December 16th, 2017

Baby, It’s Unplayful and Ahistorical Outside

The song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was written in 1944 by the brilliant Frank Loesser, composer and lyricist for the musical masterpieces “Guys and Dolls,” “The Most Happy Fellow” (performed less frequently because of its operatic requirements, but absolutely gorgeous and tremendously touching), and the lesser (pun, ha ha) but still great “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.” He also wrote the songs to the movie “Hans Christian Anderson,” a favorite in my youth.

Note that Loesser wrote the music and lyrics to all those musicals and to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as well. That’s quite unusual, although not completely unique: Irving Berlin and Cole Porter come to mind as composer/lyricists, too.

And speaking of lyrics—no doubt you’ve heard about the current drive to ban “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for being insufficiently PC in the sexual assault/harassment realm. After all, the song tells the tale of a man who is trying to persuade a woman to stay for the night, and he uses the cold weather outside as an excuse. But if you actually look at the lyrics, it’s clear that the woman wants to stay, and that her protests are merely for the sake of propriety, and that the whole thing is a flirtatious little game of seduction. In her objections she keeps mentioning what other people will think, not her own feelings. So you might say she’s striking a blow for autonomy and throwing off fusty old custom when she acquiesces at the end.

The entire exchange described in the lyrics is reflective of a previous era when reputation was a big big thing, causing quite a few women to say “no” when they were thinking “yes” and could be persuaded by men who were reading their wishes correctly—as is the man in the song. For young women today, that’s not a description of their mothers’ era, and maybe not even their grandmothers’ era—it’s their great- or great-great grandmother’s era. But that’s the way it often was.

When I was a child—pre-internet, of course—my friends and I used to amuse ourselves in various archaic ways. We not only listened to musicals on a primitive record player that played scratchy 33s, we also played the piano. That is, my friend (who went to Julliard at a very young age and was an excellent player and sight-reader) played the piano, and we both sang. Her family had copies of the Fireside series of songbooks, and so I learned a lot of songs that were considerably older than “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” In one of the Fireside Books (I think this one) you could find this song, written in 1897 (performed here by Johnny Cash):

That’s history, too.

Frank Loesser used to perform “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with his wife at parties. Here’s the story:

Loesser wrote the duet in 1944 and premiered the song with his wife, [the singer] Lynn Garland, at their Navarro Hotel in New York housewarming party, and performed it toward the end of the evening, signifying to guests that it was nearly time to end the party. Loesser would introduce himself as the “Evil of Two Loessers”, a play on the theme of the song, trying to keep the girl from leaving, and on the phrase “lesser of two evils”. This was a period when the Hollywood elite’s chief entertainment was throwing parties and inviting guests who were expected to perform. Garland wrote that after the first performance, “We become instant parlor room stars. We got invited to all the best parties for years on the basis of ‘Baby.’ It was our ticket to caviar and truffles. Parties were built around our being the closing act.” Garland considered it their song and was furious when Loesser told her he was selling the song. Garland wrote, “I felt as betrayed as if I’d caught him in bed with another woman.”

Well, that was a foretaste of things to come, because while working on “The Most Happy Fella” (1956), Loesser took up with the show’s leading lady Jo Sullivan and left Garland (as told by his daughter Susan):

My mother did a lot of the casting for “The Most Happy Fella.” She was co-producer with Kermit Bloomgarden, and when she heard Jo sing, she said, Boy, this is a voice – this is a voice and a personality Frank would just love.

So she sent Jo to audition for my father, sealing her fate. It was a very hard time for everybody. I – my brother and I were uprooted from our California suburban lifestyle and brought to New York City. We at first stayed with friends and then moved to a small apartment.

My mother was not happy and was drinking more and more, and I had never lived in such close quarters with her before, and that was when I began to see that she was – she had big problems.

