Birth of Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields, who wrote lyrics to over 400 songs over half a century, was born on July 15, 1904. Raised in New Jersey, Fields was the daughter of Lew Fields, half of the well-known Weber and Fields vaudeville team. Though Lew Fields discouraged his daughter from pursuing a theater career, Dorothy Fields eventually became one of Broadway and Hollywood's most successful lyricists.
Fields got her start writing songs for revues at New York City's Cotton Club. Collaborating with Jimmy McHugh, she wrote the lyrics for "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "I'm in the Mood for Love," and "Don't Blame Me," all in 1928. Shortly thereafter, she was asked to write lyrics for a song Jerome Kern was adding to the score of the film Roberta. The song, which became "Lovely to Look At," was the beginning of a long collaboration between Fields and Kern. In 1936, they won an Academy Award for the song "The Way You Look Tonight," from the film Swing Time.
Fields also collaborated with such well-known composers as Irving Berlin and Cy Coleman, and with her brother, Herbert Fields. In all, Fields wrote lyrics for 19 Broadway musicals and 25 films. Among the musicals for which Fields wrote songs are Annie Get Your Gun, Sweet Charity, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Up in Central Park, and Seesaw. In 1971, Fields was the only woman in the first group of people named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She died of a heart attack on March 28, 1974. In a field in which the names of Jewish men from George and Ira Gershwin to Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim are ubiquitous, Fields made her mark with some of the American musical theater's most memorable songs.
Sources:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 433-435; New York Times, March 29, 1974.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Birth of Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields." (Viewed on September 24, 2023) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/15/1904/dorothy-fields>.