“They’re playing our song.” Perhaps you have said that. It is not uncommon for couples to choose a favorite song, one that they refer to as “Our Song” – a song that works its way so deep under the skin that at times it can bring a smile to one’s lips and at other times a tear to one’s eyes. It is a special song, not a randomly chosen one. And every time that song is heard, it is a reminder of why it is that couple’s special song.
The prolific musical writing team of Gus Kahn and Jule Styne wrote such a song with that theme entitled, There Goes That Song Again. They wrote the song for the 1944 film Carolina Blues, starring bandleader Kay Kyser, tap dancer-turned-actress Ann Miller, and beloved comic performer Victor Moore. The song is about a love that once was, but is no longer. It is a song that once was the couple’s “Our Song.” It is upon hearing their serenade that one of the lovers is reminded of what had been before the two drifted apart. This thought is expressed throughout the song, but most poignantly in the final line of the song: “When you said, ‘So long,’ but I was wrong/There goes that song again.” In the film, the song is performed by Harry Babbitt and Kay Kyser and his Orchestra. The entire lyrics are as follows:
There goes that song again,
We use to call it our serenade
We fell in love when we heard it played
Over and over, and over, and over again
I still remember when
I sang the words and they made you mine
I’d steal a kiss and repeat each line
Over and over, and over, and over and then
We drifted apart, you walked off with my heart
It’s funny how one listen,
Just starts me reminiscin’
I’d soon forget that yen, I told myself
When you said, “So long”,
but I was wrong
There goes that song again
Carolina Blues, the movie for which There Goes That Song Again was written is a strange little film. Set in the war years, this film had so many plot lines going on that many will want to quit before the closing credits appear on the screen.
Try to stick with me on this.
The film, really a vehicle for Kay Kyser, is a typical light-hearted B-movie of the period. Kyser translated well to screen, most often playing himself. In this film, Kyser and his band, including singer Georgia Carroll (given the nickname “Gorgeous Georgia Carroll”), return from a long USO tour, and the exhausted musicians look forward to their vacation, while Carroll plans for her upcoming wedding to an Army officer. Their publicist, Charlotte Barton (Jeff Donnell), does not give them time to rest, however, for she immediately takes them to the Carver shipyards. Despite the band’s grumbling, they put on a good show, and Kyser is entranced by the singing of Julie Carver (Ann Miller), the daughter of Phineas J. Carver (Victor Moore), whom Kyser mistakenly assumes is the owner of the shipyard. Anxious to be married, Carroll urges Kyser to replace her with Julie Carver, but Kyser declines.
Okay so far?
On his way back to the hotel, Kyser meets an old chum, Tom Gordon (Howard Freeman), the newspaper editor in Kyser’s hometown of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Gordon asks Kyser to return home to put on a bond rally, so that Rocky Mount can buy a destroyer. Carver suggests holding the show in New York, where they can raise enough money for a cruiser, not just a destroyer, and Kyser tries to trick the band members into agreeing. They see through his scheme, but as they are stuck in New York due to transportation shortages, consent. Carroll is annoyed at having to postpone her wedding, however, and during the show, arranges for Carver to substitute for her. Carver is a big hit, much to the delight of her father and the chagrin of her wealthy, snobbish relatives. Kyser is furious about the trick and yells at Carver for trying to ruin the show. When Carroll questions him about why he is refusing to hire Carver, he states that as a rich girl, she would have no commitment to a real career. Carroll passes on the information to Carver and her father, unaware that they are only pretending to be rich to make a good impression on Kyser. In reality, they are the poor Carvers and are continually borrowing from their relations.
Still with me?
Kyser then travels to Rocky Mount, where the townsfolk hold a banquet in his honor. During the festivities, however, Kyser learns that because the bonds from the New York show were sold in New York, they cannot be credited to Rocky Mount. Devastated by the news, Kyser schemes to get the band to his hometown for another show by sending them urgent telegrams that lead them to believe that he is on his death bed. Again, they quickly see through his ruse, but agree to put on the show as they are already in Rocky Mount. The bond sales do not go well though, and it does not look as if there will be enough for a destroyer until Carver and her father arrives.
Believing that he can get Phineas Carver to purchase the required amount of bonds, Kyser gives the singing job to his daughter, Julie. She goes out with him that night in order to obtain a contract, but the moonlight works its magic and the couple fall in love. Unable to deceive him any longer, Carver tells Kyser the truth about her finances and tearfully leaves with her father the next morning. But Phineas Carver has a plan of his own though, and summons his relatives to Rocky Mount. That night, as Kyser puts on the show, Phineas Carver blackmails his relatives into buying enough bonds so that the town can obtain its destroyer. Julie Carver goes to the auditorium to present the check to Kyser, who quickly reconciles with her and shares the good news with the crowd.
And they all lived happily ever after. So there you have it. Well, I did forewarn you that there were too many plot lines!
While the plot was standard let’s-put-on-a-show fare, the standout was the great Ann Miller. Miller’s singing was more than adequate and her dancing (as always) was terrific, (The movie posters screamed, “Your feet will tap to those legnificient Ann Miller dances!”) Miller was also featured in a Harlem-themed production number with Harold Nicholas (one-half of the famous Nicholas Brothers), The Four Step Brothers, and others that had no relation to the rest of the movie. Singer Georgia Carroll (in real life, Mrs. Kay Kyser) looked beautiful in the film. She can be compared to a beautiful version of Dinah Shore, and like Betty Grable, she must have driven the G.I. Joe’s wild back in those wartime days!
There Goes That Song Again, though not a big hit in 1945, was nevertheless recorded by no less than five different artists, all of which charted on the Billboard charts: Russ Morgan, Sammy Kaye, Kay Kyser, of course, Billy Butterfield, and Kate Smith.
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Russ Morgan and his Orchestra, vocals by Russ Morgan (“Music in the Morgan Manner”) There Goes That Song Again
(Swing and Sway with) Sammy Kaye, vocals by Nancy Norman There Goes That Song Again
Kay Kyser and his Orchestra, vocals by Georgia Carroll There Goes That Song Again
Billy Butterfield and his Orchestra, vocals by Margaret Whiting There Goes That Song Again
Kate Smith, Orchestra under the direction of Jack Smith There Goes That Song Again