Reverie

March 29, 2012

There’s an expression, “even Homer nods” and I can recall being very puzzled as I learned its meaning.  Homer the Greek bard?  What does it mean to nod?  Finally I gleaned that it’s something said when normally great people, especially the richly talented, do not-so-great things.

Now at Encores! you can see the worst of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals, Pipe Dream, in a clear and cogent Marc Bruni-helmed production starring Will Chase and Leslie Uggams.  And while there are some very nice songs and a couple of surpassingly romantic scenes, you scratch your head a lot, going “What the hell were they thinking?”

This is a musical with almost no plot.  There’s a man and a woman,

Will Chase, Laura Osnes

and the friendly town madam decides, by looking at their astrological signs, that they’re perfect for each other.  This is one of those shows where everybody in the town is sincerely devoted to getting this couple together.  There is no villain, although there’s briefly a rival.  The shred of a subplot involves an elaborate plan to raise money, but here’s the thing in this show: Outside of a lonely policeman, nobody in the show draws a salary.  The female chorus are whores, and the male chorus are, literally, a bunch of bums.  They choose to have no jobs, feel unemployment is some sort of a virtue.  So, to see them involved in selling raffle-tickets is to see them go against their nature.

There are glaring inconsistencies in the main couple.  Doc, fairly early on, says he’s utterly changed by Suzy.  “I’ve got ambition now.”  Really?  The only pursuit we see him involved in is trying to write a scientific paper.  He wants to do this because it’s been suggested he can’t.  And that suggestion is right: he fails.  But trying to prove you can write something to someone who doubts you is not what is traditionally thought of as ambition.

Recently a friend showed me a script, thinking I might want to turn it into a musical.  The more I read, the more it felt like this property could never be a musical, partly due to the fact that the protagonist didn’t have any particular passion.  If your characters lack a burning desire to do something, it’s hard to pull for them.  And this is true of every single personage in Pipe Dream.

Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote nine Broadway musicals, and in the seven that are excellent, passionate people try to do extraordinary things.  A widow from Wales travels across the world and demands the respect of an Eastern potentate.  A nun-in-training tries to bring a touch of humanity to a family that’s being run like a naval vessel.  A flawed husband, who died while committing a crime, tries to get into heaven.  That’s big stuff.  Doc and Suzy might want to go on a date; or might not.

A pianist I know told me he loves Pipe Dream, especially the sentiment expressed in the first song:

It takes all kinds of people to make up a world

All kinds of people and things…

And brother, I’ll tell you my hunch

Whether you like them, or whether you don’t

You’re stuck with the whole damn bunch!

We’re being set up for something, in that opening, that the show doesn’t follow through on: diverse characters.  A theme that runs through most of Rodgers and Hammerstein work is a clash or conflict between different kinds of people.  We see the schoolmistress and the king reach a rapprochement.  The fresh-off-the-boat Chinese are accepted by assimilated denizens of San Francisco’s Chinatown.  The song, All Kinds Of People, can be said to sum up Rodgers and Hammerstein’s career, but it doesn’t belong at the top of Pipe Dream.

For comic relief, there’s a character who’s so stupid it literally pains him to think.  He complains about it.  This may be personal taste, but I can’t stand it when a show’s filled with jokes about how dumb someone is.  Seems to me the lowest form of humor.  And, ever-so-conveniently, this dope’s idiocy leads to a day-saving turn in the plot.

I’ve recently heard it argued that Me and Juliet, not Pipe Dream, is the worst of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s shows.  But the former’s a loving valentine to the theatre, filled with effective songs.  The Pipe Dream score contains some honest-to-God clunkers, such as A Lopsided Bus, Bum’s Opera and Fauna’s Song.  As I often say, the title can be the most important part of a song, and these certainly come up short.  Plus, the score contains some diegetic numbers that may be intentionally terrible.  The Happiest House On the Block is introduced as the work of a poet friend of the madam’s.  Will You Marry Me is supposed to be a pop song everyone knows.  We’re a Gang of Witches is from a show-within-the-show about Snow White.  You remember, don’t you?  That gang of witches from Snow White?  Supposed to be funny, somehow.

