Bert Kalmar Articles

“One Little Kiss” (1934)

“One Little Kiss.” Written by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby for the RKO Radio Film Kentucky Kernels (1934). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment in London on October 31, 1934. Decca F. 5289 mx. TB1698-2.

Elsie Carlisle – "One Little Kiss" (1934)

Elsie Carlisle – “One Little Kiss” (1934)

“One Little Kiss” was written for the 1934 RKO Radio Film Kentucky Kernels starring comedy duo Wheeler and Woolsey. In the movie, the various characters sing increasingly silly versions of the song in succession. The apex of the wackiness takes the form of child star Spanky McFarland’s singing to a dog and Woolsey’s serenading a donkey. It comes as no surprise that Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, who wrote the screenplay of Kentucky Kernels and composed its songs, had contributed to the 1932 Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers and composed the anthem “Everyone Says I Love You,” which is similarly rendered by the film’s various characters with increasingly comic bathos.1

Elsie Carlisle’s version of “One Little Kiss” lacks the silliness of its celluloid antecedent, the last vestige of which, perhaps, is the repetition of the phrase “One teeny little, weeny little kiss.” Instead, it is a comparatively serious interpretation of the lyrics which highlights the inherent merits of the catchy melody. As with most popular songs from musical comedies, “One Little Kiss” saw a number of treatments in 1934. In America, there were versions by Cliff Edwards and the Eton Boys, Harry Reser and His Orchestra (with vocals by Tom Stacks), and Ted Weems and His Orchestra (with Gene Glennan as vocalist). In Britain, in addition to Elsie Carlisle’s version, there were recordings of “One Little Kiss” made by Brian Lawrance and His Quaglino’s Quartet in November 1934 and by Kitty Masters and Val Rosing in February 1935.

Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar at the piano
Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar at the piano

Notes:

  1. See also Erin Elisavet Kozák’s article on “The Marx Brothers’ ‘Everyone Says “I Love You’ in Film and Popular Music.” The Discographer Magazine 3.5 (2016), especially p. 4.

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