‘Blue Jasmine’: The strange history of the tune ‘Blue Moon’

“Blue moon,
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own”

The Lorenz Hart-Richard Rodgers romantic standard “Blue Moon” plays a significant role in Woody Allen’s new drama “Blue Jasmine.” It is “the song” of the emotionally shattered former socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) and her late husband, the Bernie Madoff-esque Hal (Alec Baldwin). As Jasmine further descends into disillusion and madness, the song becomes her refuge from reality.

“Blue Moon” has been performed over the decades by such singers as Billie Holiday, Dean Martin, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and even the doo-wop group the Marcels.


And it’s been a popular tune in movies such as the 1939 Marx Brothers comedy “At the Circus”; 1952’s “With a Song in My Heart”; 1978’s “Grease”; 1981’s “An American Werewolf in London”; 1988’s “Biloxi Blues”; 1997’s “Selena”; 1999’s “Notting Hill”; and 2009’s “A Single Man.”

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“Blue Moon” was even the title of the detective agency owned by Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) in the classic 1985-89 ABC mystery-comedy series “Moonlighting.”

Though “Blue Moon” is one of Rodgers and Hart’s most enduring standards, it’s the only one of their hits that didn’t come from one of their Broadway plays or movies.

In fact, “Blue Moon” went through a rather tortuous route to immortality.

The first incarnation of the song was called “Prayer,” and was written to be sung by MGM’s blond bombshell Jean Harlow in the studio’s 1934 musical comedy “Hollywood Party.”

“Oh Lord,
If you ain’t busy up there,
I ask for help with a prayer
So please don’t give me the air”

Neither Harlow nor the song made it into the film.

But MGM was keen on the music, so Hart was asked to write new lyrics for the 1934 crime drama “Manhattan Melodrama,” the movie John Dillinger saw just before he was killed outside Chicago’s Biograph Theatre. This time, the tune was called “It’s Just That Kind of Play.”

“Act one:
You gulp your coffee and run
Into the subway you crowd
Don’t breathe-it isn’t allowed”

The studio decided not to use it, but asked Hart to write a third version for “Manhattan Melodrama.” Now called “The Bad in Every Man,” the tune was performed by Shirley Ross in a nightclub scene in the film starring Clark Gable and William Powell.

“Oh lord,
What is the matter with me?
I’m just permitted to see
the bad in every man”

Jack Robbins, the head of the studio’s publishing company, saw the commercial potential in the tune and asked Hart to write a fourth incarnation, this time with more romantic lyrics and a catchier title. Hart initially wasn’t enthused about reworking the song for the fourth time, but he finally agreed to do it.

Robbins licensed “Blue Moon” to the radio show “Hollywood Hotel” to use as its theme song. Connie Boswell was the first to record the song in 1935.


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