Rock the Oscars 2019: Leo Robin and Jule Styne

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Perhaps the most famous song about Little Rock is “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Written by Leo Robin and Jule Styne, it first appeared on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where it was sung by Carol Channing.  When the title was made into a movie, it was sung by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.

Because it was not written for the screen, the song was not eligible for an Oscar.  However, the duo who wrote it had their fair share of Oscar nominations and wins.

Robin, earned ten nominations between 1934 and 1953.  As a lyricist, he collaborated with seven different composers in earning these nominations. His one Oscar came for “Thanks for the Memory” from The Big Broadcast of 1938.  In the film it was sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  It would be associated with Hope the rest of his life.

Styne also earned ten nominations; his were between 1940 and 1968.  Seven of the nominations were for collaborations with Sammy Cahn.  (There were three other partners with whom he shared nominations, too.)  His win came for “Three Coins in the Fountain” from the film of the same name.  In the movie it was sung by an uncredited Frank Sinatra during the opening title sequence. During the closing credits, an unnamed chorus repeated the song.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes received no Oscar nominations, though Charles Lederer did receive a Writers Guild of America nomination for screenplay of an American Musical.  Though Jane Russell introduced an Oscar winning Best Song in Paleface (“Buttons and Bows”) and Oscar nominated Best Song in Son of Paleface (“Am I in Love”) she never received an Oscar nomination.  Monroe never received one either.  Only co-star Charles Coburn had any luck with Oscar.  He received three nominations, winning once.

Little Rock Look Back: Birth of Jane Russell

Actress Jane Russell was born on June 21, 1921.

One of her best known film roles was as Dorothy Shaw in the 1953 film version of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.  In that movie duetted with Marilyn Monroe on the song “Little Girls from Little Rock.” (It was a revised version of the song “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock” which was written for the original stage version.)

She also had the chance to spoof Monroe in the film by imitating her and hamming it up singing a snippet of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in a courtroom scene.  But it is the opening sequence of the movie which is one of Russell’s iconic moments on screen.

Here is a clip.

After a multi-decade career in film and humanitarian causes, Russell died in February 2011 at the age of 89.

Rock the Oscars: Leo Robin and Jule Styne

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Perhaps the most famous song about Little Rock is “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Written by Leo Robin and Jule Styne, it first appeared on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where it was sung by Carol Channing.  When the title was made into a movie, it was sung by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.

Because it was not written for the screen, the song was not eligible for an Oscar.  However, the duo who wrote it had their fair share of Oscar nominations and wins.

Robin, earned ten nominations between 1934 and 1953.  As a lyricist, he collaborated with seven different composers in earning these nominations. His one Oscar came for “Thanks for the Memory” from The Big Broadcast of 1938.  In the film it was sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  It would be associated with Hope the rest of his life.

Styne also earned ten nominations; his were between 1940 and 1968.  Seven of the nominations were for collaborations with Sammy Cahn.  (There were three other partners with whom he shared nominations, too.)  His win came for “Three Coins in the Fountain” from the film of the same name.  In the movie it was sung by an uncredited Frank Sinatra during the opening title sequence. During the closing credits, an unnamed chorus repeated the song.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes received no Oscar nominations, though Charles Lederer did receive a Writers Guild of America nomination for screenplay of an American Musical.  Though Jane Russell introduced an Oscar winning Best Song in Paleface (“Buttons and Bows”) and Oscar nominated Best Song in Son of Paleface (“Am I in Love”) she never received an Oscar nomination.  Monroe never received one either.  Only co-star Charles Coburn had any luck with Oscar.  He received three nominations, winning once.

Arkansas Heritage Month – “Little Rock” Songs

Monroe RussellThe Capital City has popped up in a variety of songs in different genres over the years.  Today we look at five notable instances.

Collin Raye’s 1994 song “Little Rock” peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Country charts and was Number 14 for the entire year.  Found on Raye’s album Extremes, it was written by Tom Douglas.  The song centers on a man who is trying to rebuild his life after battles with alcohol have affected his marriage.

Notable lyric: “I think I’m on a roll here in Little Rock.”

 

Hayes Carll’s take on Arkansas’ capital is also known as “Little Rock.” It was his title track from the 2005 album.  It tells the tale of a man who has traveled all over the US and is excited to make it back to Little Rock. With a driving country-rock beat, it typifies Carll’s style of music which has one foot squarely in both camps as a singer-songwriter.

Notable lyric: “All of my life I’ve tried to find/ “a piece of this earth for my peace of mind.”

 

Leo Robin and Jule Styne wrote the 1949 song “Little Girl from Little Rock” for their Broadway musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Introduced by Carol Channing, it told of quintessential 1920s vamp Lorelei Lee’s rise from “the wrong side of the tracks” to Manhattan’s elite neighborhoods.  It has remained part of Channing’s repertoire in nightclubs and concerts.  In 1953, it was retooled with sanitized lyrics and made into a duet for Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the film version of the musical.

Notable lyric: “Then someone broke my heart in Little Rock/and I up and left old Arkansas.”

 

Little Rock has also appeared in several “List songs” including “I’ve Been Everywhere.” Originally written with Australian place names in 1959, it was adapted to North American places in 1962 by Hank Snow. Arkansan Johnny Cash recorded it in 1996.

Little Rock appears in the second verse: “Glen Rock, Black Rock, Little Rock, Oskaloosa,”

 

Billy Joel’s 1989 “We Didn’t Start the Fire” contains three references to Little Rock. In the first section’s look at 1949, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific is mentioned.  With a heroine from Little Rock, this musical was the most popular show on Broadway during the 1948-1949 and 1949-1950 Broadway seasons.  The second comes in the 1953 portion with “Rockefeller” which referenced playboy Winthrop Rockefeller’s abandonment of New York City for Arkansas. He had residences in both Little Rock and on Petit Jean Mountain. The final entry came in 1957, when Joel references the Central High integration crisis with the lyric “Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac, Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge on the River Kwai.”