Welcome to another Musical Theatre Monday and the continuation of our series on the scores of Arthur Schwartz. We’ve covered a lot of his work over the past few years, including The Little Show (1929), Three’s A Crowd (1930), The Band Wagon (1931), Revenge With Music (1934), At Home Abroad (1935), Stars In Your Eyes (1939), and Park Avenue (1946). Now, we’re filling in some of the most important missing links; so far we’ve looked at Flying Colors (1932) and Virginia (1937). Today…
III. Between The Devil (12/22/37 – 03/12/38)
I’m so glad this terrific score by Schwartz and his frequent collaborator Howard Dietz, who also wrote the book, is finally getting its play here on Musical Theatre Mondays. Produced by the Shuberts, Between The Devil starred Jack Buchanan as a gent who marries Evelyn Laye after believing his first wife, Adele Dixon, to have died in a shipwreck. Hijinks ensue when the first wife pops up — alive. It’s the classic Enoch Arden story, adapted on screen as My Favorite Wife (1940) and Move Over, Darling (1963), the latter being the significant reworking of the incomplete Marilyn Monroe vehicle Something’s Got To Give (1962). While the score was generally regarded as enjoyable (and indeed, it did provide several hits), the book proved cause for concern. Dietz opined decades later that he didn’t make the book funny enough, but most reviews at the time simply balked at the lighthearted story, which was of the farcical variety beginning to grow passé. More detrimentally, the book didn’t even have the emotional substance to provide a logical conclusion — instead the story ended unresolved, insisting that the audience should imagine how it ended for themselves. Perhaps the premise would have been more engaging if it had opened in New York in its original tryout form, in which Buchanan knowingly became a bigamist, a fact that garnered many complaints and necessitated a rewrite.
Regardless of the show’s problems, I find the score completely delectable, with several classic tunes. Two of them gained recognition when they were added into MGM’s The Band Wagon (1953), including Buchanan’s “By Myself,” which is taken above from a rare unreleased radio performance of the number by Buchanan himself (shared here thanks to a friend), and the earworm-y “Triplets,” which was performed by the Tune Twisters and had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the plot. (It was originally written and cut from Flying Colors.) Here’s their rendition below.
The Tune Twisters also recorded a duet for secondary couple Vilma Ebsen and Charles Walters — Buddy was already in Hollywood — entitled “I’m Against Rhythm.”
Another forgotten tune was Evelyn Laye’s second act spot, the tender “Why Did You Do It?” The recording below is by Karen Morrow from the Dietz & Schwartz: Alone Together album.
From that same album, here’s a cut I’ve shared before in a past Schwartz tribute: Neal Kenyon and Nancy Dussault with the secondary couple’s sprightly sweet “You Have Everything.”
And we’ll close today’s post with another song I’ve shared before: a private recording of Joan Crawford — yes, the Joan Crawford — singing Between The Devil‘s first song, Laye’s beautiful “I’ve Seen Your Face Before Me,” a standard (quickly reprised by Dixon) that exists as one of my favorite Schwartz compositions. (And for those who’d prefer, here’s the original interpreter herself, Ms. Laye.)
Oh, and by the way… Between The Devil is #55 on our Essentials!
Come back next Monday for another Arthur Schwartz musical! Tune in tomorrow for my selections of the best from the sixth season of The Golden Girls!