of a medley with an instrumental version of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (the big hit of both show and movie) here danced to by Fred and Ginger. The full debut of "Lovely To Look At" in Roberta is left to Irene Dunne during the film's finale. You can view a clip of that above.
Note on Ginger's accent: She's doing her best to sound like a Russian aristocrat for fashion business purposes. Fred knows Ginger is conning someone because his and Ginger's characters were an item back home in Indiana -- so he plays along with her for the fun of it, or because, maybe, there's something in it for him and his band, or maybe just because she's easy to dance with, or as it turns out, because he's still in love with her.

book cover: Alec Wilder, "American Popular Song" 1900-1950

Alec Wilder, American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972, hardcover Ed. p. 69 (paper-bound edition shown).
Alec Wilder praies "Lovely To Look At" with feint criticism. He refers to Kern's alleged answer to the question, why is the song so short (only sixteen bars instead of the conventional 32) by saying, "I had nothng more to say." Wilder calls Kern's answer "courageous and forthright," but adds that because he likes the song, he "feels slightly cheated."

book cover: Wilfred Sheed "The House That George Built

Wilfred Sheed, The House That George Built: With a Little Help from Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty,
New York: Random House, 2007 (paper-bound ED. 2008 shown)


Wilfred Sheed writes that "Lovely To Look At" was, like Roberta, the show for which Kern wrote the music, "pivotal." Like Roberta, it "is something of a hybrid, half way beween the grandeur of the old Kern and the friskiness of the new; as a stretch, it might have been at home back in Show Boat, but it also sounds like a Fred Astaire song. Either way, I have always found this song absolutely hypnotic and it was the first Kern number to jerk those time-honored words out of me: 'He's the best, you know, the very best'."

Lyrics Lounge
These lyrics for "Lovely To Look At" taken from: ThePeaches.com
Clothes must play a part
To light an eye, to win a heart;
They say a gown can almost speak,
If it is chic. Should you select the right effect,
You cannot miss, You may be sure,
He will tell you this. Refrain: Lovely to look at,
Delightful to know and heaven to kiss.
A combination like this, Is quite my most impossible scheme come true, Imagine finding a dream like you! You're lovely to look at, It's thrilling to hold you terribly tight. For we're together, the moon is new, And oh, it's lovely to look at you tonight! Verse 2 What appeals to me Is just your charm and dignity; Not what you wear, But just an air, of great repose. You are quite perfect from your head down to your toes Both night and day, I am moved to say Repeat refrain
lyrics contributed by Car lene Bogle http://www.thepeaches.com/music/

Authoritative Lyrics for
"Lovely To Look At"
can be found in:

book jacket: "Reading Lyrics"
Reading Lyrics,
Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Gottlieb and Robert Kimball, New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.
p. 381 Harcover Ed.


Book Cover: Deborah Grace Winer, On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields
Deborah Grace Winer,
On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields, (foreward by Betty Comden)
New York: Schirmer Books, 1997, p. 85 harcover Ed.
(lyrics, p. 87)

Click here to read Cafe Songbook lyrics policy.

The songs that apppeared in the score for the 1933 Broadway musical Roberta, the 1934 London show Three Sisters, and the 1935 movie Roberta all had music by Jerome Kern; however, the words for the songs in these shows had more complicated origins: The lyrics for the 1933 Broadway show Roberta as well as for the songs from that show used in the 1935 movie of the same title were written by Otto Harbach, one of Kern's long time writing partners. These songs included, among others, the standards "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," "Yesterdays," and "The Touch of Your
." Lyrics for songs written two years after the Broadway show in 1935 and added to the score of the movie had their words written exclusively by Dorothy Fields. One song, "I Won't Dance," originally written for the London production of Three Sisters had lyrics, when used in that show only, by Oscar Hammerstein II. When "I Won't Dance" was interpolated into the score for the 1935 movie Roberta, it was given a new set of lyrics (to make the song "livelier"), which were written by DorothyFields. And to make things more complicated yet, all of the new songs for the movie with lyrics by Dorothy Fields were published with a words credit given to Fields earlier writing partner, Jimmy McHugh; but that was only because RKO's contract with Fields required it to be so. McHugh didn't acutrally write anything for the movie -- no matter how many times and in how many places you may read that he did. In other words, no matter what the sheet music or other sources may say, the words for "Lovely to Look At" (the focus of this page) were written solely by Dorothy Fields.