But the best songs in Pipe Dream demonstrate Rodgers and Hammerstein’s customary excellence.  So many of their shows are set in far-off times or places.  In contemporary California, there’s not a lot of harmonic color to glom onto.  So, they wrote breezy if unexotic numbers like The Next Time It Happens, The Man I Used To Be, Everybody’s Got a Home But Me and, best of all, All At Once You Love Her.  The couple’s finally on their date, in a comically fancy restaurant, and a roving guitarist sings the song in Spanish.  Suzy says she doesn’t speak Mexican, which prompts Doc to translate.  Naturally as that, all at once, they’re singing a fine love ballad to each other.  Romantic, magical, and worth sitting through the clunkers to get to it.

Pipe Dream‘s at City Center through April 1.

(presented with scripts in hand, so Uggams won’t be doing this to R & H)

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In lieu of lunch

March 23, 2012

An old showtune I find myself singing just about every day is Rodgers and Hart’s You Mustn’t Kick It Around from Pal Joey.  And I’m reminded of a story (or two) concerning songwriters’ process.

When lyricist-librettists Betty Comden and Adolph Green were writing their first musical, On the Town they had, in composer Leonard Bernstein, a famously peripatetic partner.  When they started crafting a duet that they, themselves, would end up performing, Bernstein was off conducting somewhere, for conducting was his primary career.  So, with no melody to write words to, they decided to write words to a Richard Rodgers melody, with the idea that Lenny could set them later.

The tune they used was You Mustn’t Kick It Around

and the words they wrote were:

I try hard to stay controlled

But I get carried away

Try to act aloof and cold

But I get carried away

Bernstein set this in emphatic mock-classical style.  He extends the time given to the title, and then repeats it as a refrain with overlapping lines, as one might find in certain operas.  (Compare None Shall Part Us from Iolanthe.)  All of this serves to play up the hysterical personalities of the two characters, and it results in a great comedy song, a very far cry from You Mustn’t Kick It Around.

at 3:30 Comden & Green sing Carried Away

I had occasion to tell this story while working on The New U.  This was an unusually collaborative experience in which four or five writers would pitch in and fill various roles on different scenes: script, music and lyrics.  (One, last year, won a major prize for humor writing.)  Stephen Gee wanted to write a song with me about the unsavory diner two blocks from our theatre.  He admitted he knew too little about musical form, so I suggested that he take an existing song, write a completely new lyric to it, avoid telling me the name of the tune, and that would give us a start.  I pointed out that this is how things usually worked in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s collaboration.  Though Rodgers nearly always had to provide music first for Hart, Hammerstein was more comfortable handing him a completed lyric. Yet Hammerstein was using other people’s tunes to shape his lyrics-first contributions.

So Steve took Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Do-Re-Mi, and replaced “Doe, a deer, a female deer; Ray, a drop of golden sun” with the lines,

Every time we hear the news

Something’s different than before

Did the music I composed to this resemble Rodgers’ didactic ditty?  It couldn’t be any further afield.  I was inspired by the unsettled nature of the expressed emotion to write something in the unusual time signature, 7/4, that, harmonically, takes its sweet time to reach a resolution.  Steve was shocked, pleasantly, that I’d come up with something so different.

For the chorus, Steve used a different song, a smart move, since the verse and refrain need to contrast in form and feel. He took You Are My Sunshine, and, realizing there was no requirement to use both syllables of “sunshine,” came up with

Let’s go to Tom’s
It ain’t like Mom’s
It’s old and greasy
But we don’t care
The fries are wilted
The tables, tilted

If you’re hearing You Are My Sunshine as you’re reading the lyric, it might strike you that the information is coming at you a little too slowly.  At least that’s how it struck me, leading me to write a very quick boogie-woogie that starts on the (flat) seventh of the scale.  And then the boogie-woogie led to another idea, that three waitresses recite the soups of the day in Andrews Sisters-esque harmony.  The lyrics, there, are my own.  Once Steve had started me off, with the first two sections of the song, he was happy to let me finish the lyric, culminating in a shared credit for us as lyricists.  The one thing he asked was to include the information that the chandeliers had recently been replaced.

When the song was later re-used in Spilt Milk, the opening lines had to be changed to fit that show.  So, in the recording, you’ll hear the 7/4 strain on different words.

As luck would have it, a classmate of mine, at precisely the same time, without being aware of the Gee-Katz number, had the idea of writing a song about exactly the same place.

