Of thee I sing, baby --
Summer, autumn, winter, spring, baby.
By George and Ira Gershwin, "Of Thee I Sing" was the musical centerpiece for the 1931 Pulitzer Prize-winning production of the same name. Scripted by George S. Kaufmanand Morrie Ryskind, Of Thee I Sing opened on Broadway's Music Box Theatre on December 26, 1931 and ran for 441 performances.
The production Of Thee I Sing, which featured William Gaxton and Victor Moore, helped to further that genre known as the American musical with its clever integration of story, dialog, action, music and songs. It was one of the first Broadway productions to deal with the serious subject of the American political scene, satirizing inept politicians with limited vision and the voters who elected them.
The plot revolves around a bachelor presidential candidate who, to embody his campaign slogan "Put Love in the White House," makes the choice of marrying a beauty contest winner, but instead falls in love with and weds one of his campaign workers. He wins the presidency but the jilted beauty queen claims French descent and the French government nearly declares war over her honor. All is resolved when the president poses to the Supreme Court the legal question, "Which is more important - justice or corn muffins?" The Court decides for muffins, the president marries his love, and the vice president marries the beauty queen. Much of the script's humor hinges on the vice-presidential character who is unrecognizable to even the inner circle of his party - a comment on the office's wasted potential, a conversational topic of the day.
The first line of the title song "Of thee I sing, baby --" caused concern during rehearsal. Ira Gershwin wrote, "When we first played this sentimental political campaign song for those connected with the show, there were one or two strong objectors who thought that juxtaposing the dignified 'Of Thee I Sing' with a slang 'baby' was going a bit too far. Our response (a frequent one over the years) was that, naturally, we'd replace it with something else if the paying audience didn't take to it. This was one time we were pretty sure that they would; and they did. Opening night, even weeks later, one could hear a continuous 'Of thee I sing, Baby!' when friends and acquaintances greeted one another in the lobby at intermission time." The line proved its worth and became a catch phrase of the early 1930's.
"Recovery, recovery, of thee I sing"
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sings "Recovery, recovery, of thee I sing," a reference to the popular "Of Thee I Sing" in this cartoon. His sheet music credits him as author of the "words and music." Dame Democracy plays the piano while an old opponent for the Democratic nomination, Al Smith, sits glumly aside. By midsummer 1933, the first year of Roosevelt's presidency, Congress had passed a record amount of New Deal legislation.
Learn more about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal
View posters from the New Deal era in American Memory
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