Turner Layton performs "Lovely To Look At"
from the album The Great Lyricists -- Dorothy Fields

(date of original Layton recording currently unknown to us)


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("Lovely to Look At" page)


Credits for Videomakers of custom videos used on this page:

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For further information on Cafe Songbook policies with regard to the above matters, see our "About Cafe Songbook" page (link at top and bottom of every page).

The Cafe Songbook
Record/Video Cabinet:
Selected Recordings of

"Lovely To Look At"

(All Record/Video Cabinet entries below
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.)
Performer/Recording Index

Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra
Leo Reisman and His Orchestra

album: The Jerome Kern Songbook

Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra


Notes: In 1935, three versions of "Lovely To Look At" by orchestra leaders and their dance band style orchestras (with vocal accompanyists) made it onto the charts: Eddy Duchin's version on Victor was recorded on February 15, (vocal by Lew Sherwood) was the biggest hit rising to number 1. A Brunswick 78 rpm single by Leo Reisman and his orchestra (vocal by Phil Duey) rose to number 10 (See just below.).

Leo Reisman and His Orchestra

Irene Dunne, who debuted the song in the movie Roberta* recorded it on April 4, with Nat Shilkret and his orchestra making it to number 20 (See just below.).
*Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers also sang and danced to smippets from "Lovely To Look At" in the movie, but it was only Dunne who sang it fully including the verse during the film's fashion show finale.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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Irene Dunne
album: Irene Dunne Sings Kern
and Other Rarities


Notes: On Dunne's recording of "Lovely to Look At" for the album above (originally recorded April 4, 1935 on a Brunswick 78 rpm single, 7420), she is accompanied by Jack (or Nat) Shilkret* and his orchestra. Of the 20 other tracks on this CD all have music by Jerome Kern ( with the exception of three: "Sing My Heart" is by Harold Arlen, "When I Grow Too Old To Dream" is by Sigmund Romberg and "If Love Were All" by William Axt.) The Kern songs include, among others, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (also from Roberta) "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star," and "All the Things You Are." The CD also features extended extracts from the soundtrack of the film version of Show Boat in which Dunne starred as Magnolia.
*Some confusion as to which Shilkret brother's (Nat's or Jack's ) orchestra accompanies Irene Dunne on the original Brunswick (7420) recording of "Lovely To Look At."
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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Dick Haymes
album: Once in a Lifetime


Notes: *Although Amazon gives this Dick Haynes/Dorothy Fields anthology album a 2011 release date, it is obvious that Haymes' recording of "Lovely To Look At" (and of the other songs in the album) are nowhere near as late as that. The same track of "Lovely To Look At" appears on a later anthology album, "The Special Magic of Dick Haymes," in 1978 but even that year, two years before Haymes died and the year of his very last recording session, is far too late for this recording, given the recording itself reveals that it is a transcription of a radio show performance. Haynes was most active on the radio in the late 1940's after his successful appearance in the movie State Fair in 1945. After that he got major roles in several other movies and co-hosted a radio show with big band singer Helen Forrest. Our best estimate for the date of this performance of "Lovely To Look At" is that it comes from that series of programs.

The main point, however, is that "Lovely To Look At" post 1950s was running out of gas as a song that was generating new recordings. The inclusion of it by KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler in one of their medleys on an album made in 2005 is one of the few (See just above.), recordings that are not merely notalgic throwbacks to the era of nitetclub dance bands.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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Howard Keel
album: Lovely To Look At,


Notes: By the time the Fifties rolled in, a movie remake of Roberta entitled Lovely to Look At appeared starring Katherine Grayson and Howard Keel as the singing leads and Marge and Gower Champion as the featured dancers. The style of the film as well as the style of the musical performances contrasted sharply with the Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers version of 1935. There had been a hesitance to use the song at all because it was only sixteen bars long and somewhat difficult to sing, but both films did.
Also in both cases, an element of clerverness is introduced into the staging of the song. In the '35 movie, the song is sung by Irene Dunne as her character Stephanie more or less introduces a parade of models in a fashion show. The singer is "lovely to look at" expecially for her love (Randolph Scott) who is watching her be lovely as she sings and letting her know their recent falling out is over. In the 1952 version, the model, Katherine Grayson, is looking at her own loveliness in a set of mirrors as she prepares for a fashion show while an unseen Howard Keel sings the song as a voiceover. In both cases the Dorothy Fields lyric works as an introduction for and accompaniment to the fashion parade as well as being a love song.

