I’m obsessed

November 6, 2010


The popular song “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” was written in 1931, and its lyricists, Ted Koehler and Billy Moll, provided a hopeful message that sounded all the more melancholy because of the reality of the times – economic depression. My favorite recording of that song was made by Kate Smith. I like the way she sings two lines — both of them in this verse:

Your castles may tumble / that’s fate, after all / Life’s really funny that way / No use to grumble / Smile as they fall / Weren’t you king for a day?

Kate Smith had a wonderful, musical laugh, which I loved to hear on her radio and television shows. And she laughs that laugh on the word “funny” in that verse without breaking the tempo of the line. I can’t hear her sing that line too often, and I’ve had the recording for about 40 years. Then, at the end of the verse, she does a little glide on the word “day,” starting on the note and then smoothly sliding down the scale. Again, I’m obsessed with that line. I play the song just to hear her treatment of that one word – “day.”


In a similar vein, for many years, whenever I learned that a TV station was going to broadcast the movie “High Society,” I would watch it so that I could hear Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra perform the duet “Well, Did You Evah,” sometimes referred to as “What a Swell Party This Is.” I even figured out about how far into the movie that song occurs, because I didn’t want to watch the whole film, which is a flawed remake of “The Philadelphia Story.”


The movie has a book by John Patrick and songs by Cole Porter. In “Well, Did You Evah” Crosby and Sinatra simultaneously sing Porter’s lyrics and exchange spoken barbs. At one point, Crosby sings, “Have you heard / about dear Blanche? / Got run down by an avalanche.” Sinatra says, “Nooooo,” and Crosby answers “Don’t you worry. She’s a game girl, you know. Got up and finished fourth.” Sinatra: “This kid’s got guts.” Crosby: “Havin’ a nice time? Grab a line.” At which point, Sinatra resumes singing.  Crosby was Mister Smooth, and the way he delivers the line, “Don’t you worry. She’s a game girl, you know . . . ” has captivated me since the first time I heard it about 50 years ago. Fortunately, I now have bookmarked that song from YouTube and I can listen to Crosby say that line as often as I like, which is often, because I’m obsessed.


I don’t experience this kind of fixation only with music. It also occurs with the spoken word — for example, with Al Pacino’s speech in the climax of the movie “Scent of a Woman.” I read a review of that movie in which the critic remarked that Pacino’s dramatic choices were confined to whether to speak loud or louder. It’s fair to say that Pacino often gobbles the scenery, but the most effective line in that speech is one for which he lowers his voice and uses the words like sharp instruments. It is the last sentence of this passage: “As I came in here, I heard those words, ‘cradle of leadership.’ Well, when the bow breaks, the cradle will fall. And it has fallen here; it has fallen. Makers of men; creators of leaders; be careful what kind of leaders you’re producin’ here.” When Pacino says those last words – “Be careful what kind of leaders you’re producin’ here” – he makes them prophetic, ominous. I bookmarked the video of that scene, too – it’s at THIS LINK — and I never tire of hearing him say it. I’m obsessed.


I recently learned that this behavior doesn’t constitute a private disorder of mine – and that there is a name for it: deconstruction. The dawn broke when I was at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick talking to Seth Rudetsky, who is so versatile that he defies definition. It’s something like comedian-actor-radio host-raconteur-musician-composer. I was talking to him because he is going to appear in the George Street production of the musical play “[title of show].”

Rudetsky hosts a web site which includes a series of videos he calls “Deconstruction.” In these, he plays clips from Broadway musicals — a subject he knows inside-out — and analyzes, in his supercharged manner, the techniques with which a singer such as Florence Henderson, Laurie Beechman, or Kristin Chenoweth handles a song – or a line, or a word, or a syllable. “I’m obsessed!” he often says when he has played a phrase over and over again, mouthing the words along with the singer.

I’m glad to finally know that I’m in good company. Rudetsky’s site is at THIS LINK.


4 Responses to “I’m obsessed”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    You’re obsessed, and I’m perplexed. When I read the lyrics to Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams, they seemed vaguely familiar. In fact, “castles may tumble” is exactly the phrase I remember from another song I loved as a child. But – which song?

    I went looking. I remembered the tune, so I youtubed. Well, indeed. The tune I remember is the same tune as that for your song.

    To make a long exploration short, for decades I’ve misunderstood the lyrics to this song. For me, it’s been, Your castles may tumble, your (???) may fall… I have no idea what I imagined to be falling down, but I’ve never “heard” the proper lyrics.

    Since there’s no indication anywhere that the lyrics were modified by someone, I’m engaged in a bit of re-education. Fifty years to learn some lyrics isn’t so long. 😉

    • charlespaolino Says:

      When I sing “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” to myself, I often sing “they’re only made of clay” instead of “weren’t you king for a day?” The line fits just as well. When I was writing this post I stopped to think about why I do that and recalled the lyrics to “Our Love is Here to Stay” by George and Ira Gershwin: “In time, the Rockies may crumble / Gibraltar may tumble / They’re only made of clay.”

  2. bronxboy55 Says:

    I found the Crosby-Sinatra duet on YouTube, as well as Pacino’s speech. But I couldn’t locate the Kate Smith song, and suddenly you have me obsessed about wanting to hear her sing the word day!

    Your trait is unique, I think, in the specifics: the lines, the songs you’re obsessed with. But the trait itself may not be so unusual. I watch my favorite movies in the same way I’d cross a stream, stepping from one stone to the next. Those special lines are the stones, and I try to really hear them when they arrive. Burt Lancaster as “Moonlight” Graham in Field of Dreams: “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes… now that would have been a tragedy.”

    • charlespaolino Says:

      Unfortunately, I don’t know of a place on the Internet to hear Kate Smith sing that song. I have it on a vinyl album. Last Christmas, my kids bought me a device that transfers songs from vinyl disks to CDs. It’s still in the box under the bed, but if I ever figure out how to use it, I’ll send you that song.

      I’m glad you mentioned that line from Field of Dreams. I noticed it, too. Burt Lancaster’s performance is my favorite part of that film. Ray Kinsella was inspired when he decided to “resurrect” the previously obscure “Moonlight” Graham, who really did practice medicine for 50 years in Chisholm, Minnesota.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s