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My Romance (1935)

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Origin and Chart Information
“The musical opened with Paul Whiteman riding onto the stage on a white stallion and featured over a dozen circus acts...”

- JW

Rank 91
Music Richard Rodgers
Lyrics Lorenz Hart

Donald Novis and Gloria Grafton introduced “My Romance” in the musical extravaganza, Jumbo. The show, starring Jimmy Durante, opened on November 16, 1935, at the massive Hippodrome Theater on 44th Street. Although it received excellent reviews, it ran for only 233 performances, managing to pay back just half of its record-breaking $344,000 production costs.


More on Donald Novis at JazzBiographies.com

More on Gloria Grafton at JazzBiographies.com

Donald Novis was a big band tenor who appeared in a number of films and sang the title track for Bambi, “Love Is a Song.” Gloria Grafton was a respected stage star and big band singer who dubbed for motion picture actresses such as Lucille Ball and Lana Turner. The Novis and Grafton recording of “My Romance,” with Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra, reached the 18th position on the pop charts for one week in 1936. While “My Romance” has been performed by most of the jazz greats, interestingly, it has gained most attention as the title track of a 1990 Carly Simon CD.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

After spending several years in Hollywood (1932-1934) writing songs for musical motion pictures, Richard Rodgers was growing restless. According to David Ewen in Great Men of American Popular Song, the demands of the Hollywood studios were too intermittent, and Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were anxious to try out their visions for a new form of musical, that of a “musical play” instead of a “musical comedy.” Although writing the score for Billy Rose’s production of Jumbo was hardly what they had in mind, it was the ticket that facilitated their return to Broadway.


More on Richard Rodgers at JazzBiographies.com

More on Lorenz Hart at JazzBiographies.com

The Jumbo book was written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (The Front Page, Twentieth Century) and directed by George Abbott. The musical opened with Paul Whiteman riding onto the stage on a white stallion and featured over a dozen circus acts, including clowns, jugglers, girls shot from cannons, and high-wire acts. There were over 1000 animals, not the least of which was Jumbo the elephant. The Rodgers and Hart score included such hits as “Little Girl Blue,” “Why Can’t I?” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” “The Circus Is on Parade,” “Over and Over Again,” and “My Romance.”

In his book on Broadway musicals of the 1930’s, Ring Bells! Sing Songs! Stanley Green comments, “Rodgers and Hart’s musical efforts for Jumbo won top honors of the year, even though Cole Porter’s Jubilee and George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess had their champions (and their detractors).”

“My Romance” appeared in the 1962 film Billy Rose’s Jumbo, a pet project of Doris Day and her then husband Martin Melcher. According to www.dorisday.net the song is considered a cornerstone of the production and is described as

...(Doris) sings the lovely ballad, “My Romance” to (Sam). The camera lingers lovingly on Doris’ face, which is partly shadowed by the dark... she finishes the song just in time to kiss her lover passionately. Very beautiful.

Although the cast included Day, Stephen Boyd, Martha Raye, Dean Jagger, and Jimmy Durante, the film was not a critical or box-office success. In his book The Melody Lingers On: The Great Songwriters and Their Movie Musicals, Roy Hemming says, “...Jumbo didn’t deserve to flop-and it remains unjustly underrated among MGM’s supermusicals of the ‘50s and early ‘60’s.” Hemming further said that audiences had perhaps had their fill of circus movies at that time.

More information on this tune...

Alec Wilder
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950
Oxford University Press; Reprint edition
Hardcover: 576 pages

(Author/composer Wilder offers a brief musical analysis of the song in his definitive book on American popular music.)

- Jeremy Wilson

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