Perhaps it would have been more "normal" for the men to sing the song in both films, but Scott was not a strong vocalist and often didn't sing a song one might have expected him to. In the 1937 movie High, Wide and Handsome (also starring Dunne and Scott and featuring Kern's music), the same thing occurs when Dunne sings "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" which lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II originally intended for Scott's character.
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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Ziggy Elman
album: Zaggin' With Zig (Remastered)


Notes: This track featuring Ziggy Elman and His Orchestra was originally released as a 10" 78 rpm shelac single in July, 1952 on MGM Records, which makes sense because it was in 1952 that MGM released its movie Lovely To Look At starring Howard Keel and Katherine Grayson as the singing leads. The "B" side of the record was another song from the movie, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" that was from the the original score for the Broadway show Roberta and was also used in the the first movie version, also titled Roberta, with Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. "Lovely To Look At," the A side of the Elman record, wasn't included in the Broadway show at all because it didn't exist then, more or less. (See above, center column, for details.)
(Please complete or pause one
video before starting another.)

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Artists: Fred Astaire, vocal; Oscar Peterson, piano; Charlie Shavers, trumpet; Flip Phillips, tenor sax; and celeste; Barney Kessel, guitar; Ray Brown, Bass; Alvin Stoller, drums.
album: Oscar Peterson and Fred Astaire Complete Norman Granz Sessions

Listen to the "Lovely To Look At" track from this album on the
Cafe Songbook Main Stage (above)

album cover: Oscar Peterson and Fred Astaire "Complete Norman Granz Sessions"

and the same tracks on albums
with different titles and/or album covers


Notes: From the liner notes of the album above written by John Flanagan:
"Fred Astaire was a famous dancer, a popular movie actor, and a singer who had introduced the immense majority of memorable songs from the golden age of the American musical. However, what many people at that time didn't know about was Astaire's great devotion to jazz and his ability for phrasing in a jazz style even thugh he was not an improvisor in the true sense of the word. In these recordings, he sings accompanied by a sextet of of important musical talents, with jazzmen of the stature of trumpeter Charlie Shavers, the tenor sax player Flip Phillips, the pianist Oscar Peterson, the guitarist Barney Kessel, the contrabass player Ray Brown, and the drummer Alvin Stoller. All of them were supervised by the producer and promoter Norman Granz, creator of the troupes with the name of Jazz at Tjhe Philharmonic. . . .
"During the 156 minutes [40 tracks: 34 with Astaire vocals and 6 instrumentals], Astaire and his pals go trough standards that were immensely popular duuing that era, many of which he had . . . [introduced] in his movies, stage productions, etc.. . . ." The liner notes also include an introduction by Astaire originally published with the album "The Astaire Story."

Although Irene Dunne (introduces) the full version of "Lovely To Look At" in the 1935 movie Roberta, Astaire and Ginger Rogers (Ginger's character feigning a Russian accent) sing and dance to a partial version of the song before the pair really get into dancing to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." -- See video clip center column, this page.:
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David Allyn
twofer album: A Perfect Match
"A Sure Thing" David Allyn Sings Jerome Kern
In the Blue of the Evening


Notes: This CD contains the tracks from two David Allyn albums both recorded with Johnny Mandel as conductor and arranger: David Allyn Sings Jerome Kern and In the Blue of the Evening. "The Perfect Match " of the album's title refers to the pairing of Allyn and Mandel. Amazon reviewer Mark Tobak writes, . . ."Tender, moving and engrossing in the ballads, thrilling in the uptempo numbers. Much of Allyn's work (some as 'Allen') is scattered amongst vinyl and CD, some regrettably uneven, but here are some of his best recorded performances. Hard to stop listening and harder to believe it is so obscure. . . ."
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Artist: Oscar Peterson Trio
album: Oscar Peterson Plays the Jerome Kern Songbook


Notes: Oscar Peterson, piano; Ray Brown, double bass; Ed Thigpen, drums; recorded July 14 - August 9, 1959, produced by Norman Granz for Verve records.
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Lucky Thompson
album: Lucky Thompson
Plays Jerome Kern and No More

(and others, see just below.)