Everything changed for all of us. My father was living across Central Park in an apartment of his own and having his affair with Jo, and everybody was – he wasn’t real happy either. It was a very – a time full of turmoil, although for him, I think, it was mitigated a great deal by the great success of “The Most Happy Fella.”

If you ever get a chance to see a decent production of “The Most Happy Fella,” run, don’t walk—before the entire Loesser oeuvre gets erased by the Thought Police.

[NOTE: Here’s a song by Loesser with very clever lyrics, one I’d never heard before. It was written during WWII. In it, the female singer is assuring her boyfriend who’s overseas in the military that she’ll be faithful, because the guys who remain behind are slim pickings:

…I’m either their first breath of spring
Or else, I’m their last little fling
I either get a fossil or an adolescent pup
I either have to hold him off
Or have to hold him up
The battle is on, but the fortress will hold
They’re either too young or too old.

Would it pass muster today?]

43 Responses to “Baby, It’s Unplayful and Ahistorical Outside”

  1. Kathy Kinsley Says:

    “Would it pass muster today?”

    Probably not. Most songs from that era wouldn’t. (And I enjoy most of the ones I know.)

    White Christmas is racist, yanno? Even though I don’t think even BLM proponents would be pleased at seeing black snow.

  2. tcrosse Says:

    In Neptune’s Daughter (1949) Red Skelton and Betty Garrett sing Baby It’s Cold Outside with the genders reversed. So I suppose it’s OK.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    tcrosse:

    How interesting.

  4. SLR Says:

    I never liked the song for other reasons. Its a phony Christmas song that was being pushed by Hollywood and lefty entertainers… since it wasn’t really a Christmas song. Kept showing up in movies and commercials… re: to the exclusion of a actual Christmas season song.

  5. Paul Rumley Says:

    Neo-

    One of the best versions of this song is by Rod Taylor and Dolly Parton…simply perfect…

    https://www.bing.com/search?q=rod%20taylor%20baby%20it's%20cold%20outside&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&pq=undefined&sc=0-19&sk=&cvid=75B3A93F01264914BE67AC03816AA8EA

  6. Harry Forbes Says:

    Here is another WWII song in the same vein by the superb Nat King Cole Trio. There is an even better version, but it’s not on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNEzJPEmTwg

  7. Gordon Says:

    It’s a good lesson in the interplay between the sexes. Try listening to Miranda Lambert’s Only Prettier. It’s also a good primer, to southern culture and to how women look at each other.

    “Well I’ve been saved by the grace of southern charm,” is the opening line.

  8. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “no doubt you’ve heard about the current drive to ban “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for being insufficiently PC in the sexual assault/harassment realm.” neo

    Political correctness being our current version of Orwell’s “thought crime”, it inescapably destroys all beauty, insightfulness and individual creativity.

    Given the Left’s expressed adulation for ‘creativity’, the irony is literally Shakespearean.

  9. rivlax Says:

    My favorite version of “Baby” is by Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting. For years I thought Mercer had written the lyrics to the song.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTNheCEUP_A

  10. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    As an antidote to political correctness I offer; “Idina Menzel & Michael Bublé – Baby It’s Cold Outside”

  11. David in Cal Says:

    Thanks for pointing out the cute and clever song, “They’re either too young or too old.” Another Loesser WW2 song worth a listen is “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition,:

  12. Mike K Says:

    As an antidote to political correctness I offer; “Idina Menzel & Michael Bublé – Baby It’s Cold Outside”

    Cute. It reminds me of a scene in one of my favorite movies which most of you probably never saw. It is The Story of Three Loves,” which is a three story anthology. One of the stories is about a little boy who is in love with his nanny, Leslie Caron. He is played by Ricky Nelson, as I recall. He knows a witch, played by Ethel Barrymore. She turns him into a handsome young man and he romances the nanny for one evening. The three stories are good and I have a DVD of the film, which I watch once in a while. I might watch it tonight.

