Saturday, March 24, 2018

Douglas Messerli | on Richard Rodgers' and Lorenz Hart's "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" from My Favorite Theater Songs


“Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”

Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Ella Fitzgerald, 1956
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Sarah Vaughn, 1956
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Rita Hayworth (movie version), 1957
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Frank Sinatra, 1957
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: (on piano) Joanne Brakeen
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Doris Day
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Julie London
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Linda Ronstadt
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Patti Lapone
Composers: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Performer: Eliza Johnson, 2015

This lovely Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers song—memorable more for its lyrics, I’d argue, than for its music—has some of the racist lyrics since “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” is only one the great ballads of their musical Pal Joey, and I might just as easily chosen to include “My Funny Valentine,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” or “Zip.” But “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is its title promises, a sliding back into love that confuses its singer immensely in the tradition of John Latouche’s and Vernon Duke’s “Taking a Chance on Love.” And perhaps it’s coincidence that both lyricists, Hart and Latouche were gay men. Would a heterosexual man even imagine lyrics such as these for a female singer?:

Seen a lot
I mean I lot
But now I'm like sweet seventeen a lot
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I
I'll sing to him
Each spring to him
And worship the trousers that cling to him
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I
When he talks he is seeking
Words to get off his chest.
Horizontally speaking
He's at his very best.
Vexed again
Perplexed again 
Thank God I can't be over-sexed again
Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I

       I believe only Ella Fitzgerald (my favorite rendition, although Sarah Vaughn comes in as close second) and Patti Lapone sing the full lyrics, and perhaps only they might get away with it, with their sassy “I don’t care” attitudes.
     
     Most of the recorded songs available (the original Broadway version has been banned from UTube by the copyright owners, Warner and Chappell) are sanitized versions, with the later lyrics (above) stripped from the piece. Even Frank Sinatra (who played Joey in the film version) attempted a version of it; but it’s in these lines that Hart is at his best, “worshiping the trousers that cling to him” and stating boldly that his lover’s best position is a horizontal one.
      Fortunately playwright Alan Bennett gave back the full song to a young gay man in his work, The History Boys, redeeming Hart’s longing lyrics (Rodgers then-partner, whom, apparently, he did not treat so very well).

Los Angeles, March 24, 2018

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