American Masters: Season 13, Episode 7

Yours for a Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley (18 Aug. 1999)

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7.7
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Title: Yours for a Song: The Women of Tin Pan Alley (18 Aug 1999)

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Oscar Brand ...
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Cy Coleman ...
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Dorothy Fields ...
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18 August 1999 (USA)  »

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I Feel a Song Coming On
(uncredited)
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Lyrics by Dorothy Fields and George Oppenheimer
Performed by Betty Buckley
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Overlooked artists of the Golden Age of Songwriters
25 April 2003 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

This American Masters documentary by Terry Benes focuses on the careers of 4 female songwriters - Dorothy Fields, Kay Swift, Dana Suesse and Ann Ronell - with mention also made of Vee Lawnhurst, Doris Fisher and Ruth Lowe. If there isn't much depth in this 55 minute treatment, at least you get to hear the songs, which is the main thing.

Hosted and narrated by Betty Buckley, who performs 3 Fields songs - `I Can't Give You Anything But Love', `The Way You Look Tonight' and `I Feel a Song Coming On', there is also footage of Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, and Frank Sinatra, and some mediocre New York cabaret singers.

Benes' text is more episodic than chronological, though Benes does present the evolution of style via the 1920's jazz age, New York's Broadway, Hollywood to where songwriters fled after the Wall Street market crash, and then post World War 2 heartfelt, with some stretches into classical and event songs for The World's Fair and Billy Rose spectaculars.

Fields gets the most coverage since she is the most successful of the women covered, the only one to be caricatured by Al Hirschfeld, and the lyricist for standards like `On The Sunny Side of the Street', `I'm In The Mood For Love', and the musical Sweet Charity. Swift is credited for `Can't We Be Friends?', Suesse `You Ought To Be In Pictures' and `I Reach For You', Ronell `Willow Weep For Me' and Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf', Fisher `Put The Blame on Mame' written for the film Gilda, and Lowe `I'll Never Smile Again'.


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