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TODAY IN PART 2, we pick up our Great American Songbook celebration of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in two more of their musicals from the mid-1930s. We’ll also encounter President Barak Obama, walking a dog, and grounds for divorce.
Swing Time. Jerome Kern wrote the music and Dorothy Fields did the lyrics for this 1936 musical. One of my favorites is “The Way You Look Tonight,” given a jazz interpretation by an early Dave Brubeck Quartet at Oberlin College.
Another Kern/Fields song from the film is “Pick Yourself Up,” with the encouraging lyric “Now nothing’s impossible, I have found for when my chin is on the ground,/ I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.” When Daughters Suz and Beth were kids, I taught them an animated rendition of this for overcoming adversity.
Barak Obama worked this idea into his inaugural address, January 20, 2009: “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” A sentiment to remember. And recycle.
Shall We Dance. George and Ira Gershwin wrote the music and lyrics, respectively, for this 1937 musical comedy. Its Great American Songbook standards include “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” and “They All Laughed (at Christopher Columbus).” I love the non-Gershwin riff, “They all laughed at Whitney and his cotton gin—but nobody laughed when they found they couldn’t drink it.”
Another song from Shall We Dance, “Walking the Dog,” has already made an appearance here at SimanaitisSays. Its sheet music was published only in 1960, as “Promenade,” which has become a chamber orchestra favorite.
Wordsmiths Scott and Pagano. As London Review of Books author Michael Wood notes, “There is some amazing dialogue (in this case by Allan Scott and Ernest Pagano—Allan Scott is credited in all three movies).”
My favorite Scott/Pagano repartee, in Shall We Dance, is “What are the grounds for divorce in this state?” “Marriage.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019