Composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart along with the multi-talented writer/producer/director George Abbott were the first to create an American musical based on Shakespeare. It was Rodgers’ idea to use Shakespeare as a basis for the show, and the success of the production was due to the quality acting and the witty dialogue and songs. The 1938 Broadway show The Boys from Syracuse, which pivoted around the confused identities of two sets of twins in ancient Greece, was based on The Comedy of Errors.
“Falling in Love with Love” was introduced by Muriel Angelus, a disillusioned wife of one of the twins, as she and her maids weave a tapestry. The original show ran for 235 performances. Hart’s younger brother, comic Teddy Hart, played one of the Dromios twins with Jimmy Savo, a comic who clearly resembled Teddy, playing the other. The musical has been revived many times, most recently in 2002. “Falling in Love with Love,” recorded by Frances Langford with Harry Sosnik and His Orchestra, charted in 1939 and reached number 18.
The 1940 film starred Alan Jones (who sang “Falling in Love with Love”), Joe Penner, Rosemary Lane, and Martha Raye. Only three other songs from the Broadway show appeared in the movie: the clever “Sing for Your Supper,” “Oh, Diogenes,” and another song that would enter the standards repertoire, “This Can’t Be Love.” The songwriters wrote two new songs which were included in the film.
In his book Can’t Help Singin’ Gerald Mast says, “In their best songs, Hart’s acid lyrics cut through Rodgers’ sweet sounds like a knife. In ‘Falling in Love with Love,’ one of the most lyrical waltzes ever written by an American, the singer bitterly chides herself for the childish foolishness of believing in anyone.”
Falling in love with love
Is falling for make-believe
In the verse the singer gives this advice:
I weave with brightly colored strings
To keep my mind off other things;
So, ladies, let your fingers dance,
And keep your hands out of romance.
Alec Wilder in his book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 says, “Since the lyric of the verse has to do with weaving, it may account for the considerable monotony of the melody and for the piano interlude which occurs three times (a spinning-wheel motif?).” In his book The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia Thomas S. Hischak explains, “Rodgers manages to work a methodically repeating pattern into music that suggests the monotony of toiling.”
Wilder goes on to comment on the lyric: “The lyric of the chorus is so adult, made of such wonderful images, comprised of such ‘singing’ words that they influence my opinion of the melody.” Rodgers once wrote of Hart in his introduction to The Rodgers and Hart Song Book: “His lyrics knew...that love was not especially devised for boy and girl idiots of fourteen and he expressed himself to that extent.”
Helen Merrill recorded a lovely version of “Falling in Love with Love” with Clifford Brown. The song has continued in popularity over the decades with recordings by contemporary artists such as saxophonists Don Braden and Hank Crawford, guitarists Mark Elf and Vic Juris, vocalists Sheila Jordan and Kelley Johnson, bassist Ron McClure, organist Joey DeFrancesco, and pianists Ahmad Jamal, Eddie Higgins, Keith Jarrett, and Oliver Jones.