The following is a list of the principal sources used in creating the content
of this website.
Pick Yourself Up: Dorothy Fields and the American Musical
This new biography, published by Oxford University Press as one
of the first titles in their Broadway Legacies series is the most
detailed account yet of Dorothy Fields' life and work.
It's a well-written and well-researched work with much detail on
Dorothy's family, particularly the parallel writing careers of her
brothers Herbert and Joseph. I appreciate Greenspan's meticulous
documentation of her sources which has put me on to a number of
interesting leads for me in my own research.
Unfortunately Greenspan and her publishers, to the author's evident
regret, did not secure the rights to present the Fields lyrics.
Only the briefest snippets are quoted, which is a pity, because
Greenspan's comments on the lyrics are consistently fresh and interesting.
She brings considerable knowledge of the work of other songwriters
to her analysis, for example on different lyricists' preferences
for terms of endearment - "baby", "honey", "dear". And she made
me think about "Diamond bracelets Woolworths doesn't sell" in a
Other useful insights are provided as a result of Greenspan returning
to the source works for the musicals A Tree
Grows in Brooklyn and Arms and the
Girl, showing how Fields wove previous written material into
the fabric of her lyrics.
The book gives more detail than I have seen before on Dorothy's
work as a librettist - together with her brother Herb she wrote
the books for four musicals with scores by other songwriters: most
famously Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your
Gun, but also Cole Porter's Let's
Face It, Something For the Boys
and Mexican Hayride.
Dorothy Fields' greatest theatrical success was of course Sweet
Charity, and the author naturally devotes a number of pages
to recounting the story of its creation, and most interestingly
in an analysis of the score, where she interestingly (and for the
most part convincingly) points out a symmetry between the two acts:
each song in the first act is mirrored by a thematically realted
song in the first act in a different mood.
The main events in Dorothy's personal life are of course covered
here. However just as in Deborah Grace Winer's biography from 1997,
the true character of the woman remains highly elusive. Anecdotes
are told, including some from Dorothy Fields' daughter, but they
do not build up to a clear idea of what this woman was really like.
A surprising omission is that no mention is made of the reported
drinking problems in Fields' later life, which may have contributed
to the fallow periods which occurred at different points in the
1950s and 1960s.
A slighly quirky but enjoyable aspect to the book is the author's
sceptical approach to the well-told anecdotes. She forensically
examines contradictory accounts and the plausibility of familiar
stories such as the Cotton Club singer who embarassed Dorothy Fields
by substituting a dirty song for the intended Fields number, or
the message Jerome Kern left on his bathroom mirror in soap shortly
before his fatal collapse. On a purely factual basis Greenspan has
also established that Fields was born in 1904, instead of the year
1905 as reported by most sources, including my website (until now).
I'm very pleased to have this useful addition to my Dorothy Fields
A radio interview with Charlotte Greenspan can be heard here.
On The Sunny Side of the Street by Deborah Grace
The primary reference book on Dorothy Fields until publication of
Greenspan's biography in 2010, and consequently the source for much
of the material on this website is On The Sunny Side of the Street
by Deborah Grace Winer.
Published in 1997, the book contains a wealth of material on Dorothy's life and
work. The author conveys a clear picture of her subject's upbringing and later
lifestyle, but Dorothy's character remains somewhat veiled; the reader is left
with the impression of someone kindly, charming and urbane, but with nothing
clearer than that.
This one reservation aside, I would recommend the book wholeheartedly. Winer
packs a great deal of information into the text, while maintaining readability.
Many of the anecdotes are fascinating, and there are hundreds of wonderful
illustrations of the subject, her family and friends, and of her films and
The lyrics to several songs are quoted in full; however since this is
principally a biography, there is little detailed analysis of her work.
The book is published by Schirmer Books.
Ethan Mordden is an authority on the Broadway musical. Among his
most recent publications are four books each of which concentrates
on Broadway musicals from a different decade: the 1920s, the 1930s,
the 1940s, the 1950s and the 1960s.
Extensive research, breadth of knowledge, a confidence in his own
opinions and writing skills of a high order enable Mordden to bring
a succession of Broadway flops and triumphs to life. The books covering
the 30s to the 70s contain peachy descriptions of Fields' shows
Sing For Your Supper: The Broadway Musical in the 1930s
has Hello, Daddy and Stars
in Your Eyes.
