“Love Walked In,” written by George and Ira Gershwin, was introduced in the 1938 film Goldwyn Follies and sung by Kenny Baker, a popular singer who appeared on Jack Benny’s radio show, hosted his own, and starred in the Broadway production of One Touch of Venus (1943). The song charted several times on Billboard:
- Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra (1938, 16 weeks, three of them at #1)
- Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra (1938, 7 weeks, peaking at #7)
- Jan Garber and His Orchestra (1938, 8 weeks, peaking at #7)
- Kenny Baker (3 weeks, peaking at #14)
- Hilltoppers (1953, 10 weeks, peaking at #8)
In addition the song appeared four times in first position on the radio show Your Hit Parade. According to Max Morath in The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Popular Standards Dinah Washington recorded a popular version, and the Flamingos had a hit with it in 1959.
In discussing his work in Lyrics on Several Occasions Ira says that his brother George chose “Love Walked In” for the film because it fit the voice of star Kenny Baker. “There was no special plot situation for it in the Follies screenplay when he chose it from a number of reserve tunes kept in his notebooks.”
Ira based his lyric about love at first sight on the “ambulatory” title. “Despite the fact that this song was one of the top ones that year, the tune, which my brother considered ‘Brahmsian,’ deserved a better lyric. What particularly bothered me was the injection of ‘right’ in ‘Love walked right in’--obviously a padding word. This I deleted from the title when the song was sent to the music-publisher.”
In his book Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist Philip Furia describes the song’s setting: “In the film ‘Love Walked In’ gets lavish attention, first sung by the hero [Baker] as he cooks hamburgers in a restaurant (unaware, of course, that the heroine has just walked in), then reprised several times throughout the picture. With such exposure, ‘Love Walked In’ made it to the top of radio’s Your Hit Parade.... Although Ira was pleased at the success of a tune..., he was concerned over such ‘hit’ programs in that they placed a premium on a song’s popularity rather than its quality. Overexposure by radio play, he foresaw, could quickly exhaust a song’s endurance, leading to increasingly rapid turnover of songs and a falling off in craftsmanship.”
George collapsed in the midst of working on the film and died on July 11, 1937, of a brain tumor. Vernon Duke was brought in to finish the score for the unsuccessful film which opened in February, 1938. Its unsubstantial plot made it little more than a variety show in which many of the songs were not even well presented.
In Gershwin: A Biography Edward Jablonski says that Duke claimed to have written the verse for three of George’s songs, including “Love Walked In.” “If so--and there is reason to doubt him--he must share credit with Oscar Levant and Ira Gershwin. Both heard George play possible verses for these songs, and though they had not written them down they remembered how Gershwin had played them. Levant recalled the distinctive Gershwin harmonies of ‘Love Is Here to Stay.’ Ira, of course, was familiar with the intended verses, for he had written his lyrics to them and sang them for Duke to put on paper.”
In addition to earlier recordings by bandleader Artie Shaw, pianist Sonny Clark, singer Chris Connor, trombonist Kai Winding, and the vocal group the Hi-Lo’s, “Love Walked In” has been recorded by vocalists Kitty Margolis and Susannah McCorkle, bassist Lynn Seaton, pianists Ted Rosenthal and Monty Alexander, guitarist Mark Elf, and clarinetist Eddie Daniels. Pianist Gerald Wiggins played it with his trio at his 80th birthday celebration recorded at the Jazz Bakery in 2002.