The great songwriter and Broadway playwright Dorothy Fields (1905-1974) was born today. What many folks don’t know is that she was the daughter of Lew Fields of Weber and Fields, whom by all reports was much against her going into show business. The elder Fields was instrumental in founding Broadway, was one of its most powerful lions, in addition to being a great talent himself. It is a testament to her own genius that Dorothy became so accomplished herself without any particular encouragement from him.
Dorothy started out in near-vaudeville Broadway revues like Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of 1928 and Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic of 1929. Two of her early songs include “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street”. She also wrote songs for films, such as “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Pick Yourself Up” written with Jerome Kern for the Astaire and Rogers vehicle Swing Time in 1936.
Fields also wrote and co-wrote (often with her brother Herbert) books for dozens of Broadway shows, including Annie Get Your Gun and Mexican Hayride. With Cy Coleman, she wrote the songs for Sweet Charity (1968) and Seesaw (1973), both hit shows. Thus you can see that after close to five decades in the theatre her creativity and success with audiences was showing no sign of abating this late in her career and might well have proceeded even farther into the future had she not been felled by a heart attack in 1974. Her legendary industriousness no doubt played a role in this relatively early death (she was 68).
We celebrate her achievements today, full glad that she didn’t listen to her father!
To find out more about the history of show business, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.