Tuesday, July 10, 2012


When America Still Knew How to Have Fun
Betty Hutton’s talent was so unique great songwriters of the 1940’s wrote novelty songs especially for her. She was as all-American as they made ‘em –– brash, raucous, charming, endearing, sexy –– and funny as hell. Her personal life skidded perilously close to tragedy, but as a performer she never gave less than a hundred percent, God love her!

We never saw her likes before, and it’s unlikely we’ll ever see or hear anything like it again.
There’s a reason we’ve never heard the songs Betty Hutton sang again after her career in Hollywood ended, and her life began to spin out of control.  
The reason? 
No one but she had the unique combination of qualities needed to put those songs across.

His Rocking Horse Ran Away is probably the best of the special songs written for Betty –– it’s certainly a personal favorite with me.  It never fails to make me burst out laughing –– and then I cry a little –– because it’s a potent reminder of the capacity for innocent merriment we, as a people, have lost.

I must sit down for a minute, I'm ready to fall in a heap
Willie's been fed and I've tucked him in bed, 
thank goodness the darling's asleep
He's a wonderful boy and a joy and a boon

SPOKEN: Ah, gee, you should have seen him this afternoon

Bang went the bridge lamp, down went the table, 
crash went the china tray
But he said "I couldn't help it, my rocking horse ran away!"
Rip rip went the curtain, wham went the window, 
crunch went the new buffet
And I heard him tell his daddy "My rocking horse ran away"

Somehow Indians got into our front room
Our cowboy grabbed for his gun 
and went Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom!

Slam went the screen door, smash went the mirror, 
looks like I'll soon be gray
But he smiles and what's the difference and maybe some Mother's Day
I'll remember when his rocking horse ran away

Got up early this morning, wore a flimsy negligee
Had to hurry to fix the breakfast and get daddy on his way
Figured I could get the paper, so the neighbors wouldn't see
So I sneaked out on the porch, very, very quietly
Wham went the dish pan, then came a holler, 
up went the neighbor's shade
It was Mother's Little Darling, out on a commando raid

Came home late from a picture. I was tired, my shoes were tight
Took off my stockings, dropped my girdle
Got undressed and pulled the light. Boy!
Slipped into my night gown, then tiptoed across the floor
Better have a look at Junior, so I peeked into his door
Clang, clang, clang went a cowbell, 
whee went a whistle, I nearly had a stroke
It was mother's precious baby, just havin' his little joke

Always just when I'm breathin' a peaceful sigh
There's G-Men, coppers and robbers and hi-yo silver!
Bam went the book case, boot went the fruit bowl, 
boom went the glass bouquet
But he smiles and what's the difference and maybe some Mother's Day
I'll remember when,

Bang went the lamp, 
Down went the table
Crash went the tray, 
Rip rip went the curtain, 
Wham went a window
Clang went a bell, 
Whee went a whistle, 
Bam went a pan, 
Slam went a door

On that eventful day, when his rocking horse ran away! 
~ § ~
From the Film: And The Angels Sing 1944
(Lyrics : Johnny Burke / Music : Jimmy Van Heusen)
~ FreeThinke


  1. I must admit that I'm unfamiliar with both the movie and this tune.

    it’s a potent reminder of the capacity for innocent merriment we, as a people, have lost

    We're no the same wave length! When you see my weekend post, which goes up very early on Saturday morning, you'll know what I mean, FT. The post's title: "Weekend Break From Politics." I know that you will be interested!

  2. AOW, did you mean to "we are ON the same wavelength" or "we are NOT on the same wavelength?"

    I couldn't be quite sure. Could "no" be a typo for "on?"

    FYI: I've been a big fan of Betty Hutton since I was four or five years old. Despite my decided preference for classical music and sophisticated jazz, and my aversion to most everything that came along with Elvis -- with the exception of Stephen Sondheim and to a certain extent Kandor and Ebb, and of course Henry Mancini -- I love musical comedy -- especially the brash, comical songs sung by brassy dames with raspy voices.

    Another favorite of mine is the zany duet "How could You believe Me When I Said I Loved You, Wen You Know I've been Liar All My Life" sung and danced by Jane Powell and Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding. Jan ha a beautiful lyric-coloratura soprano and could do just about anything with her voice, except sing bass, but she showed a whole different side of herself in Royal Wedding. She had not been noted as a dancer, but her dancing with Fred Astaire in this complicated, hyper-athletic, very funny routine was so brilliant I've never forgotten it since I first saw it in 1952. I never miss the chance to see Royal Wedding whenever it comes on TCM -- if only to catch this wonderful number, which never fails to bring chuckles, smiles and laughter.

    Wholesome nonsense treated with brilliant inventiveness and polished technique seems totally missing in these dour, dreary, deadly serious, anger-producing times.

    Thank God for the Past. It makes the present bearable, and if studied and examined with relish and gusto, may yet bring us back to a saner approacher to building a tenable future.

    That's why I am posting what-may-appear-to-be trivialities.

    ~ FreeThinke

  3. Aw, Betty!

    I'm so sorry that more didn't come to enjoy your zany, brilliant, all-American charm. A measure of how much we've been dulled-down, I suppose!

    Anyway, as long as I live, I will remember you and love youfor being an energizing source of inspiration, and for bringing laughter and merriment into many of our darkest days.

    You never knew it, but you probably saved my life once. I was in the hospital and very much afraid my life was drawing to a close. I was very near despair, but then your miraculous performance in Annie Get Your Gun came into that cheerless space on the TV, and reminded me of the time when I was ten years old and my Mom and Dad and I were on a motor trip out west ...

    Because of a sudden spate of bad weather, we had to stop at a dreary little whistle stop somewhere in Kansas, where the only hotel in town was a dump. Our room had iron cots, cracked plaster walls, limp white curtains and black window shades patched with scotch tape. The only source of illumination was a bare light bulb hanging from a frayed cord in the middle of the ceiling. We were forced to eat at the only restaurant the place had to offer -- a storefront cafe with fly specks all over the plate glass window, walls turned brown and streaky with age, wobbly chairs and tables and a pervasive odor of stale cooking grease.

    The rain had stopped by the time we settled into this depressing atmosphere, which seemed to spark my parents' sense of humor, so we we decided to take a walk and explore a bit ....

    What we found was a movie theater, and Annie Get Your Gun happened to be playing. Salvation was at hand!

    Seeing you in that show under those circumstances was like dying and going to Heaven, Betty.

    I've loved you -- and been grateful to you -- ever since. But I'm sure I am just one of many millions who feel that way -- at least I hope so.

    Thanks again, Betty. I hope God is treating you more kindly than Hollywood did here on earth. You deserved something a whole lot better than you got.





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