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Dorothy Fields

Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields working with Arthur Schwartz on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1951)
Background information
Birth name Dorothy Fields
Born (1905-07-15)July 15, 1905
Origin Allenhurst, New Jersey, U.S.
Died March 28, 1974(1974-03-28) (aged 68)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s) Lyricist

Dorothy Fields (July 15, 1905 – March 28, 1974) was an American librettist and lyricist.

She wrote over 400 songs for Broadway musicals and films. Along with Ann Ronell, Dana Suesse, Bernice Petkere, and Kay Swift, she was one of the first successful Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood female songwriters.


  • Biography 1
  • Trivia 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Fields was born in Allenhurst, New Jersey,[1] and grew up in New York City.

Her father, Lew Fields, an immigrant from Poland, was a vaudeville comedian and later became a Broadway manager and producer.

In the 1920s she spent time in London, where she appeared in a regular slot at the "Midnight Follies" as one half of a successful cabaret comedy act "Silly and Dotty" with the English socialite Lady Sylvia Ashley, at the London Metropole. [2]

Fields's career as a professional songwriter took off in 1928, when Jimmy McHugh, who had seen some of her early work, invited her to provide some lyrics for him for Blackbirds of 1928. Fields and McHugh teamed up until 1935. Songs from this period include "I Can't Give You Anything But Love", "Exactly Like You", and "On the Sunny Side of the Street." During the later 1920s, she and McHugh wrote specialty numbers for the various Cotton Club revues, many of which were recorded by Duke Ellington.

In the mid-1930s, Fields started to write lyrics for films and collaborated with other composers, including Jerome Kern. With Kern, she worked on the movie version of Roberta, and also on their greatest success, Swing Time. The song "The Way You Look Tonight" earned the Fields/Kern team an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936.[3]

Fields returned to New York and worked again on Broadway shows, but now as a librettist, first with Arthur Schwartz on Stars In Your Eyes. (They re-teamed in 1951 for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.) In the 1940s, she teamed up with her brother Herbert Fields, with whom she wrote the books for three Cole Porter shows, Let's Face It!, Something for the Boys, and Mexican Hayride. Together, they wrote the book for Annie Get Your Gun, a musical inspired by the life of Annie Oakley. They intended for Jerome Kern to write the music, but when he died, Irving Berlin was brought in. The show was a success, and ran for 1,147 performances.

In the 1950s, her biggest success was the show Redhead (1959), which won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. When she started collaborating with Cy Coleman in the 1960s, her career took a new turn. Their first work together was Sweet Charity. Her last hit was from their second collaboration in 1973, Seesaw. The show began on Broadway on March 18, 1973 and ended its run on December 8, 1973. Its signature song was "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish". Fields died of a stroke the next year at the age of 68.

Fields was the sister of writers Herbert and Joseph Fields.


Thirty-five years after her death, President Barack Obama, in his inauguration speech as 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009, echoed lyrics by Fields when he said, "Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America".[4] This alludes to the song "Pick Yourself Up" from the 1936 film Swing Time, for which Jerome Kern had written the music, in which Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire sang Fields's words "Pick yourself up; dust yourself off; start all over again".[5]


  1. ^ Klein, Alvin; and Emblen, Mary L. "NEW JERSEY GUIDE", The New York Times, October 4, 1992. Accessed August 10, 2012. "That's how Dorothy Fields, born in Allenhurst in 1905, is described in the notes on the original cast album of Sweet Charity, the 1966 musical for which she wrote the lyrics."
  2. ^ "Sylvia Ashley", 2007
  3. ^ "Women Songwriters"
  4. ^ Obama calls for American renewal, January 20, 2009, Boston Globe
  5. ^ Reel Classics"Pick Yourself Up" Lyrics, Web site

External links

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