Dorothy Fields (1905 - 1974)

Dorothy Fields 1905-1974
1905 - 1974
updated June 25, 2020
Dorothy Fields was born on July 15, 1905 in New Jersey. She died on March 28, 1974 at age 68.

Dorothy Fields
Fields, Dorothy (July 15, 1905 – Mar. 28, 1974), lyricist and librettist, was born in Allenhurst, N.J., the daughter of Lew M. Fields and Rose Harris. Her father, born Lewis Maurice Schoenfeld, was famous as a member of the comedy duo Weber and Fields, but left performing in the year of Dorothy’s birth to become a successful Broadway impressario. Although Lew Fields cautioned his children against pursuing careers in the theater, Dorothy’s two older brothers, Joseph and Herbert, also became successful on Broadway, the former as a writer and producer, and the latter as a writer and Dorothy’s sometime collaborator.

Dorothy Fields graduated in 1923 from the Benjamin Franklin School for Girls in New York City, where she excelled at English, drama, and basketball, and had her poems published in the school’s literary magazine. After her father quashed her attempt to land an acting job with a stock company in Yonkers, she worked as a teacher and laboratory assistant, while continuing to submit her verses to magazines.
Born: July 15, 1905
Died: March 28, 1974
Key Shows
"Annie Get Your Gun"
"Blackbirds of 1928"
"Sugar Babies"
"Sweet Charity"
"Up in Central Park"
Related Artists
Harold Arlen
Fred and Adele Astaire
Irving Berlin
Bob Fosse
Oscar Hammerstein II
Jerome Kern
Ethel Merman
Cole Porter
Richard Rodgers
Gwen Verdon
In 1926 Fields met the popular song composer J. Fred Coots, who suggested that they write some songs together. Although nothing memorable came out of this brief association, Coots introduced Fields to another composer and song-plugger, Jimmy McHugh. Through McHugh she got a job as a lyricist at Mills Music, Inc., where one of her first assignments was to write the lyric for a tune commemorating aviator Ruth Elder’s attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Fields later referred to herself as “Mills Music’s fifty-dollars-a-night girl,” because she was paid 50 dollars for each lyric she composed.
In 1927 Fields received sole billing as lyricist for a revue at Harlem’s Cotton Club that featured Duke Ellington and his Orchestra. The following year she and McHugh wrote the song “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” which was dropped from the revue “Revels of 1928,” but found a home alongside another soon-to-be-popular Fields-McHugh number, “Diga Diga Doo,” in the all-black hit, Lew Leslie’s “Blackbirds of 1928.”
After this initial success, the Fields-McHugh team collaborated on “International Revue” (1930), a flop despite two enduring songs, “Exactly Like You” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” The family of jazz pianist Thomas (“Fats”) Waller maintained that Waller, not McHugh, actually composed the melodies to “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love,” and others, and sold them to McHugh for a nominal fee. In any case, however, it is undisputed that Fields is the lyricist.
From 1930 to 1939 Fields worked in Hollywood, first with McHugh, with whom she wrote songs such as “I’m in the Mood for Love” and “Dinner at Eight” for the movie musicals LOVE IN THE ROUGH (1930) and EVERY NIGHT AT EIGHT (1935), and then with Jerome Kern. Kern and Fields first worked together on ROBERTA in 1935, and subsequent collaborations included I DREAM TOO MUCH (1935), SWING TIME (1936), and JOY OF LIVING (1938). In 1936, Kern and Fields won the Academy Award for Best Song for “The Way You Look Tonight,” from SWING TIME. Other Kern-Fields songs from this period that have gone on to become standards include “Lovely to Look At” and “A Fine Romance.”
Jerome Kern and Fields collaborated on songs for movie musicals during the 1930s.
