Louise Howlet (Voice) & Albert Combrink (Piano) perform the 1934 Rodgers & Hart Classic, “Blue Moon” at the launch of their CD “Night Sessions”, 7 October 2010, Cape Town.
Thought you’d be interested in the story of Blue Moon.
Blue Moon was the only Rodgers and Hart song to become a hit, that was not written for a show or movie; but Blue Moon has a remarkable history. The lyric that we are familiar with was the fourth… here’s the story:
Rodgers and Hart were under contract to MGM for about a month when they were given the task of writing songs for the “Hollywood Party”. They were told every MGM star would be in it, Disney was making a technicolor cartoon to stick in the middle of it, and it was to be the big screwball comedy “to end all screwball comedies” to quote Richard Rodgers… “One of our ideas was to include a scene in which Jean Harlow is shown as an innocent young girl saying – or rather singing- her prayers. How the sequence fitted into the movie I haven’t the foggiest notion, but the purpose was to express Jean’s overwhelming ambition to become a movie star (‘Oh Lord, if you’re not busy up there,/I ask for help with a prayer/ So please don’t give me the air…’).” The scene was never shot, no sound checks were ever made, and in fact, only three of the dozen or so Rodgers and Hart songs written for the film made it to the screen. So MGM Song #225 is dated June 14, 1933, and was registered for copy-right as an unpublished work by MGM, JULY 10, 1933. The remarkable saga of “Prayer” epitomizes what Rodgers and Hart went througn when they were under contract to Metro.
In its second life the “Prayer”/”Blue Moon” tune was given a new lyric and became the title song of the 1934 MGM film Manhatian Melodrama, which starred Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Leo Carillo, and was the movie that John Dillinger had been watching when he was gunned down outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. It was registered for copyright as an unpublished work by Metro-Goidwyn Mayer, March 30, 1934. So Hart wrote a lyric for the song to be used as the title song (played either before or during the opening credits of the Movie)… But before “High Noon”, you just didn’t have too many title songs, so “Its Just That Kind of a Play” AKA The Manhattan Melodrama was cut.
Rodgers liked the melody and when MGM asked for a nightclub number for “Manhattan Melodrama”, he had Hart write new lyrics and “Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)” became “The bad in every man” sung by Shirley Ross. The song made it into the film but did not become a hit. The press kit shows sheet music on the song, but I’ve never run across any.
It was Rodgers & Hart’s publisher, Jack Robbins who told them he thought the song would be a hit, if Hart could make it more commercial. Hart was reluctant to write a fourth lyric, but Robbins swore he’d plug the song from California to Maine. Hart caved in and wrote “Blue Moon”. Robbins “gave” it to the “Hollywood Hotel”, a radio program that used it as their theme, and on January 15, 1934 He had Connie Boswell record it for Columbia. Blue Moon turned up in at least seven other MGM motion pictures including “Marx Brothers At The Circus” and “Viva Las Vegas”.
Oh, Lord, If you ain’t busy up there,
I ask for help with a prayer,
So please don’t give me the air.
Oh, hear me, Lord. I must see Garbo in person
With Gable when they’re rehearsin’
While some director is cursin’.
Please let me open up my, eyes at seven
And find I’m looking through the Golden Gate