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Hart, Lorenz (1895-1943)  
 
page: 1  2  

In a double entendre that depends upon the auditor's understanding "on" to refer to the missionary position, she accepts that the socially uncouth Joey is "a laugh, / But I love it / Because the laugh's on me." As she sings elsewhere, "Horizontally speaking, / He's at his very best."

And, after ending their affair, Vera celebrates her relief at being no longer sexually dependent upon Joey--"The ants that invaded my pants, / Finis!"-- for she is "Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered no more."

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Second, Hart's lyrics are remarkable because they feign indifference to, or casually accept, disappointment. The lyricist is unlike most of his contemporaries who could not imagine a show ending without the boy getting the girl. As songs such as "Blue Moon" and "Lover" evidence, Hart was perfectly capable of writing a traditional love song; likewise, in "My Heart Stood Still" and "With a Song in My Heart" he presents the exhilaration of a love that is freshly, ecstatically, joyously experienced.

But more often--in songs such as "My Romance," "Falling in Love with Love," and "This Can't Be Love"--Hart asserts the reality of a deeply experienced love by mocking the very conventions that other lyricists (and the record-buying public) had grown to rely upon.

Moreover, Hart's most psychologically profound love songs prove to be those in which the speaker laments his or her disappointment. "Spring Is Here," for example, which contrasts the loveless speaker's depression with the natural joy of the season of rejuvenation, might be an Elizabethan complaint.

The speaker in "Glad to Be Unhappy" may well be articulating the fundamental principle of Hart's philosophy of love when he protests that "Unrequited love's a bore, / And I've got it pretty bad. / But for someone you adore, / It's a pleasure to be sad."

Together these reasons explain why, despite one of the most original scores that Broadway theatergoers had yet experienced, Pal Joey, Hart's greatest play, did not arouse audience enthusiasm when first mounted. The show was a hit, but it inspired little affection in audiences in 1940. Only when it was revived in 1952 did it garner the kind of enthusiasm it deserved.

Joey, more anti-hero than hero, is a likeable cad who exploits women even as he is himself sexually exploited by a supposedly respectable society matron. When Joey and Vera sing of their sexual bliss in the apartment that she has furnished for him ("our little den of iniquity"), they not only challenge the moral standards that the Broadway musical was designed to inculcate, but implicate audience members in their satire of society's hypocrisy.

The audience's appreciation of Joey and Vera's keeping separate bedrooms, "One for play and one for show," for example, reveals audience members' guilty familiarity with the strategy of disguising supposedly immoral private behavior with a carefully crafted public persona; in addition, the line asks audience members to reconsider their impressions of those in society who appear always "comme il faut."

And if the audience is uncomfortable listening to adulterous lovers singing of the salubrious benefits of infidelity, Hart reminds his audience that things have been this way "since antiquity."

Likewise, when the pair boast that "Ravel's Bolero works just great" as background music to their lovemaking, Hart shocks some audience members with the scandalous use to which a piece of classical music is being put, while alerting others to the deeply sensuous nature of a selection they've been trained to think of as being sexless because canonized by the symphony orchestra that they so properly and mechanically patronize. Little wonder that audiences were left cold by the original production.

After Hart's death, Rodgers began a second great collaboration, this one with Oscar Hammerstein II. Together they produced such important but artificially wholesome shows as Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, and South Pacific. Significantly, Rodgers never composed a song of real longing again; without Hart, his music was just too straight.

Raymond-Jean Frontain

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arts >> Overview:  Musical Theater and Film

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literature >> Auden, W. H.

One of the most accomplished poets of the twentieth century, W. H. Auden found that his gayness led him to new insights into the universal impulse to love and enlarged his understanding of all kinds of relationships.

arts >> Mantello, Joe

Having staged a variety of well-received and award-winning productions, actor-turned-director Joe Mantello has emerged as one of the most accomplished artists now working in the American theater.

arts >> Porter, Cole

Living the paradoxical life of an openly closeted gay man, songwriter Cole Porter introduced non-normative values and risqué double entendres into what was one of the most pedestrian and hackneyed of cultural forms.

arts >> Sondheim, Stephen

One of the most innovative talents of the musical theater in the second half of the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim has only indirectly reflected his homosexuality in his work.

arts >> Wright, Robert (1914-2005), and George "Chet" Forrest (1915-1999)

Composers and lyricists Robert Wright and George "Chet" Forrest, partners in life and art, specialized in adapting themes from classical music into engaging tunes for movie scores and stage musicals.


    Bibliography
   

Hart, Dorothy, and Robert Kimball, eds. The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart. New York: Knopf, 1986.

Marx, Samuel, and Jan Clayton. Rodgers and Hart: Bewitched, Bothered and Bedeviled. New York: Putnam, 1976.

Mordden, Ethan. Broadway Babies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Nolan, Frederick. Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Rodgers, Richard, and Oscar Hammerstein II, eds. The Rodgers and Hart Songbook. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Frontain, Raymond-Jean  
    Entry Title: Hart, Lorenz  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 5, 2004  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/hart1_l.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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