On July 15, 1939, Fields married David Eli Lahm, a clothing manufacturer. They had two children before his death in 1958. The same year, she returned to New York to work with composer Arthur Schwartz on the musical “Stars in Your Eyes.” She then collaborated with her brother Herbert, with whom she had already worked on screenplays and the short-lived musical “Hello Daddy” (1928), and on the books for three Cole Porter hits: “Let’s Face It” (1941), “Something for the Boys” (1943), and “Mexican Hayride” (1944). In 1945 Dorothy and Herbert Fields wrote the book for Sigmund Romberg’s “Up in Central Park.” Her lyrics for the show included “Close as Pages in a Book.”
In 1946, Fields approached Oscar Hammerstein with her idea for a musical based on the life of sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Hammerstein agreed to produce the show, and Kern and Fields were contracted to write the songs. When Kern died before they were able to begin work on the project, Irving Berlin was hired to replace him. Berlin wrote both music and lyrics for “Annie Get Your Gun,” but Dorothy and Herbert Fields contributed an excellent book. The finished product, starring Ethel Merman as Annie, ran 1,147 performances. It remains one of the most popular shows in the repertoire.
In 1927 Fields received sole billing as lyricist for a revue at Harlem’s Cotton Club.
Fields’ work habits were highly disciplined. Typically, she would spend eight weeks researching, discussing, and making notes on a project, before settling into an 8:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. daily work routine. She worked at a bridge table in her apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and preferred to write with pencil on a yellow legal pad. She kept notebooks in which she copied passages from Dryden, Shaw, and Thoreau; unusual synonyms for commonly used words; humorous proverbs; rhyming phrases; odd-sounding words; and anything else that might come in handy in writing a lyric. Tall, slender, and well dressed, with chestnut hair and hazel eyes, she spoke well and was active in charitable causes throughout her life.
Fields collaborated with her brother and composer Morton Gould on the lackluster “Arms and the Girl” in 1950. The following year, she wrote several fine lyrics to Arthur Schwartz’s melodies for “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” She scored two films with composer Harold Arlen, MR. IMPERIUM (1951) and THE FARMER TAKES A WIFE (1953), then returned to Broadway to work with Schwartz again on “By the Beautiful Sea” (1954). Herbert Fields died in 1959, while “Redhead,” the show they were working on with composer Albert Hague, was having its out-of-town tryout. Although not a great show, “Redhead” captured the Tony Award for Best Musical in a lean year for Broadway theater.
Her penultimate musical, “Sweet Charity,” written with composer Cy Coleman and librettist Neil Simon, was the biggest hit of the 1965-1966 season. Songs such as “Big Spender” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now” proved that Fields, despite her advancing age, had not lost her knack for up-to-the-minute slang and phraseology. In 1971, Fields became the first woman inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Her last show, “Two for the Seesaw” (1973), also written with Coleman, was not a popular success, but her lyrics were praised for their evocation of modern life in New York. She died at home in New York City.
During her 48-year career Fields cowrote more than 400 songs and worked on 15 musicals and at least 26 movies. Her lyrics were noted for their strong characterization, clarity of language, and middlebrow humor. An amateur pianist and lifelong lover of classical music, she was highly conscious of the melodic line, and tailored her lyrics to float freely over it. Fields’ professional longevity, rare for a songwriter in the popular field, may be attributed to her undimming imagination and her willingness to adapt to changing trends in the musical theater.