  13. Frog Says:

    Johnny Cash married into the musical (pre-Country and Western) Carter family (June Carter Cash), and this song could have been (maybe ’twas) written by Mother Maybelle Carter. The Carter family sound was and is wonderful; clear, lucid and often touching lyrics, simple but elegant music on only acoustic instruments, as Johnny plays here, which was all there was in their day.

  14. Russell Gold Says:

    This has been going on for a years, since the snowflakes decided that a 1940s joke, “what’s in this drink?” was a clear allusion to the use of rophynol fifty years later, as a date rape drug.

  15. Billy Vera Says:

    My favorite version is Ray Charles & Betty Carter, although a version I produced by Lou Rawls & Dianne Reeves is a close second. In directing their performances, I told Lou, “Seduce, seduce, seduce” and Dianne, to resist, knowing she wants to say “yes,” until the very last moment. We hear her say softly as the record closes, “Okay.”

  16. Dave Says:

    I wonder if neo sometimes gets her ideas from our comments, I remember I have mentioned this song in one of my comments regarding the abuse allegation witch hunt before, I remember someone also mentioned the Bruce Springsteen song in his/her reply to my comment.

  17. Dave Says:

    I see SNL doing in a parody of this song setting inside Matt Lauer’s office

  18. BillyRayBob Says:

    Fascinating how sexual repression makes for strange bedfellows (pun intended). “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was a clear sign of moral decadence for Sayyid Qutb, too.

  19. Estoy Listo Says:

    I have a special fondness for this song, a reminder of values I was raised in, values that I’ve never been able to forsake.

  20. blert Says:

    The stay-at-home boys found it almost impossible to get ‘action’ after the warriors came home.

    Sometimes this was not their fault. They were too young to enlist.

    My father dropped out of high school to enlist.

    He came back a buck private, no medals — and had his pick of the litter !

    In doing so, he was typical.

    Being a member of the Forlorn Hope (6-6-44) did give him some gravitas, so there was that.

  21. Molly Brown Says:

    If they get half a chance, the PC tyrants will cancel Christmas.

  22. AesopFan Says:

    Russell Gold Says:
    December 16th, 2017 at 8:48 pm
    This has been going on for a years, since the snowflakes decided that a 1940s joke, “what’s in this drink?” was a clear allusion to the use of rophynol fifty years later, as a date rape drug.
    * **
    In the mid-seventies, one of our drama club members told me at a cast party that her father told her to always take her liquor straight, because you never knew how much alcohol was in a mixed drink.

  23. AesopFan Says:

    Molly Brown Says:
    December 17th, 2017 at 12:41 am
    If they get half a chance, the PC tyrants will cancel Christmas.

    * * *
    via PowerLine’s Pictures this week.
    https://i1.wp.com/www.powerlineblog.com/ed-assets/2017/12/War-on-Xmas-camp.jpeg

  24. SLR Says:

    Molly Brown Says:
    December 17th, 2017 at 12:41 am

    “If they get half a chance, the PC tyrants will cancel Christmas.”

    Look around; there is no Christmas. Only Holiday.

  25. Artfldgr Says:

    go to a soviet comedy club

    then you see how much fun communists are, whether female used fronts or other…

    the pc tyrants are women…

  26. Dave Says:

    In the last Jedi, every competent and self sacrificing hero is a woman, the commanding officers of the resistance fleet are all female (imagine if the whole crew including capatain kirk are female on the enterprise and you get the picture). Every male character is evil, traitorous, or incompetent, and the good male characters will always make foolish decisions to get themselves into serious trouble that need the rescuing from the female characters. When the current cast of avengers retire and Disney doing a reboot again don’t be surprised if the main cast become all female

  27. Solane Says:

    Try to find version by Louis Armstrong and Velma Middleton from old “Satchmo at Pasadena” for most fun version ever.

    Come on, SJWs, it is a song, not a Christmas song or an instruction manual. My holiday wish for you all is to lighten up and enjoy, rather than make yourself crazy trying to find something to criticize.

