Friday, February 28, 2014

Grandfather of "The Lobby Number"

Danny Kaye wasn't the first to poke fun at "Apple Blossom Time" in Up in Arms' "Lobby Number."

My favorite Danny Kaye number is “The Lobby Number,” from his first feature, Up in Arms. The song’s convoluted creation (which continued even after the number was filmed, so Danny had to go back and film parts again) is fully detailed in the book Danny Kaye: King of Jesters. But, in brief, Sylvia Fine and Max Liebman created most of the number by piecing together snippets of songs and sketch jokes they’d written for movie spoofs at Camp Tamiment.

But what about the number’s most famous line, “When it’s cherry blossom time in Orange, New Jersey, we’ll make a peach of a pear”—where did that come from? Jerome Kern and Cole Porter, if you go back far enough. For Up in Arms, Sylvia pilfered the line from a ditty she’d written at Tamiment, a Busby Berkeley-type production number, “Cherry Blossom Time” (“When it’s cherry blossom time in Orange, New Jersey, we’ll make a peach of a pear. Oh, honeydew be mine, because we cantaloupe. I’ll take you to the chapel, as the apple of my I declare, the month of May is merry, for girls ‘n’ boysenberry…”). Sylvia’s inspiration was “When It’s Apple Blossom Time in Normandy,” a pop song that was a huge hit—in 1913.

But Fine wasn’t the first to spoof the song. In 1917, Jerome Kern and P.G. Wodehouse made fun of it (and other “When it’s something-or-other-time in some place far away place” songs, like “Tulip Time in Holland”) in “Nesting Time in Flatbush” for the 1917 Broadway show Oh Boy! And, five years later, Cole Porter included a joke about the lyrics in his song “Cocktail Time” from his show Mayfair and Montmartre.

For the record, Sylvia insisted she’d never heard of the Kern or Porter songs when she wrote “The Lobby Number.”

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