Dorothy Fields 1905-1974 Biography

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Amanda S. Stevenson
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Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields
Broadway credits
• 1928 – Blackbirds of 1928 (lyrics by Dorothy Fields)
• 1928 – Hello, Daddy (lyrics by Fields)
• 1930 – International Revue (lyrics by Fields)

There was a medley of his songs in the 1979 Broadway show Sugar Babies, which starred Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney. The songs included were "I Can't Give You Anything but Love", "I'm Shooting High", "Roll Your Blues Away" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street".
Other well-known songs of his include "I'm in the Mood for Love", "A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening" and "Cuban Love Song".
• "Blue Again" – Louis Armstrong (McHugh/Fields) (Okeh/Sony BMG)
• "Cuban Love Song" – Edmundo Ros (McHugh/Stothart/Fields) (London/WMG)
• "Diga Diga Doo" – The Mills Brothers w/ Duke Ellington (McHugh/Fields) (Brunswick/Sony BMG)
• "Doin' the New Low Down" – Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (McHugh/Fields) (Brunswick/Sony BMG)
• "Don't Blame Me" – The Everly Brothers (McHugh/Fields) (Warner Bros./WMG)
• "Exactly Like You" – Aretha Franklin (McHugh/Fields) (Columbia/Sony BMG)
• "Goodbye Blues" - The Mills Brothers(McHugh/Fields) (Brunswick/Sony BMG)
• "Happy Times" – Hal Kemp & His Orchestra (McHugh/Fields) (Brunswick/Sony BMG)
• "I Can't Give You Anything but Love" – Judy Garland (McHugh/Fields) (Capitol/EMI)
• "I Must Have That Man" – Billie Holiday (McHugh/Fields) (Brunswick/Sony BMG)
• "On the Sunny Side of the Street" – Frank Sinatra (McHugh/Fields) (Capitol/EMI)
Jul 28, 2017 · Reply

Dorothy 1905-1974 Obituary

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Dorothy Fields

Birth name Dorothy Fields
Born July 15, 1905
Origin Allenhurst, New Jersey, U.S.
Died March 28, 1974 (aged 68)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation Lyricist & Librettist
Associated acts
Jerome Kern Cy Coleman Irving Berlin Jimmy McHugh
Dorothy Fields (July 15, 1905 – March 28, 1974) was an American librettist and lyricist. She wrote over 400 songs for Broadway musicals and films. Her best-known pieces include "The Way You Look Tonight", "A Fine Romance", "On the Sunny Side of the Street", "Don't Blame Me", "Pick Yourself Up", "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "You Couldn't Be Cuter"
Throughout her career, she collaborated with various influential figures in the American musical theater, including Jerome Kern, Cy Coleman, Irving Berlin, and Jimmy McHugh. Along with Ann Ronell, Dana Suesse, Bernice Petkere, and Kay Swift, she was one of the first successful Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood female songwriters.

Early life[edit]
Katharine Cornell, Aline MacMahon and Dorothy Fields serve soldiers played by Lon McCallister and Michael Harrison in the film, Stage Door Canteen (1943).

Fields was born in Allenhurst, New Jersey,[1] and grew up in New York City. Fields went to and graduated in 1923 from the Benjamin Franklin School for Girls in New York City. At school, she was outstanding in the subjects of English, drama, and basketball. Her poems were even published in the school’s literary magazine.

Her family, was deeply involved in show business. Her father, Lew Fields, was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, who partnered with Joe Weber became one of the most popular comedy duos near the end of the nineteenth century. They were known as the Weber and Fields vaudeville act. When the duo separated in 1904, Lew Fields went on to further his career in another direction, by becoming one of the most influential theater producers of his time. From 1904 till 1916, he produced about 40 Broadway shows, and was even nicknamed “The King of Musical Comedy” because of his achievements. Her mother was Rose Harris. She had two older brothers, Joseph and Herbert, who also became successful on Broadway, Joseph as a writer and producer, and Herbert as a writer who later became Dorothy’s collaborator.

Despite her natural familial connections to the theatre via her father, he disapproved of her choice to pursue acting and did everything he could to prevent her from becoming a serious actress. This began when he refused to let her take a job with a stock company in Yonkers. Hence Dorothy began working as a teacher and a laboratory assistant, whilst secretly submitting work to magazines behind her father's back.

In 1926, Fields met the popular song composer J. Fred Coots, who proposed that the two begin writing songs together. Nothing actually came out of this interaction and introduction, however Coots introduced Fields to another composer and song-plugger, Jimmy McHugh.

Fields's career as a professional songwriter took off in 1928 when Jimmy McHugh, who had seen some of her early work, invited her to provide some lyrics for him for Blackbirds of 1928. Fields and McHugh teamed up until 1935. Songs from this period include "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", "Exactly Like You", and "On the Sunny Side of the Street." During the later 1920s, she and McHugh wrote specialty numbers for the various Cotton Club revues, many of which were recorded by Duke Ellington.

