Mack Gordon Articles

“With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming” (1934)

“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)

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.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.

“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.

Notes:

  1. 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?” (1933)

“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)

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).

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

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