  28. Philip Says:

    I wonder if we could persuade Mark Steyn to write and sing a parody version of the song with the lyric that neo suggests in the title, complete with irrythmia (is that a word? I’ll use it anyway).

  29. Lyford Says:

    “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” was featured, briefly and performed by Kitty Carlisle, in Woody Allen’s wonderful 1987 film Radio Days. (I’m not a fan of Woody Allen at all, and not of much of his work, either, but Radio Days is sweet and funny and extremely well done…)

  30. SCOTTtheBADGER Says:

    Whenever I listen to the Dean Martin version, I want to take a shower afterwards, as I feel kind of slimey.

  31. Dave Says:

    Under the current political correct standards many of my favorite piece of entertainment would not have been made. One of my favorite movies is a cult classic called Revenge starring Kevin, the film features the most brutal and violent treatment of the main female protagonist both physically and mentally I have seen in any form of art in the west, no way that film can be remake again today. Man on fire was the spiritual remake of that film though made by the same director.

  32. steve walsh Says:

    These people, sheesh.

    I like the Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone version from “Elf” best. My impression of the song, from the very first time I heard it, was as you describe it Neo: “it’s clear that the woman wants to stay, and that her protests are merely for the sake of propriety, and that the whole thing is a flirtatious little game of seduction.”.

    Would like to tell these folks to relax and have a little fun, but it seems they are incapable of doing so.

  33. Steve57 Says:

    blert said:

    “…My father dropped out of high school to enlist.

    …In doing so, he was typical…”

    My dad was 17. When it mattered. Coastie. He was eventually a Senior Chief. And he insisted his son be an officer.

    Who am I to resist the Senior Chief?

  34. Mark J Anderson Says:

    It’s easy to forget what really motivates us. It really is cold outside. It’s brutal.

  35. Steve57 Says:

    I am …

    brutal. I will lock the door. If I need to. To save the ship.

    But I am also capable of mercy.

  36. Steve57 Says:

    And you will hate me for it.

  37. AesopFan Says:

    We sang some Christmas carols the other day .
    It’s amazing how many of them (Broadway and Tin Pan Alley) would have to be bowdlerized or eliminated today. Of course, no one is allowed to sing the sacred carols in public outside of a religious service or (trigger warning!) classical concert.

    https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/25368/
    Public university tells campus: ‘Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise’

    http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/40049/
    University memo: wrapped gifts, Santa, Christmas trees ‘not appropriate’

    https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/40092/
    Boston University professor: ‘Jingle Bells’ is racist

  38. Steve57 Says:

    “1 Peter 3:15 15But in your hearts revere Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

    Key words. Ask. Gentleness. Respect.

    I’ve been re-reading my Bible because I’ve become convinced this Pope is getting a lot of stuff wrong. And the last thing I want to become is a God Botherer. Go ahead and ask. But otherwise I’ll shut up. That is all.

  39. Steve57 Says:

    “https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/40092/
    Boston University professor: ‘Jingle Bells’ is racist”

    I can hardly wait until my German Shepherd is racialized.

    “Although ‘One Horse Open Sleigh,’ for most of its singers and listeners, may have eluded its racialized past and taken its place in the seemingly unproblematic romanticization of a normal ‘white’ Christmas…”

    I’m a slave owner. I ride a black horse.

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-CXZ7Nqk-HBs/TnH74ccxCAI/AAAAAAAAA4A/LkX6VraSG1c/s1600/friesian+horse+%25289%2529.jpg

  40. Steve57 Says:

    Don’t even get me started on the girls I date.

  41. Yackums Says:

    Billy Vera Says:

    Holy crap! THE Billy Vera?

  42. Steve57 Says:

    My Lord promised I would be hated.

  43. Steve57 Says:

    17This is My command to you: Love one another. 18If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. 19If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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