Suzanne Vega’s take on Tom’s Diner was an international sensation, a number one hit in many countries, and unbelievably catchy.  But tourists snap pictures of the greasy spoon’s exterior for a different – and, if you’ll pardon me, entirely stupid – reason.  One morning in 1990, the second unit of a television production company spent a few minutes taking the same shot and this was then used as the establishing shot for the diner in Seinfeld.  None of the stars went there; the director wasn’t present for the shoot, no scene was ever filmed there.  But that’s the magic of television for you: people are such rabid fans of the show, they’ll indulge in the fiction that they’ve gone someplace important or interesting when they visit Tom’s.  Some even eat there.  Which is why I chose the word “rabid.”


Impromptu

March 17, 2012

Does writing musicals seem hard to you?  If you’ve been reading this blog, now approaching 100 posts, with any regularity, you’ve learned of a passel of pitfalls, problems to avoid, mistakes that even multiple Tony-winners have made.  And achieving that dream of writing a really entertaining musical might seem well nigh impossible.

Many’s the time it’s seemed that way to me.  But then, from time to time, I remind myself that musical theatre can be created instantaneously and easily.  And that’s when I’m improvising a musical.

Making up a musical, on the spot, with an audience in front of you, at first blush, seems tremendously difficult.  But, over the past fifteen years, Larry Rosen and I have developed exercises and teaching methods that make the impossible not only possible, but reasonably easy.  And it’s exhilarating for all of our students.

An audience, it should be obvious, brings a completely different set of expectations to an improv show.  It’s never like that years-in-the-making painstakingly-crafted “finished product” on the Great White Way.  The audience isn’t going to have high standards when it comes to surprising plotting, or mellifluous singing, or heartfelt emotions.  They’re there for a shared experience, in which something that will only be seen once, only by them, is created using a dollop of their input – the suggestion the audience gives to start us off.

In a group of first-time musical improv students, there will invariably be a few misconceptions.  One is that you have to sing well.  Pardon me while I drop some names: Robin Williams, Amy Poehler, Casey Wilson, Kate Walsh and Todd Stashwick.  Have you bought any of their records to accompany any candlelit dinners?  These are people I’ve improvised songs with, and they all did it brilliantly.  While you can see them on television every week, they’re not stars because of their beautiful voices.

Another false notion is that you have to be funny, or even particularly quick on your feet.  And sure, Robin, Amy, Casey and Todd are known for being funny, but Kate?  Well, when we improvised together she was hysterical; it’s been a surprise to me that her fame derives from a dramatic role (Addison on Private Practice).

We teach improvisers to be truthful.  The best laughs come out of characters reacting as people really do, not performers standing up there and trying to crack jokes.  This distinction basically separates two worlds of improv: those who go for jokes and those who go for truth.

This dichotomy is sometimes said to define the schism between “game” improvisation and “long-form.”  I’ve had my heart in the latter camp since a field trip to Chicago in the mid-nineties.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t played a lot of “game” shows.  Some fine ones, too.  But here’s my beef:

Way too much improv resembles a bar trick.  One example is the Alphabet Game, in which each piece of dialogue must start with successive letters of the alphabet.  The audience may be impressed by this feat, but the game consists of nothing more than an artificial impediment to creating a good scene.

I don’t see a good reason for such impediments.  And there are always going to be certain difficulties to song improv.  One, you’d probably assume, is rhyme.  But I don’t feel rhyme is a necessary component of a good improvised song.  It makes made-up songs sound more like pre-written songs, sure; but I figure an audience looking to hear pre-written songs is better off at a concert.

And so are listeners seeking to hear good voices.  It’s hard to imagine someone leaving an improv show saying “Great show!  Loved the voices!” 

No, the hard part is structure.  The advanced song improviser can do a scene and suddenly break out into song, having come up with a good, workable title that sums up their character’s sentiment.  She’ll create a structure in which the title reappears at regular and expected intervals, just like written songs usually do.  (Actually, it’s hard to find a song that doesn’t use a title; The Beatles’ A Day in the Life is one.)