Notes: This Lucky Thompson track of "Lovely To Look At" first appeared on a 45 rpm single and on the Jerome Kern and No More album (1963) noted above. Subsequent releases of the "Lovely To Look Out At" Track can be viewed (See at Discogs.com.). The entire Moodsville label Kern album is availale on a twofer along with Thompson's 1965 album Happy Days. Here Is Amazon reviewer Bomojazz' comment on the 1963 Kern album:
"This CD brings together two excellent albums Lucky recorded in 1963 and 1965, one for Moodsville and the other for Prestige. Lucky's tone, especially on tenor sax, is delicate and supremely lyrical; he loves the lower register and caresses the listener with its warmth. The tempos on the Moodsville album are brisker than usual for that label, and the results are very impressive. LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY and WHY DO I LOVE YOU practically dance off the disc. WHO is taken way up-tempo but never loses its lyricism. Lucky approaches the soprano sax with an equal amount of lyricism; LOOK FOR THE SILVER LINING is particularly good. Hank Jones is on piano and is his usually fantastic self; his solo on WHY WAS I BORN is terrific."

album cover: "Lucky Thompson"


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Mark Murphy
album: Sings Mostly Dorothy Fields
and Cy Coleman


Notes: Murphy sings the sixteen bars (including the verse) exactly as Kern wrote the music for what later became "Lovely To Look At" when Fields added the words. About his sixteen bars (one half the length usual for songs of the period), Kern famously quipped "That's all I had to say." Murphy is accompanied by The Loonis McGlohon Trio: McGlohon on piano; Terry Lassiter on bass and Jim Leckey on drums.

Someone has suggested that the spoken voice at at the conclusion of Murphy's performance is that of talk show host Jack Paar, but no matter who it might have been, its presence suggests that Murphy's performance was live as it would have been on a talk show where the performer interacts afterward with the host.
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artists: KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler
album: A Fine Romance: A Dorothy Fields Songbook


Notes: KT Sullivan and Mark Nadler are well known not only as a duo who often partner on medleys but who occasionally introduce elements of humor into their renditions. One might think then that the listing of the above medley by Amazon (and in quite a few other places) as "Lovely To Be Fit" instead of Fields'"Lovely To Look At" is intentional; someone, perhaps Mr. Nadler, fiddling around with the lyric/title a bit with humorous intent as is often his wont. But no. On the recordng itself, the title phrase remains true to how Fields wrote it: "Lovely To Look At." "Lovely To Look Fit," therefore, though often reprinted, remains an unsolved riddle, at least by us.
William Ruhlmann at AllMucic.com writes about this album that "some of these songs are so familiar ('I Can't Give You Anything But Love,' 'I'm in the Mood for Love,' 'On the Sunny Side of the Street') "that they have to be reimagined to be made fresh, and Sullivan and Nadler have been bold in bringing them back to life. . . ." but apparently (and thankfully) not so bold as to change "Lovely To Look At" to "Lovely To Look Fit." Quel Mystère!
In combining "Lovely To Look At" and "The Way You Look Tonight" (the latter being Kern's and Fields' Oscar winner), they have seamlessly bonded two of Fields' lyrics by stitching the lead-in from verse 2 of "Lovely To Look At," not to a repeat of the refrain for that song as called for by Fields, but instead to the refrain for "The Way You Look Tonight." It works so perfectly that the Oscar could just as well have gone to Sullivan's and Nadler's medley version.

(album songs recorded 2005, album released 2006)


Annalene Beechey
album: Roberta
(original score -- recreation)


Notes: The recording above is from an album that recreates the complete original score as a live studio recording of Roberta as written by Otto Harbach (book and lyrics) and Jerome Kern (music), but adding, even, portions left out of the 1933 original Broadway production (e.g. "Lovely To Look At" with 1933 music by Kern and a 1935 lyric by Dorothy Fields -- For more on this history, see above, center column.) The orchestra on this recording is conducted by Rob Berman. The cast includes West End, Broadway, and opera stars Kim Criswell, Annalene Beechey (who sings "Lovely To Look At"), Jason Graae, and Diana Montague. This is the first recording of the complete score with its original orchestrations by Kern's orchestrator-of-choice, Robert Russell Bennett (album recorded New World Records, 2014).
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