Sunday, February 05, 2017

And This Blog Loves Harry Ruby

When it comes to 20th century pop culture, there were many witty, clever and wonderful wordsmiths in the days of Olde Broadway, but none more brilliant and nimble than the prolific songwriter, screenwriter and Groucho Marx pal Harry Ruby (January 27, 1895 – February 23, 1974). Here he is, on Ralph Edwards' This Is Your Life show.

Harry is top row center in the following snapshot of show business luminaries.

The 20th century music lovers at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog hold Harry Ruby in extremely high regard as a songwriter for stage, screen and television. Today's post pays tribute to the songs of Harry Ruby, who, frequently in collaboration with his partner, lyricist Bert Kalmar, was responsible for so many memorable Tin Pan Alley tunes.

Kalmar & Ruby wrote songs for the Broadway shows High Kickers, The Five O' Clock Girl, The Ramblers, Good Boy, Animal Crackers, Top Speed and Marc Connelly & George S. Kaufman's Helen Of Troy, New York.

The list of Harry Ruby songs is so lengthy, it's tough to know where to begin. Even diehard film buffs may not know Harry's name or face, but will definitely know his songs. Marilyn Monroe's vowel-caressing performance of I Wanna Be Loved By You is just one among many blazing scenes in the Billy Wilder masterpiece Some Like It Hot.

In his four decades writing songs, Harry Ruby, with collaborators Bert Kalmar, Edgar Leslie, Rube Bloom, and Fred E. Ahlert, penned everything from Broadway scores to movies to TV show themes, such as The Real McCoys.

We'll kick this homage to the great songs of Harry Ruby off with Frank Sinatra's stellar rendition of Nevertheless, I'm In Love With You.

To follow Sinatra, here's a version of A Kiss To Build A Dream On, performed beautifully by Louis Armstrong. As usual, Pops expresses the song's heart, its essential meaning.

Talented songstress June "Something Cool" Christy from the Stan Kenton Orchestra waxed a fantastic version of Give Me The Simple Life by Harry Ruby and Rube Bloom.

Gotta love pianist Dorothy Donegan's take on this tune as well.

Most famous, celebrated and beloved among all the Kalmar & Ruby songs would be their great work with The Marx Brothers. The songs from Animal Crackers (both stage and screen), Horse Feathers and the arch-satirical Duck Soup, delivered with great enthusiasm by the Marx Brothers, exemplify what the team is all about - and still make this writer laugh out loud.

Even the secondary tunes featuring the non-comedic players are pretty wonderful, such as this ditty from Animal Crackers, penned for the 1928-1929 stage production at the 44th Street Theatre, Why I Am So Romantic?.

Sung by Hal Thompson and the charming Lillian Roth, who appeared in many Paramount Pictures features and musical shorts in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Oddly enough, Groucho doesn't then sing it to Margaret Dumont!

Groucho was particularly fond of singing Harry's Father's Day song. There are a couple of versions. I like the one Groucho performed on The Dick Cavett Show, but even more, the second one, from Music Scene, hosted by screen and TV comedy "triple threat," comic-writer-director David Steinberg.

Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby penned many songs for other popular comedians of stage and screen, including George Jessel and Eddie Cantor.

The team's songs are mainstays in the RKO films of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, the topics of two Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog posts, Two Guys I Like: Wheeler And Woolsey and and New On DVD - And As Randy As Ever: Wheeler & Woolsey, both laden with songs by Kalmar & Ruby.

I Love You So Much, ends up serving as a motif through much of the movie The Cuckoos, and is the background music for the plot's slapstick denouement towards the end.

Just Keep On Doin' What You're Doin' from Hips Hips Hooray, performed hilariously by Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Dorothy Lee and Thelma Todd, may be my individual favorite musical number from all the Wheeler & Woolsey features.

Just Keep On Doin' What You're Doin' is one of Kalmar & Ruby's best and such a great song, none other than The Manhattan Transfer covered it on The Tonight Show, hosted by Johnny Carson.

No less than the great Zero Mostel recorded an album of Harry Ruby's Songs My Mom Never Sang

MGM produced a biopic about Kalmar and Ruby, starring the team of "Fred n' Red" - Astaire and Skelton - as the songwriters.

We tip our top hats worn by Fred Astaire to Mr. Ruby, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and close today's tribute with several renditions of with possibly Monsieur Blogmeister's favorite all of Harry Ruby tunes, and one embraced by Broadway, the movies and especially by virtuoso jazz singers and improvisers, Three Little Words.

For more info on the great songwriter, check out:

All - Artist Biography by Joslyn Layne entry for An Evening With Groucho

Broadway World website: list of Harry Ruby stage shows

DBOPM - The Database Of Popular Music

Harry Ruby, from the Songwriters' Hall Of Fame website

Harry Ruby Song List - Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Internet Broadway Database

Interview with Harry Ruby, June 12, 1971 by Max Wilk: audio, can be heard onsite in The New York Public Library Digital Collections. Parts of this interview ended up in Max Wilks' book They're Playing Our Song: Conversations With America's Classic Songwriters

Wikipedia - Harry Ruby

Wikipedia - Kalmar & Ruby

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