“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.
Elsie Carlisle and Sam Browne – “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” (1933)
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.
Other versions of “Won’t You Stay to Tea?” were recorded in 1933 by Lew Stone and the Monseigneur Band (v. Al Bowlly), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (v. Bill Currie), The Blue Mountaineers (v. Tom Barratt and Phyllis Robins), Ray Noble and His Orchestra (with vocalists Ace Roland and Frances Day, the latter of whom does an impressive Helen Kane-style warble at one point), and Syd Liption’s New Grosvenor House Band (v. Cyril Grantham).
“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.
Elsie Carlisle – “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” (1934)
“With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel for the Paramount film Shoot the Works. 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.
“With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” was recorded in America in 1934 by Ruth Etting, Isham Jones and His Orchestra (v. Joe Martin), Ted Hanson and His Normandie Orchestra (v. George Gould), Gene Kardos and His Orchestra (v. Dick Robertson), and Leo Reisman and His Orchestra (v. George Beuler).
In addition to Elsie Carlisle’s, there were recordings made of “With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” in Britain later that year by Lew Stone and His Band (v. Al Bowlly), the BBC Dance Orchestra (dir. Henry Hall, v. Les Allen), Jay Wilbur and His Band (v. Cyril Grantham), Madame Tussaud’s Dance Orchestra (dir. Stanley Barnett), Jack Payne and His Band (v. Billy Scott-Coomber), The Casani Club Orchestra (dir. Charlie Kunz, v. Phyllis Robins), Bobby Howell’s Band, and Phyllis Robins.
“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.
Elsie Carlisle – “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” (1933)
“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”).
“Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” was introduced in the Paramount movie Sitting Pretty (1933) by Art Jarrett, Ginger Rogers, and a chorus of women who dance in impressive geometric formations closely resembling the ones directed by Busby Berkeley at the time. There followed that year American recordings by The Pickens Sisters, Adrian Rollini and His Orchestra (v. Chick Bullock), Meyer Davis and His Orchestra (with The Three Rascals), Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (v. Carmen Lombardo), Eddy Duchin and His Orchestra (v. Lew Sherwood), and Bing Crosby (accompanied by the Lenny Hayton Orchestra).
British recordings of the song from late 1933 and early 1934 include those of Frances Day, the BBC Dance Orchestra (directed by Henry Hall, with vocals by Les Allen), Roy Fox and His Band (v. Denny Dennis), Billy Cotton and His Band (v. Alan Breeze, with Billy Cotton in a speaking part), Ambrose and His Orchestra (v. Sam Browne), Ray Noble and His Orchestra (v. Al Bowlly), Joe Loss and His Band (v. Jimmy Messini), Jack Payne and His Band (v. Jack Payne), the Casani Club Orchestra (v. Harry Bentley), Bertini and His Band (v. Sam Browne), Harry Roy and His Orchestra (v. Harry Roy), Scott Wood and His Orchestra (as the Silver Screen Orchestra, with vocalist Sam Browne), and Sidney Lipton’s New Grosvenor House Band (v. Ronnie Ogilvie).