Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our six week series on the yet-to-be covered ’30s scores of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, whose work from both the ’20s and ’40s has been well represented here. The only featured shows of theirs from the ’30s — my favorite musical decade — have been Ever Green (1930), Jumbo (1935), On Your Toes (1936), and Too Many Girls (1939). So we still have some rich area to cover! We kicked off this series last week with Simple Simon (1930). Today . . .
II. America’s Sweetheart (02/10/31 – 06/06/31)
Rodgers and Hart returned from their first Hollywood sojourn with an eye to lampoon the cinematic medium, and with book writer and frequent collaborator Herbert Fields, they paired with Monty Woolley as director to create America’s Sweetheart. The production starred Harriette Lake and Jack Whiting as a pair of lovebirds who go West to get fame, but her career takes off while his languishes (as does their romance). However, the tables turn with the advent of sound, as the new starlet’s lisp makes her undesirable. After his star goes on the ascent, he takes her back and all ends happily. Although most found the show charming, spoofs of Hollywood had already become popular on the Great White Way, and so the story (along with the score) was deemed too familiar. But the cast was strong; in addition to Whiting and Lake (who would go West herself and adopt the stage name Ann Sothern), there was Jeanne Aubert as a French movie star (you’ll remember her as the strange portrayer of Reno in the Original 1935 London production of Anything Goes), Inez Courtney as one half of the secondary couple, Virginia Bruce in a small role, and the Forman sisters, a singing trio whose moments landed well.
Because it is a book musical (and for access to a very early rehearsal draft of the libretto, subscribe and comment below), there have been small scale revivals over the years — including a 1995 Off-Broadway concert and a production by 42nd Street Moon. I have an audio of the former (and, as usual, for access to this recording, please subscribe and comment below), and it reveals the score to be nothing but lighthearted fun. The most well known number is the primary couple’s “I’ve Got Five Dollars,” performed above by Joan Morris and William Bolcom.
From the 1995 audio, above is another semi-standard, the secondary couple’s “How About It?” Below are the same performers with the simple “My Sweet.” Such fun!
The main couple got another charming duet in “We’ll Be The Same.” Here’s a period rendition by Arden and Ohman with Frank Luther doing the vocal.
The most memorable numbers, however, were given to Aubert’s Denise Torel. Here’s Diana Canova (yes, Corinne Tate) with “I Want A Man” — a much breezier number than the Youmans tune of the same title.
And we’ll close today’s post with Aubert’s “A Lady Must Live,” taken from a Ben Bagley recording and performed by Bibi Osterwald and Blossom Dearie. Find out why it’s one of my Lorenz Hart favorites below.
Come back next Monday for another Rodgers and Hart musical! And tune in tomorrow for the best from the second season of The Jeffersons!