Coming up Roses : The Broadway Musical in the 1950s has
Arms and the Girl, A
Tree Grows in Brooklyn, By the Beautiful
Sea and Redhead.
Open a New Window: The Broadway Musical in the 1960s has
One More Kiss: The Broadway Musical in the 1970s has Seesaw.
Max Wilk : They're Playing Our Song
Max Wilk has written several books on popular song and songwriters.
This work is a unique collection of interviews he carried out with
the greatest American songwriters, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Dorothy Fields interview is particularly interesting - the reader
gains an impression of her personality, and there are several great
This book is highly recommended.
Henry Kane: How To Write A Song
This book, published in 1962, consists principally of interviews with 10 successful songwriters.
Dorothy Fields is one of them, along with Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael
and Noel Coward.
The interviews focus on advice for budding songwriters. Kane writes
well (he describes Johnny Mercer's accent ) and one gains a good impression
of the personalities of the subjects. The interview with Fields (spread
over 3 different occasions) appears to have occurred in 1955 or 1956.
Show Music on Record: The First One Hundred Years
A comprehensive list of original cast and studio cast performances issued
on comerical phonograph records, covering music of the American stage, scereen,
and television, with composer perrfomances and other selected collateral
This is a wonderful reference work by Jack Raymond, available in book form or
as a CD-ROM.
Hollywood Song : The Complete Film & Musical Companion by Ken Bloom
An astounding reference work which lists all songs featured in the movies
Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick
Zorro's Fighting Legion
with 7037 other films in between.
This is a companion volume to Bloom's
American Song: The Complete Musical Theatre Companion
Not Since Carrie : 40 Years of Broadway Flops by Ken Mandelbaum
Lots of fascinating detail is provided on two hundred flops, including Arms and
the Girl and Carnival in Flanders, to the book of which Dorothy Fields made a
contribution. Some of Mandelbaum's speculations on the reasons for the shows'
failures are less than persuasive.
Broadway Babies Say Goodnight by Mark Steyn
A collection of essays on musicals by an outstanding critic and writer. His
view is strikingly individual, but is usually convincingly argued, particularly
when he writes about lyrics. Sometimes I am less clear on his arguments, as in
the chapter on gays and the musical, entitled The Fags, which has
Ladies Don't Write Lyrics by Mark Steyn
Dorothy Fields' centenary Mark Steyn produced a 48-page booklet
which can be bought at his site. The booklet is cheaply produced
but has lots of illustrations. Most importantly it's full of great
insights, starting with a short general section and followed by
pieces on 20 of her songs. The price includes a copy of the CD An
Evening with Dorothy Fields.
2010) : The edition described above is no longer available. However
it has been reprinted as part of Mark Steyn's American Songbook
which can be obtained from this
page on his website.
Song by Song 14 Great Lyric Writers by Caryl Brahms and Ned Sherrin
Short essays on 14 lyricists (Berlin, Porter, Gershwin, Hart, Hammerstein,
Fields, Dietz, Harburg, Coward, Mercer, Loesser, Lerner, Harnick, Sondheim),
packed with information, and some telling anecdotes (reliable old Sherrin) and
comments. Published 1984
Radio programmes on Dorothy Fields
1. In July 2000 National Public Radio paid tribute to Dorothy Fields. The tribute is accessible via the Internet.
| 2. In June 2002, Angela Richards and I appeared on Woman's
Hour to talk about Dorothy Fields.
| 3. In 2006, Mark Steyn spoke about Dorothy Fields on Australian
radio. The interview and a transcipt can be found here.
TV program on women songwriters
1999 PBS broadcast a documentary about women songwriters, in which
Dorothy features prominently,now available on both VHS and DVD.
The program is called Yours for a Song: The
Women of Tin Pan Alley.
It's a very interesting program, and includes a lot of archive
photos and some clips of Dorothy, including her singing Blue
Again in the 1930s (with McHugh at the piano) and making
a TV appearance on Perry Como's show in the 1950s.
Stage Door Canteen
In 1943 Dorothy (along with hundreds of other celebrities) made a guest appearance in this film comedy.