Thoughts on music in movies, I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, by George Kaplan

BEGUILING MELODIES #1: I Can’t Give You Anything But Love – Lyrics by
Dorothy Fielding, Music by Jimmy McHugh, as heard in Bringing Up Baby

Annex - Grant, Cary (Bringing Up Baby)_01

“It’s extraordinary how potent cheap music is.” Noel Coward’s Amanda
speaks those words in Private Lives and wouldn’t it be difficult or
even foolish to deny the truth of them? Although I, being modern
(don’t *scoff*, that is RUDE! Tsk, tsk.), feel that no music which
moves you in any way could be considered “cheap”. I think we’ve all
been watching a movie at some point and been whirled away by the use
of a song. It doesn’t matter if it’s silly or evocative or just plain
exciting, we’ve all had it happen; some song just gets us and
we’re never quite the same afterward, the song becomes part of our
mental furniture, our imaginative landscape, our emotional memory.
(And sometimes a kooky tune will hook itself into our minds at the
most inopportune time and we won’t be able to get it out for days or
weeks, and worse we’ll start singing it! The Oompa Lumpa Song from
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or the Lullaby League/Lollipop
Guild song from The Wizard of Oz are two DEADLY ones for me!)

Annex - Hepburn, Katharine (Bringing Up Baby)_02

This is the first in a very occasional series of post about great
songs in great movies. As you can see above it’s I Can’t Give You
Anything But Love in Bringing Up Baby that is first up. Baby uses Love
in a very clever, very funny way. It isn’t a song used explicitly in a
romantic fashion, no, it’s deployed in what is, for a screwball
comedy, an appropriately screwy manner: Dorothy Fielding and Jimmy
McHugh’s beautiful sentimental song is used to “woo” and soothe a
leopard named Baby (it isn’t so effective against an untamed one, mind
you) who has – one might say – fallen “in love” with it! However, the
really clever aspect is that even as the song is used as background
to various nutty goings-on in contrast to how love songs are
ordinarily used in film it is also slyly and hilariously and in an
oddly manner accompanying the unlikely falling (sometimes literally)
in love of strait-laced professor David Huxley (Cary Grant) and whacko free
spirit Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn). It’s one of the most brilliant
things about a glitteringly brilliant picture but it wouldn’t work
anywhere near as well if the song wasn’t so wonderful. I Can’t Give
You Anything But Love has been part of me since I first saw the movie
just as has the movie itself. They are both, to quote another sublime
song: unforgettable. And as if to prove how fantastic Love is, just
take a listen to versions by artists such as Doris Day, Louis
Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. Ms Fielding and Mr McHugh were made immortal
through their song.

Please feel free guys and dolls to mention some of your
unforgettable movie songs in the comments and perhaps tell us why they
caught you.

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20 comments

  1. Heather in Arles

    Oh yes please! What a fantastic idea for a series and by none other than Mister George Kaplan himself!! *the crowds stand up and cheer uproariously*
    Gosh (as Ms. Kate would say), I’ll have to think about this one…I will add that I do love the Billie Holiday version of this song…and that sometimes it is music in films that gets to me too without the song: think the theme for “Out of Africa”! Makes me cry every. single. time.
    PS. Look at those cheekbones in the second shot (not not Mr. Grant, the dame!) – take that GG!

  2. George Kaplan

    Lady Heather, you are very kind. Thank you! Oh, yes, I love movie scores and memorable theme music. John Barry’s Out of Africa theme is extremely good. You bring to mind Mr Barry’s body of work, in particular his Bond music which was often the very best thing about the pictures. I think of his On Her Majesty’s Secret Service pieces. The thrilling atmospheric and exciting theme and the romantic loveliness of We Have All The Time In The World.
    By the way, is “GG” Gilbert Gottfried?! 😉

  3. doriantb

    Any blogger who uses “George Kaplan” is my kind of person! 🙂 Indeed, in addition to BRINGING UP BABY, I was watching THE PALM BEACH STORY last night; Rudy Vallee manages to be both funny and tender here. Ever see the trippy yet soulfull THE JACKET, starring Adrien Brody? It may not be to all tastes (but it suits me swell), and the remake by Iggy Pop is surprisingly soulful; who’d have thought? 🙂 Great post!

    • George K. is one of the best! Love THE PALM BEACH STORY, one of my favorite (not George’s) movies of all time!
      Am watching the trailer for THE JACKET, looks like my cup of tea—thanks for the recommendation, and thanks for dropping in 🙂 !

