Arthur Freed Articles

“Fit as a Fiddle” (1933)

“Fit as a Fiddle.” Words by Arthur Freed, music by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart (1932). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on January 13, 1933. Decca F. 3411 mx. GB5467-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "Fit as a Fiddle" (1933)

Elsie Carlisle – “Fit as a Fiddle” (1933)

The lyrics of “Fit as a Fiddle (and Ready for Love),” penned by Arthur Freed, are an ecstatic expression of a happy anticipation of marriage somewhat in the mold of the classic 1925 Henderson/Lewis/Young song “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” (made popular by Al Jolson). “Fit as a Fiddle,” however, is marked by its peculiarly infectious rhythm and its reliance on nonsense words. “Hi, diddle, diddle” and “Hey nonny nonny and a hot-cha-cha!” stand out, although Elsie Carlisle apparently could not get the latter colloquialism quite right, in spite of its being very clearly written on the cover of the sheet music (although “Hainy nainy nonny and a HAH-chah!” is a very cute variant, I will admit). Baby words aside, Elsie’s “Fit as a Fiddle” is nothing if not ebullient, and she is complemented nicely by her band.

In America the year 1932 had seen versions of  “Fit as a Fiddle” by The Three Keys, Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians, Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra (with vocals by the Kahn-a-Sirs), Gene Kardos and His Orchestra (as Ed Lloyd and His Orchestra, with vocalist Chick Bullock), Will Osborne and His Orchestra with vocalist Annette Hanshaw (who naturally managed to sound not only fit as a fiddle, but a little bit naughty and lazy to boot), Paul Small, and The Ponce Sisters. In 1933 Phil Harris did a version with Leah Ray as the vocalist.

“Fit as a Fiddle” was recorded in London in January and early February 1933 by the Blue Mountaineers (vocalists Sam Browne and Nat Gonella), Ambrose and His Orchestra (with Sam Browne), Jack Hylton and His Orchestra (with vocals by Pat O’Malley, Jack Hylton himself, and Billy Ternent, who arranged the song), and Rudy Starita and His Band, and by soprano Frances Maddux (with Carroll Gibbons on the piano and Len Fillis on the guitar).

Post-War listeners are most likely familiar with “Fit as a Fiddle” because Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor sing it in a flashback in the 1952 musical comedy filmSingin’ in the Rain, which was in fact produced by lyricist Arthur Freed himself.

“All I Do Is Dream of You” (1934)

“All I Do Is Dream of You.” Words by Arthur Freed, music by Nacio Herb Brown (composed for the 1934 film Sadie McKee).  Recorded by Elsie Carlisle in July 1934.  Decca F. 5122.

ELSIE CARLISLE – ALL I DO IS DREAM OF YOU

Elsie Carlisle – All I Do Is Dream of You

Video by longpast78 (YouTube)

“All I Do Is Dream of You” was composed in 1934 by Nacio Herb Brown, with lyrics by Arthur Freed, for the Joan Crawford movie Sadie McKee, where it was introduced by actor Gene Raymond.  It is perhaps now more famous for having been sung by Debbie Reynolds in the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain.  A great deal of Elsie Carlisle’s artistic output in the early 1930s drew on Hollywood music, but she made the songs her own, and her version of “All I Do Is Dream of You” is surprisingly intense and passionate.

In America “All I Do Is Dream of You” was recorded in 1934 by Angelo Ferdinando’s Orchestra (with vocals by Dick Robertson), Jan Garber and His Orchestra (with vocalist Fritz Heilbron), Henry Busse and His Orchestra (Rex Griffith, vocalist), and Freddy Martin and His Orchestra.  Chico Marx performed the song with great virtuosity on the piano in the 1935 film A Night at the Opera.

In Britain the song was very popular that year, having been recorded by Ray Noble and His Orchestra (with Al Bowlly providing the vocals), Jack Payne and His Band (with vocals by Jack Payne), Roy Fox and His Band (Sid Buckman, vocalist), Teddy Joyce and His Dance Music, Bertini and His Orchestra (with Donald Peers), and Henry Hall (with Les Allen, in a Bert Read arrangement).  A short film exists of Charlie Kunz playing “All I Do Is Dream of You” in a piano solo.

"All I Do Is Dream of You" sheet music featuring Joan Crawford
“All I Do Is Dream of You” sheet music featuring Joan Crawford

"The Idol of the Radio." British dance band singer of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.

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