“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
Rolando & His Blue Salon Orchestra ""Pu-leeeze! Mr Hemingway" etc. Elsie Carlisle & Sam Browne
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.
Elsie Carlisle sang “Oh, My Bundle of Love”1 at her third recording session, for her third record, accompanied, as she always would be that year, by a 23-year-old Carroll Gibbons on the piano. The composition has a bubbly energy typical of the dance music of its period, and the lyrics express the goofy enthusiasm of a young lover by way of precious, cutesy colloquialisms (e.g. “sweetie-sweet”). For this song, Elsie dons a persona of somewhat mindless ebullience that reminds me of her 1930 version of “Wasn’t It Nice?”; she is the picture of pure, giggly fun. The recording is also a good example of Carroll Gibbons’s developing piano virtuosity (he would not be known as a band leader for another year).
“No! No! A Thousand Times No!” Words and music by Al Sherman, Al Lewis, and Abner Silver (1934). Recorded by Ambrose and His Orchestra on November 20, 1934, with vocal chorus by Sam Browne and Elsie Carlisle. Decca F. 5318 mx. GB6772-2 (also Decca F. 7204 and Brunswick A. 81929).
Personnel: Bert Ambrose dir. Max Goldberg-t-mel / Harry Owen-t / t / Ted Heath-Tony Thorpe-tb / Danny Polo-reeds / Sid Phillips-reeds / Joe Jeannette-as / Billy Amstell-reeds / Ernie Lewis-Reg Pursglove-others?-vn / Bert Barnes-p / Joe Brannelly-g / Dick Ball-sb / Max Bacon-d
Ambrose & His Orchestra (w. Sam Browne & Elsie Carlisle) – "No! No! A Thousand Times, No!"
In “No! No! A Thousand Times No!” Sam Browne and Elsie Carlisle evoke the spirit of Victorian stage melodrama with its stock heroes: the damsel in distress, the villain, the hero. By 1934 melodrama risked seeming hackneyed and passé, and this novelty waltz accordingly treats the genre as a source of bathetic farce. The orchestra serves as a competent background to a long series of dramatic lines almost belted out, or even shouted out, rather than sung, with Sam and Elsie employing strangely exaggerated pronunciations to emphasize their ridiculously stylized sentiments.
“No! No! A Thousand Times No!” seems to have made quite an impression on the public. The 1934 Wills’s and 1935 Ardath Elsie Carlisle cigarette card reverse sides suggest it as one of Elsie’s two most popular songs, which is interesting, as she sang quite a few memorable songs in those years, including other very good ones with Sam Browne. That this comical waltz had staying power is attested to by its appearing in Elsie’s top-two list in her 1977 London Times obituary.
“No! No! A Thousand Times No!” was recorded in America by Harry McDaniel and His Orchestra in November 1934. It seems to have been more popular with British artists, however, with versions done in late 1934 and early 1935 by the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra (under the direction of Percival Mackey, with vocals by Bobbie Combier), Jan Ralfini and His Band, Phyllis Robins and Pat O’Malley, and Leslie Sarony and “Girl Friend” (identity unknown). In May 1935 Max Fleischer released a Betty Boop short film featuring the themes and music of “No! No! A Thousand Times No!” under the same title.
I discuss this song in greater detail in my article “Elsie Carlisle’s Top Hits, Then and Now” in the December 2014 issue of the Discographer Magazine.
"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.