I worry that I’ve made song improv sound incredibly difficult.  Certainly, if a non-improviser walked into the third hour of one of our classes, they’d see every student doing incredibly impressive things.  But the students don’t think it’s hard.  I use an analogy: the medieval thumbscrew.  Larry and I start with easy exercises, and, as the class goes on, each new exercise is incrementally harder than the last one.  So it’s like turning a thumbscrew so slowly, you never feel the pain.

And, we do something that I don’t think anyone else has ever thought of doing: We let participants have the unique experience of improvising completely without form: no meter, no rhyme, no repeated motif in the vocal necessary.  This is particularly exhilarating, because it allows people to focus on being truthful.

If people are being real in an improvised musical, the show can be as poignant as West Side Story.  Audiences are delighted to discover that a full range of emotions are amplified in improv; it’s never just wags cracking wise.

Another unexpected pleasure is improvised harmony.  This is part of every class we teach, a clear example of the “group mind” at work.  I lay down a sequence of chords and play them over and over.  Different people find different notes, in different rhythms: right away we have glorious counterpoint.

But, you know, the more I describe this, the more I fear two things: that I’m giving away too many secrets, and that readers can’t possibly understand/appreciate what I’m talking about.  It’s simply something you have to experience for yourself.  Email ANDReserve@aol.com to inquire about our next workshop.


Song of the bear

March 11, 2012

Although a Great Man of the Theatre recently died, someone I worked with many times, who had something to do with producing such fondly-remembered musicals as Anna Karenina and The Zulu and the Zayda, I’m more moved to say a few words about a Great Man of the Cinema, whose kids I went to school with, Robert B. Sherman, who wrote so many of the songs I cherished in my childhood.

When I was 8, a trip to Disneyland literally haunted my dreams.  As a boy, I had recurring dreams of wandering around Tomorrowland, seeing parts the public isn’t supposed to see.  Of course, a major part of my emotional connection to the place was the music you hear on different rides.  My favorite was There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow from the Carousel of Progress.  Of course the song most people can’t get out of their heads is It’s a Small World After All, although the first ride to sync colorful robots with music was In the Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-Tiki-Tiki Room.

All of these were written by Robert Sherman in collaboration with his brother, Richard.  Unlike the talented siblings I wrote about in my last post, Herbert and Dorothy Fields,  Richard M. And Robert B. didn’t enjoy each other’s company.  Yet, like unhappy allies Gilbert and Sullivan, who hated each other, success as a team forced them to stay together.

In the early days of rock, when songs could be cute, the Sherman Brothers churned out some of the cutest hits, like You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine.  They soon caught the attention of Walt Disney, became his favored composing team, and got assigned to his favorite project, Mary Poppins.

Some years earlier, the young Stephen Sondheim had tried his hand at adapting Mary Poppins into a musical. (There.  I got the obligatory Sondheim reference out of the way.) Walt Disney was determined to get his musical film right. So, the Sherman Brothers brought in song after song, only to be sent back to the drawing board, time and time again, by Disney himself, declaring that the lion’s share of their efforts simply weren’t good enough

Some of us, putting ourselves in the Sherman Brothers’ shoes, imagine we’d hate being told to try and try again by a powerful boss. Yet this process led to one of the greatest original film scores in movie history. And the other Sherman-scored musicals weren’t nearly as good or successful. This would seem proof of the process’ effectiveness.

None of us, I assume, has anyone truly like Walt Disney in our lives.  But why should that matter?  I did my best work shaping a show in collaboration with a director who demanded nothing but the highest quality. Don’t have someone like that? Well, what about you? You’re pretty handy.  You take your calls.  And you can hold your feet to the fire. Accepting only the best of yourself is what defines a great artist.

And usually, someone else is handy: your collaborator.  Make sure he’s tough on you, and return the favor by being exceedingly tough on him. This is my main reason for loathing Lloyd Webber.  Song after song, his tunes are saddled by astonishingly stupid lyrics. Some say I should excuse Sir Andrew because he’s the composer, not the lyricist.  The hell I will! What makes Lloyd Webber a poor songwriter, more than anything, is his willingness to accept dumb doggerel from lyricists.  That he didn’t ask for better of Tim Rice than “I wanna be a part of B.A. Buenos Aires, Big Apple” makes him a hack of the lowest order.

