“Won’t You Stay to Tea?” Words by Mack Gordon, music by Harry Revel (1932). Recorded in London on March 3, 1933 by Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne with orchestral accompaniment. Decca F. 3510 mx. GB5633-1.
Prolific songwriters Mack Gordon and Harry Revel turned out a great many successful tunes in the 1930s, particularly for Hollywood movies, and three of them made it into Elsie Carlisle’s discography. “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” (1933) and “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” (1934) were both written for Paramount films and were recorded by artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Elsie’s other Gordon-Revel song, “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” only saw treatments in Britain (as far as I know), no doubt because of its culturally specific premise.
The question “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” is an amusingly pedestrian suggestion, but Gordon and Revel turn it into the occasion for a somewhat awkward romantic encounter. The impending rainstorm that prompts the social invitation transforms itself straightway into what the singer or singers describe as an indoor shower of “the loveliest love.” In this Sam Browne/Elsie Carlisle version of the song, the drama is allowed to play itself out fully, with Elsie lightly rejecting Sam’s various advances long enough that the outdoor weather actually improves — and yet she agrees to stay to tea anyway, signalling her genuine affection for him.
“With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming.” Words and music composed by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel for the Paramount film Shoot the Works (1934). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on August 23, 1934. Decca F. 5173 mx. TB1491-1.
“With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel for the Paramount film Shoot the Works.1 They had composed “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” (which Elsie Carlisle also recorded) the previous year for another Paramount picture, and the two songs have similar conceits: the singer expresses surprise at finding herself in a love relationship so ideal that it seems more like a dream than reality. Elsie’s recording of “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” seems dreamy to me mostly because of Elsie’s dreamy delivery; it lacks the otherworldly introduction that the earlier song has. Its atmosphere is greatly augmented by the short but exceedingly beautiful clarinet and violin interlude. I will admit that Elsie’s voice goes pitchy in the last note of the song; it would stretch credulity if I tried to argue that she did that for effect.
It was released in Britain as Thank Your Stars, presumably because “shoot the works” (referring to the making of a large expenditure or effort) was indecipherable American slang; the expression appears to have faded from use in recent decades. ↩
“Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” Words by Mack Gordon, music by Harry Revel. Composed for the Paramount film Sitting Pretty (1933). Recorded by Elsie Carlisle with orchestral accompaniment on December 19, 1933. Decca F. 3812 mx. GB6424-1.
“Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” begins with a suitably dreamy introduction that is full of words such as “strange,” “mystic,” and “weird,” and its music evokes an atmosphere of wonderment. The singer reveals that something unexpected and even perhaps otherworldly has happened to her, and then follows with the question, “Did a thing like this ever happen to you?” The rest of the song is a long series of questions that slowly reveal the nature of the apparently ecstatic experience: the singer has fallen in love with someone that she describes as a “dream,” and even as “heaven.” Elsie Carlisle’s version is an effusive description of the states of entrancement and adoration, and the studio band’s attractive accompaniment matches nicely their performance in the song on the reverse side of the record (“On a Steamer Coming Over”).