    • A word from George K. himself, who is having some trouble signing on from the UK today, so I’m happy to forward this to you 🙂 :
      Well, Dorian, it was either that or Roger O Thornhill… (though I’m
      probably more of a David Huxley!) 😉 Thanks for the compliment, it
      brightened my day!
      I’ve only seen bits and pieces of The Jacket, I should probably check
      it out, and the Iggy Pop take on the song too. Iggy did a little
      crooning on the classic David Bowie-produced album Lust for Life
      (along with such fantastic rockers as The Passenger, Neighborhood
      Threat, and the title track – later heard in Trainspotting, which also
      includes memorable ironic use of Lou Reed’s great Perfect Day) while
      years after that he worked with Deborah Harry on the Jazz Passengers
      project. Worth checking out. Thanks for your swell reply! Warm
      regards, George K.

  4. Jen

    This is a great idea for a series! For me, one of those songs is “The Very Thought of You” (Billie Holiday), which for some reason just snagged my heart during an insomniatic, nothing-else-is-on-and-maybe-this-will-put-me-to-sleep viewing of “Forever Young” years and years ago. It’s unexplainable, but that one has had a deep hold of me ever since!

    And yes to Rudy Vallee, especially in THE PALM BEACH STORY. 🙂

    • The Very Thought of You… so beautiful, and I love the Nat King Cole version, too!
      I keep looking for a recording of Rudy Vallee singing, Good Night Sweetheart from THE PALM BEACH STORY, but so far, no luck—if I ever find it I’ll post it. And I’ll pass on your compliments to George and see if he’ll give us another medley in the near future!

    • George is having trouble with his Internet connection so he asked me to forward this to you 🙂 :
      Jen, I’m elated you like it, or, as some would say where I come from
      (Iceland…okay, no, Oz…er, all right, all right, *England*!) I am
      “chuffed”!
      Billie Holiday’s version of The Very Thought Of You? Ooh, excellent!
      Isn’t it wonderful when you watch a film and are hooked through the
      Heart by a great song? I remember seeing Diner years ago and the use
      of Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea “got” me, as it did in an episode of
      The X-Files and the French version, La Mer in Peter Chelsom’s
      entertaining Funny Bones, starring Oliver Platt, Lee Evans, and Jerry
      Lewis. Thanks for that sweet response.
      Best wishes, George K 🙂

  5. Vienna

    Great theme. One I recall is Cole Porter’s “In the Still of the Night” which has been sung by many people, but I still remember the glorious rendition by Nelson Eddy in ROSALIE.
    I love this song and Nelson’s voice does it justice.

  6. My favorite movie music of all time is the soundtrack from “Original Sin” – I actually contacted the writer of said music, and she was kind enough to mail me the hand-written score from the song that Angelina Jolie’s character sings in the film, “No One But You”. I also looked up several of the Cuban folk music artists used in the film, and bought their CDs. The book the film was based on, “Waltz Into Darkness” by Cornell Woolrich, is also a great read.

    My second favorite soundtrack is from “Dangerous Liaisons” – and the book, by Choderlos Laclos, is marvelous.

    If we’re talking vintage music – anything by Billie Holiday, all day long. My husband regularly says, “You’re listening to Billie Holiday AGAINNNNN?”. I say “Yes. And tomorrow, and the next day, and…..”.

  7. George Kaplan

    Thank you everyone for your great responses, and thank YOU, Vickie, for allowing me to post this!
    @Heather, you were laughing, I thought that was an Angel sighing! 😉 Hey, don’t chastize me, it’s better than being told I thought that sound was the garbage disposal running or someone gargling with honey! Your right, I am CRAZY – like a Fox!
    @Vienna (I promise not to make a “Goodnight, Vienna” joke! Fine name!), In The Still Of The Night, such a super song with an evocative title. And a nice rendition from Mr Eddy.
    @Gallivanta, “Lara’s Theme”, *sigh*. Fantastic, I find myself thinking not of Mr Sharif but of the glorious Julie Christie when I think of that! My mom is, however, a big fan of smouldering Omar… 😉
    @Linnetmoss, Everyone Says I Love You: excellent. Marx Brothers movies have an unusual number of memorable songs including such comedic classics as Lydia the Tattooed Lady (“Lydia, Lydia, my encyclo-pid-i-Ah!”). This reminds me, Marx Brothers fan Woody Allen directed Everyone Says I Love You and many of his movies feature wonderful music.
    @Marcheline, that is fascinating! Thanks for sharing that. Gosh, Woolrich had a gift for titles didn’t he? Ah, Dangerous Liaisons, I haven’t seen that for an age, I really liked it and the music. I used to know a fabulous woman who also recommended Les Liaisons Dangereuses (sp.?), I should read it.
    One can never have enough Billie! I am sure he loves it really… 😉 Strange Fruit is a monument of a song. So powerful.

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