Now that I’ve gotten the obligatory ALW- bashing out of the way…where was I?  Oh yes, Disney and The Boys (as the Sherman brothers tended to be known back then).  Once Walt liked a number, he really liked a number. He had a piano in his office and often called The Boys into his office to play him Feed the Birds yet again.  Disney died not long after Mary Poppins was released, and one imagines he thought of Feed the Birds, with its advocacy of altruism, as his legacy.  But that would be a case of an executive getting credit for an underling’s creative work. Better to think of it as Bob Sherman’s legacy, a beautiful sentiment, eloquently expressed.


Baby sister

March 5, 2012

It’s my sister’s birthday today.  We’re very close, and she did such a wonderful job putting us up in her home recently, we gave her her birthday gift early.  So this isn’t it.  Besides, as I always feel compelled to remind everyone, this is not a personal blog.

But it got me to thinking about the great brother-sister writing team Herbert and Dorothy Fields.  They had another brother, Joseph, who wrote many a good musical, but they didn’t collaborate with him.  And they very often wrote without each other.

Their father was one of the great musical theatre stars of a century ago, Lew Fields, and he didn’t feel writing songs and musicals was a proper way for his daughter to spend her time.  This was a prevalent feeling, which is one reason there were so few females in the field prior to World War Two. 

Young Dorothy was determined to prove her worth to Daddy, and when she got some songs in a Cotton Club revue, she proudly invited him uptown to hear.  To everyone’s chagrin and embarrassment, the singer didn’t perform what Fields wrote, but substituted words so dirty, no woman of the time would want to be in the same room as her father.  There ensued a big scene.  Had I been in Dorothy’s shoes, I would have been devastated: I can’t stand when people think I’ve written what I haven’t, and I never seem to fit in women’s shoes.

By the following year, Fields had her first hit, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.  I’ve long been bemused that a line in its verse,

My luck is changing, it’s gotten,
From something rotten,
To something worse.

was stolen from Rodgers & Hart’s Where’s That Rainbow

My luck has changed: It’s gotten
From rotten to worse.

That’s from a 1926 show, Peggy-Ann, produced by none other than Lew Fields, with book by Herbert Fields.  I guess nobody minded.

And when the Depression hit, the world soon realized there was no more perfect expression of lower-income ardor than I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.

Soon Dorothy was off to Hollywood, where she collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein’s old partner, Jerome Kern.  Words she penned for him ended up in President Obama’s inaugural address, “we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off” and earned an Oscar (The Way You Look Tonight). Wow: Never thought I’d use “Oscar” twice in the same short paragraph.

But there’s one line in The Way You Look Tonight that absolutely slays me.

Someday when I’m awfully low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow just thinking of you 
And the way you look tonight.

Oh, but you’re lovely with your smile so warm 
And your cheek so soft
There is nothing for me but to love you 
And the way you look tonight

With each word your tenderness grows
Tearing my fear apart
And that laugh that wrinkles your nose 
Touches my foolish heart

Lovely, never ever change
Keep that breathless charm
Won’t you please arrange it? 
‘Cause I love you
Just the way you look tonight 

Take a look at the rhymes in the first and final stanzas: low/glow and change/(ar-)range.  They kind of sneak up on you because Kern’s repeating a four-note phrase and moving it up the scale when I’m awfully low/When the world is cold/I will feel a glow but the third one doesn’t come to a stop. It continues up in a connected, legato completion of the scale.  This allows Fields to employ a rarely-used device in the second stanza.  Find the rhyme there… Normally, “warm” and “for” don’t rhyme, but because we naturally elide a soft consonant like the r in “for” to the next letter in a line that doesn’t stop, the ear hears “for me” as a rhyme for “warm.”  Say it out loud, sing it to yourself, and then… stand up and applaud.  The lyricist has found a new rhyme with ordinary words that other lyricists couldn’t have found in a million years.

Speaking of other lyricists who couldn’t have found that rhyme in a million years, Stephen Sondheim, in his book Finishing the Hat, has a 3/4 page assessment of Fields that’s quite positive.  As I pointed out a year ago, the headline-making aspect of this book is that Sondheim wrote a bunch of sidebars criticizing and castigating the superior lyricists of the great generation that came before him.  But Fields he praises.  (Although, in doing so, he manages to take pot-shots at Anne Caldwell, Irving Berlin, Lorenz Hart, Frank Loesser, Oscar Hammerstein and Sigmund Romberg; quite a crew.)

