Broadway Blip: Dorothy Fields
Many of you might not know who Dorothy Fields was (I’m sure some do), but you will certainly know the lyrics to myriad songs she wrote from Broadway musicals. Featuring one of most prolific (and certainly groundbreaking) careers as musical theatre writer, Fields was a constant voice in the business when very few other women were making headway in the male-dominated profession. In 1928, Fields provided lyrics for the popular musical revue Blackbirds of 1928, working with composer Jimmy McHugh. Together, the duo would provide a lot of material for the Cotton Club revues. Fields worked with composer Jerome Kern on the movie musicals of Roberta (based on the Broadway show) and Swing Time, winning an Oscar for the song “The Way You Look Tonight.” Fields may have been a success in Hollywood, but her true artistry and ability to write a character song was best-exemplified by her contributions to Broadway musicals. In 1951, she teamed with Arthur Schwartz to write the score for the musical A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. A woman of many talents, Fields also co-wrote the libretto for the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun, partnering with her brother Herbert. That show, produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein and featuring a score by Irving Berlin, ran 1,147 performances. Fields wrote the lyrics and co-wrote the book for the 1959 modest hit Redhead (with music by Albert Hague). In 1966, Fields would team with composer Cy Coleman for what is arguably her best lyric contribution, Sweet Charity. Among the oft-sung songs to come out of this collaboration were “If My Friends Could See Me Now”, “Big Spender”, “I’m a Brass Band” and “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.” Dorothy Fields died in 1974, but not before completing another score with Coleman, this time for the music Seesaw, also vehicle for some nifty numbers including “Nobody Does it Like Me”, “Welcome to Holiday Inn” and “It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish.” In all, Fields wrote more than 400 songs.
Fun Fact: Dorothy Fields also wrote the books for three Cole Porter musicals: Let’s Face It!, Something for the Boys and Mexican Hayride. These were co-written with her brother Herbert.