“The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot.” Composed by Michael Carr, Tommy Connor, and Jimmy Leach. Recorded by Jack Harris and His Orchestra, with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist, on November 1, 1937. HMV BD-5290 mx. OEA 5120-1.
Personnel: Jack Harris-vn dir. Alfie Noakes-Doug Holman-t / Lewis Davis-Don Binney-tb / Harry Karr-cl-as-f / Freddy Williams-Harry Smith-reeds / George Glover-bar / Max Jaffa-Bill Sniderman-vn / Bert Read-Jack Penn-p / Cyril Halliday-Joe Brannelly-g / Alf Gray-d
Jack Harris & His Orchestra w. Elsie Carlisle – "The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot" (1937)
“The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” is a secular Christmas song concerning a boy who receives no visit from Santa Claus and therefore gets no Christmas gifts. He feels out of place when he considers the treasured argosies awaiting other children. The song reveals that the boy is fatherless, and suddenly we see things from an adult perspective: since we know that it is parents who play the role of the mythical jolly gift-giver, the lack of a father could mean missing out on a common seasonal joy. In the end, the song changes its focus from a fictional character to the absent father who would normally impersonate him, and the boy’s unfortunate situation is revealed to be year-round, not seasonal. Jack Harris’s band lends a rich tone to this sad composition, and although the song’s lyrics have the potential to be cloying, Elsie Carlisle’s singing emphasizes their more poignant aspects.
“The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot” has been recorded countless times since its composition in 1937. Vera Lynn’s version of it, recorded with Ambrose and His Orchestra six days before Elsie Carlisle did hers with Jack Harris, notably appears in the opening sequence of Pink Floyd’s 1982 movie The Wall, the relevance of its inclusion being that the father of Pink Floyd band member and screenwriter Roger Waters (and that of the fictional character that he based on himself) was killed fighting in the Second World War when Waters was only an infant.
“Pu-leeze! Mister Hemingway!” Words and music by Milton Drake, Walter Kent, and Abner Silver (1932). Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra with Elsie Carlisle as vocalist on December 1, 1932. Regal Zonophone MR-769.
Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-Harry Owen-t / Ted Heath-tb / Danny Polo-Joe Jeannette-Billy Amstell-reeds / Harry Hines-as / Bert Read-p / Joe Brannelly-g / Don Stutely-sb / Max Bacon-d / Freddie Bretherton-a
“Pu-leeze! Mister Hemingway” is a composition by notable songwriters Milton Drake (also known for “Java Jive” and “Mairzy Doats”), Walter Kent (most famous for “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “The White Cliffs of Dover”), and Abner Silver (who would co-write “No! No! A Thousand Times, No!” — another Elsie Carlisle hit). Elsie recorded “Pu-leeze! Mister Hemingway” five times in November and December of 1932, more times than any other song in her career: first “solo,” then with Ambrose and His Orchestra (by far her best-known version), then in two takes with Rudy Starita and His Band (one on Sterno, the other on Four-in-One), and finally with Harry Hudson and His Melody Men.
“Pu-leeze! Mister Hemingway!” remains one of Elsie’s most popular songs, most likely on account of her impeccable comic delivery of its risqué lyrics — indeed, it is outdone in sexual suggestiveness only by her two recordings of “My Man O’ War” (perhaps “My Handy Man” would also qualify in this regard). It is the complaint of an attractive woman who admits to liking a bit of flirtation but who has apparently met someone who takes it too far: a certain “Mr. Hemingway.” As the song progress, her description of his impertinent advances escalates, with Mr. Hemingway’s behavior sounding increasingly physically rough. The culmination is justly famous:
And I don’t mind your osculations,
But my dear, my operation!
Oh, pu-leeze! Mister Hemingway!
Two days before she recorded the version with Ambrose and His Orchestra, Elsie had committed to shellac a “solo” recording:
“Pu-leeze! Mister Hemingway!” Recorded by Elsie Carlisle on November 28, 1932. Decca F. 3312.
Personnel: probably Max Goldberg-t / t / tb / 2cl / as / 2 or 3 vn / Claude Ivy-p / g / sb / d
Two final points need to be addressed. People often ask me if it is Ernest Hemingway that Elsie is singing about. I see no particular reason to identify the fictional masher with the American novelist. An open letter addressed to Ernest Hemingway entitled “Please, Mr. Ernest Hemingway” appeared in the American Criterion in 1935, but the addition of Hemingway’s first name would suggest that the letter’s author did not consider the song title that he was citing in jest to be originally about Ernest Hemingway.