The first Broadway show to bear the credit, “Book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields” was Let’s Face It, which had a Cole Porter score.  You probably wouldn’t know this if you’re not like a certain character from Avenue Q, but Let’s Face It was one of the longest-running musicals of the 1940’s. One imagines Dorothy jumping at the chance to work with Porter, even if this meant hiding her lyric-writing light under a bushel.  Later in the 1940’s, Rodgers and Hammerstein had a project they wished to produce, not write, and Jerome Kern was to be the composer, Dorothy the lyricist, and the book by Dorothy and brother Herbert.  (Some years later, R & H collaborated with brother Joseph.)  Sound like the makings of a hit?  Sure, but Jerome Kern had to ruin it all by dying.  He was 60.  The replacement they found was the slightly younger and much healthier Irving Berlin (he didn’t die until he was 101).  Trouble there is, Berlin always wrote his own lyrics, so Dorothy was kicked off the lyricist job.  Berlin generously gave her a share of his income as songwriter.

So what show did this dream team of brilliant theatrical minds come up with?  Annie Get Your Gun.  In terms of quantity of enduring classics emerging from one score, nothing touches Annie Get Your Gun: Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, The Girl That I Marry, You Can’t Get A Man With a Gun, There’s No Business Like Show Business, They Say It’s Wonderful, Moonshine Lullaby, My Defenses Are Down, I Got Lost In His Arms, I Got The Sun In The Morning, Anything You Can Do.  No wonder the rest of the team thought of Berlin as a bottomless well of talent.  No wonder the world did. 

Herbert and Dorothy Fields fashioned the perfect tale for the time, which was 1946. Soldiers were coming home from war, and that meant taking back the jobs that women had taken from them while they were off soldiering.  It’s hard for us, today, to imagine the emotions back then, concerning Rosie the Riveter as Johnny comes marching home.  Did women want careers?  Possibly, but very few were piping up about it in those pre-feminism days. An overwhelming majority aspired to be “unemployed” mother and wife to a working husband.  World War Two upset the old status quo, one in which female theatre-goers, generally, didn’t work.  Those brave returning servicemen, I feel, repressed an understandable anxiety: What if, while we were overseas, the dames did our jobs just as well as we did?  Or better?  The patriotic thing to do, both genders knew, was for the girls to surrender their jobs for the boys. And marry them.

In Annie Get Your Gun we meet the world’s greatest rifle-shooter, a distinctly unfeminine woman. Her closest competitor, Frank, is looking for a gal “as soft and as pink as a nursery” and yet falls in love with her. Their rivalry as shooters apparently turns them both on. At the climax, it’s very clear to Annie that if she outshoots Frank, she’ll lose him as a lover. What to choose? Is winning a contest more important than winning at romance? Annie does what 99% of women in the post-war era would have done: she chooses to intentionally miss her shot, providing a happy ending for the love story.

Five decades later, Annie Get Your Gun was revived with Bernadette Peters, and veteran librettist Peter Stone (a liberal, it’s worth noting) was hired to rewrite the Fields’ book to make it more politically correct. The prevailing belief was that the audiences of 1999 would not have enough of a sense of history to understand how the show humorously holds up a fun-house mirror to something then happening in American society, the competition between vets and female workers for the same job. After the triumph of feminism in the intervening decades, a man had to alter a plot created by a female writer (and her brother) just so nobody, post-feminism, would be offended by what offended nobody pre-feminism. But don’t blame feminism for this. It’s simply an example of skittish producers not trusting the material in a classic hit musical, underestimating the intelligence of their audience. I’m sure Dorothy Fields was turning in her grave.

For she’d been the pioneer: the female songwriter who’d succeeded in a male-dominated field, simply by being better than the boys. Annie Get Your Gun was her biggest hit, not just because of the wonderful Berlin songs, but because the Annie Oakley story, as she and Herbert chose to tell it, touched a nerve with late 1940’s audiences. With the stock market crash quickly propelling I Can’t Give You Anything But Love to standard status, I may be making it sound like Dorothy Fields led a charmed life, with all that good timing. But her success is more obviously the result of attention to detail, and those breezily singable mellifluous lines that hide the careful artistry that went into them.