FIELDS, DOROTHY


FIELDS, DOROTHY (1904–1974), U.S. lyricist and librettist. Born in Allenhurst, New Jersey, Fields was the youngest of four children of the famous comedian Lew Fields. She and her two brothers, Herbert and Joseph, became writers in the entertainment field. In the 1920s Fields began a songwriting partnership with composer Jimmy McHugh that lasted almost a decade. Their first songs were written for shows performed at the famous Harlem night spot, the Cotton Club. Their greatest stage hit was Blackbirds of 1928, one of the longest-running Broadway shows with an all-black cast. In 1929 Fields and McHugh moved to Hollywood. Their most popular songs included "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street," both written for Broadway revues, and "Don't Blame Me" and "I'm In the Mood for Love," written for Hollywood films. In Hollywood in the 1930s Fields began working with other composers including Oscar *Levant and Fritz *Kreisler. Her favorite collaborator, and close friend, was Jerome *Kern. Kern and Fields wrote the scores for The Joy of Living, I Dream Too Much, and her best movie musical, Swingtime, which included the song, "The Way You Look Tonight," for which Kern and Fields won an Academy Award in 1936. In the 1940s, in collaboration with her brother Henry, Fields produced the books for four Broadway hits, Let's Face It, Something for the Boys, and Mexican Hayride, which had songs by Cole Porter, and Annie Get Your Gun, which had songs by Irving Berlin. Other composers with whom she worked included Sigmund *Romberg, Arthur Schwartz, Morton *Gould, Albert Hague, Harold *Arlen, and Harry Warren. After the deaths of her husband and her brother Herbert in 1958, Fields stopped writing for more than five years. She bounced back with one of her most popular stage plays, Sweet Charity, written with Cy *Coleman in 1966. Her final work, also written with Coleman, was Seesaw.

Fields won the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award in 1959 for her work on Redhead and was elected as an inaugural member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971. Unlike earlier female lyricists, who worked in the field of operetta and tended to write songs of elevated sentiments, Dorothy Fields showed from the start a gift for the vernacular and an ear for the most up-to-date speech and slang. She is admired for her meticulous craftsmanship and her ability to combine cleareyed sentiment with humor.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

D.G. Winer, On the Sunny Side of the Street: The Life and Lyrics of Dorothy Fields (1997).

[Charlotte Greenspan (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.