Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tune That Nearly Killed Dorothy Fields

It won the academy award for best film song in 1936 but when composer Jerome Kern first played "The Way You Look Tonight" for his lyricist, Dorothy Fields, she ran out of the room crying. “The release absolutely killed me,” she later told Max Wilk in an interview. “I couldn’t stop, it was so beautiful.”

Composer and critic Alec Wilder was particular about what songs he liked and didn’t (and he had musical credentials enough to objectify this most subjective of studies), and he had this to say about the song: “It’s a lovely, warm song, with a lovely, warm lyric . . . the song flows with elegance and grace. It has none of the spastic, interrupted quality to be found in some ballads, but might be the opening statement of the slow movement for a cello concerto . . . “

Debuted by Fred Astaire in the film, "Swing Time," it was subsequently covered by artists as varied as Frank Sinatra and Rod Stewart and was featured in films as recent as "My Best Friend’s Wedding."


Dorothy Fields quote, page 56 of Max Wilk’s "They’re Playing Our Song."

Alec Wilder quote, page 74 of his book "American Popular Song."

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