1. Radio programme
In 1955, on the 10th anniversary of his death, a radio programme
was broadcast called Jerome Kern: The Man and His Music. Dorothy
Fields was interviewed:
Listen to Dorothy Fields talk about her
first contact with Jerome Kern
I wonder if you'd like to hear about the first song I wrote without
Jerome Kern. It sounds strange doesn't it, but actually I did
write it without him. I was doing a picture at RKO, and at the
same time on the lot, they were doing a picture of Roberta,
a musicalization taken from the stage play. Of course they had
all the numbers and I was reworking some lyrically and doing a
little extra dialogue.
There was one number of Jerome Kern's, one melody that didn't
have a lyric, but they owned the melody and they wanted to use
it, because it was very lovely. So Pandro Berman who produced
the picture, called me in one day and he said:
"We need something for the fashion show. You've rewritten the
fashion show for Freddie Astaire, but we need something for Irene
Dunne to sing, because we're expecting to put her in a costume
that costs about $8,000 and she really should sing something in
anything as expensive as that. "
So he said: "I'd like it to be a song that could be used both
as something to show off clothes in a fashion show, and yet could
be one of the love songs in the picture. It was a kind of tall
order. And he played the melody, which I loved, and he said:
"Now d'ya suppose you could have this, by like tomorrow morning?"
And of course that's the way they did things in those days but
I was very much younger and very ambitious and a little frightened
at the idea of doing anything written by Mr Kern who I didn't
know and I said "Well does Mr Kern know that I'm supposed to
do this?" and he said "No, but let's see how it is first."
Well the song was - the title I luckily got was Lovely
to Look At, and Pandro was excited about it and Irene Dunne
loved it and they decided to go ahead and produce it.
this time Jerry Kern was in the East and didn't know very much
about what was going on at RKO. But nevertheless Irene Dunne appeared
in this beautiful $8,000 costume and they built a set and they
did a wonderful orchestration and had a fashion show and the whole
thing was what they call 'in the can' which meant it had been
shot and produced and then they sent Mr Kern a record. Nobody
on the lot at RKO slept for two or three nights because you can
imagine what would happen if it turned out that Jerry Kern didn't
like it. Well he did like it, he liked it very much.
And he came out to California a few weeks after and he wanted
to meet me because he was to do another picture for Lily Pons
with Henry Fonda and he said "I think I'd like Dorothy
Fields to do the lyrics". And that was the first time
I was presented to Mr Kern. And when I met him, walked into the
room, kinda shaking a bit, he left the piano and came up and kissed
me. Well that was the start of a very wonderful association with
Jerome Kern and myself.
The years in Hollywood
I was with him so much, I think from about 1934 to 1938 I was
with him constantly. I was part of that family and they were part
of my family. And it wasn't a question of any formality. I would
run over in the morning and Jerry would be out doing something,
some bit of business like going to the Farmers Market or looking
for an antique, and I'd have coffee with Eva in the breakfast
room, and he'd come in, we'd sit down and start to work and then
he'd think of something else he wanted to do, like finding out
from a bookie what horses were good in the third race at Santa
Anita, so he'd knock off work to do that for a little while, and
he… he loved to play. And every night I think for two years when
the game Monopoly first came out, we used to play every single
night - Eva Kern, Jerry Kern, Betty Kern and Johnny or Dick Green
who were around the house at the time and myself and we used to
play till two or three in the morning.
And there was always a .. I don't know .. a kind of family feeling
about my association with the Kerns.
Jerry and Eva were coming East. Oscar and Dick I think were going
to revive Show Boat. And of course
being such great friends we had made an appointment to have dinner
with Eva and Jerry the night after they arrived, but I was due
to have lunch with Eva the day after they arrived.
I called early in the morning. Eva slept late but Jerry was up
shaving and as he answered the phone he said "All right, you
know better than to wake us up at this hour. I'll leave a message
for Eva on the washstand mirror." And he wrote a message in
soap on the mirror that said 'Meet Dorothy at Pavillon at one
So I met Eva for lunch at one o'clock at Pavillon and we had
a wonderful lunch and sat over many cups of coffee as Eva and
I usually do and she walked me to Tiffany's and then she was going
back to the St. Regis.
next thing I knew there was a message for me at home to go to
Welfare Island. You see Jerry had intended to leave the St. Regis
where they were living and to walk around to Ackerman the antique
shop on 57th St to buy a breakfront and he walked up Park Avenue
and as he passed the Bible Institute he collapsed. He had no identification
except an ASCAP button and when the ambulance picked him up, they
rushed him over to Welfare Island and called ASCAP.
They finally reached Oscar Hammerstein, who called me, of course
he called Eva first, and we all went to Welfare Island where we
spent about four days. Jerry was unconscious and they had put
him in a ward but all the little old men there agreed to be pushed
and huddled together so that this great man could have his bed
in a great long room just screened by white screens. And we sat
there day after day.
Finally they moved Jerry up to Doctors' Hospital. He never regained
consciousness, although they tried so hard to get through to him.
And finally someone said Oscar, why don't you go upstairs to Jerry's
room and sing the song he loved better than any song he ever wrote,
and that song was I've Told Every Little
And so Oscar leaned over and sang it very softly into Jerry's
ear. And Oscar says sometimes well maybe I did see the flicker
of an eyelid. Maybe he didn't but Jerry never did regain consciousness
and he died on the Sunday morning in November.