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Broken Hart

Christa Deitrick, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Leave 'em with a smile. Hart (left) and Rodgers at Dinty Moore's restaurant in 1938.

During his all-too-brief lifetime, Lorenz Hart penned the words to more than 500 songs, many of which have since found their way into the Great American Songbook.  Let's finish up this series with a look at what is believed to be the last lyric Larry wrote--the words to the darkly comic song To Keep My Love Alive.

Written for a 1943 revival of Rodgers and Hart's A Connecticut Yankee (based on the novel by Mark Twain), To Keep My Love Alive proved to be the show's most popular number, due largely to the contrast between its sweet, simple melody and Hart's gallows-humor lyrics.  It was written specifically for actress Vivienne Segal, who played the much-married villainess Morgan LeFay.

                                       

 

Vivienne Segal as Morgan LeFay.
She ain't as sweet as she looks!

 

 

 

 

 

Segal had worked with Rodgers and Hart before, creating the role of Vera Simpson in 1940's Pal Joey.  On a more personal (and puzzling) note, Hart had asked Segal to marry him in 1938 but Segal, who said she had never even kissed him, had been recently divorced and did not want to marry anyone.  Hart was 43 at the time.  Perhaps it was a last-ditch effort to "go straight" or at least appease his mother, but in any event, Hart's marriage proposal went nowhere and he remained a bachelor.

A tragic footnote to this song involves the opening night of the Connecticut Yankee revival, which occurred on November 17, 1943, in New York.  A drunk and disorderly Hart snuck into the theater and began to sing along with Segal as she performed To Keep My Love Alive onstage.  Always nervous on opening nights and in the midst of a bender, Hart was kicked out of the theater when his "sing-along" antics continued.  It was a cold, rainy night, Hart was without his overcoat, and within a few days one of the world's greatest wordsmiths had contracted pnuemonia.  Estranged from Rodgers, who had continued his career with new lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, Lorenz Hart died a broken man on November 22, 1943.

Though his personal life was riddled with difficulties, we can still enjoy the gems he left behind.  Hart's unique contributions to the art of lyric writing were his highly original rhyme schemes, his use of unexpected and/or idiosyncratic words, his ability to convey personality and his lethal sense of humor.  Let's take a look at the last lyrics Larry wrote and sign off with a smile.

 

To Keep My Love Alive
lyrics by Lorenz Hart

I married many men,
A ton of them,
And yet I was untrue to none of them
Because I bumped off ev'ry one of them
To keep my love alive.
Sir Paul was frail;
He looked a wreck to me.
At night he was a horse's neck to me.
So I performed an appendectomy
To keep my love alive.
Sir Thomas had insomnia;
He couldn't sleep at night.
I bought a little arsenic.
He's sleeping now all right.
Sir Philip played the harp;
I cussed the thing.
I crowned him with his harp
To bust the thing.
And now he plays where harps are
Just the thing,
To keep my love alive,
To keep my love alive.

I thought Sir George had possibilities,
But his flirtations made me ill at ease,
And when I'm ill at ease,
I kill at ease
To keep my love alive.
Sir Frank brought ladies to my palaces.
I poured a mickey in their chalices.
While paralyzed they got paralysis
To keep my love alive.
Sir Alfred worshipped falconry;
He used to hunt at will.
I sent him on a hunting trip.
They're hunting for him still.
Sir Peter had an incongruity,
Collecting girls with promiscuity.
Now I'm collecting his annuity
To keep my love alive,
To keep my love alive.

 

 

 

Lorenz Hart (1895-1943)
A poet among lyricists.

 

 

 

 

 

Now listen to it!  Click here to go to our Freegal page, where you can hear a version of this song sung by Mary Martin!

Can't get enough Hart?  Click here to go to our catalog, where you can check out lots of books by and about Larry Hart!


 

 

 

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