In the mid 1930s, Fields started to write lyrics for films and collaborated with other composers, including Jerome Kern. With Kern, she worked on the movie version of Roberta, and also on their greatest success, Swing Time. The song "The Way You Look Tonight" earned the Fields/Kern team an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936.[3]

She wrote the lyrics for the 1936 movie The King Steps Out by directed by Josef von Sternberg based on the early years of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Fields returned to New York and worked again on Broadway shows, but now as a librettist, first with Arthur Schwartz on Stars In Your Eyes. (They reteamed in 1951 for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.) In the 1940s, she teamed up with her brother Herbert Fields, with whom she wrote the books for three Cole Porter shows, Let's Face It!, Something for the Boys, and Mexican Hayride.

In 1946, Fields approached Oscar Hammerstein II with her idea for a new musical based on the life of famous female sharpshooter Annie Oakley. Hammerstein liked the idea and agreed to produce the show. Kern and Fields were signed on to write the songs in the show. Kern died before the two were able to begin working on the project, and Irving Berlin was hired to replace him.

Together, she and her brother Herbert wrote the book for Annie Get Your Gun, while Berlin provided all the music. The show was a huge success, starring Ethel Merman, and running for 1,147 performances.

In the 1950s, her biggest success was the show Redhead (1959), which won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. When she started collaborating with Cy Coleman in the 1960s, her career took a new turn. Their first work together was Sweet Charity. Her last hit was from their second collaboration in 1973, Seesaw. The show began on Broadway on March 18, 1973, and ended its run on December 8, 1973. Its signature song was "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish".

Throughout her 48-year career, Fields co-wrote more than 400 songs and worked on 15 stage musicals and 26 movies. Her lyrics were known for their strong characterization, clarity in language and humor. She was an amateur pianist and also lifelong lover of the classical music form which led her to become highly aware of melodic lines, so she fitted her lyrics to her melodies.

Fields professional longevity was rare at the time for a songwriter in the field, and it definitely was due to her unending imagination and her willingness to adapt to the ever modifying trends in the American musical theater.

Personal life
Fields had highly disciplined work habits. She was known to spend about eight weeks researching, discussing, and making notes on a project, before finally resolving to her regular 8:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. daily work routine.

Fields died of a heart attack on March 28, 1974, at the age of 68. The New York Times reported "Dorothy Fields, the versatile songwriter whose career spanned nearly 50 years, died of a heart attack last night at her home here." She was the sister of writers Herbert and Joseph Fields. She married Eli Lahm in 1939, and they had two children, David and Eliza. Lahm died in 1958.

Cultural references
Thirty-five years after her death, President Barack Obama, in his inauguration speech as 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009, echoed lyrics by Fields when he said, "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America". This alludes to the song "Pick Yourself Up" from the 1936 film Swing Time, for which Jerome Kern had written the music, in which Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire sang Fields's words, "Pick yourself up; dust yourself off; start all over again".

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1905 - 1974 World Events

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In 1905, in the year that Dorothy Fields was born, acclaimed dancer Isadora Duncan established the first school of modern dance in Berlin Germany. Isadora Duncan, born in San Francisco California, dedicated herself to the creation of beauty - through dance. Her focus on the movement of the human body rather than formal kinds of dance helped to give rise to the modern dance movement.

In 1914, Dorothy was only 9 years old when in August, the world's first red and green traffic lights were installed at the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland Ohio. The electric traffic light had been invented by a policeman in Salt Lake City Utah in 1912.

In 1946, when she was 41 years old, pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock's book "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" was published. It sold half a million copies in the first six months. Aside from the Bible, it became the best selling book of the 20th century. A generation of Baby Boomers were raised by the advice of Dr. Spock.

In 1964, Dorothy was 59 years old when on June 11th, activist Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa for conspiring to overthrow the state (because of his numerous anti-apartheid activities). He served 27 years in prison.

In 1974, in the year of Dorothy Fields 's passing, on February 5th, Patty Hearst, age 19 - granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst and daughter of publisher of the San Francisco Examiner Randolph Hearst - was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a left wing terrorist group. She was found, alive, 19 months later.

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