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« "Diamond Sutra" [by Ed Ochester] | Main | Happy New Year! »

December 28, 2014


This was in my mother's repertoire of songs when she cleaned the house. She was a terrible singer, but hearing it always makes me remember her and smile.

I must emphatically state that Jo Stafford is NOT the vocalist on the Dark Passage version of the song -- Wikipedia is wrong; noir expert Eddie Muller is wrong. Any Stafford specialist would agree with me. Jo's children could confirm the accuracy of my assertion.

Many thanks for your comment. "Dark Passage," which I saw in England as a graduate student, introduced me to "Too Marvelous for Words," one of my most favorite songs, and I always wondered to whom the voice belonged.

In a recent viewing of the film I believe I saw Jo Stafford credited in a tiny line of print. But maybe not.

Going by my internal voice-recognition instincts, I was, for a long time, undecided between Jo and Helen Forrest as the voice.

The voice is magnificent and perfect for the song, which is perfect for the movie.

Now for the big question: whose voice is it in "Dark Passage"?

Here's to "legitimate swing" (Bacall).


Thank you for your response! I very much enjoyed your thoughts on "Too Marvelous For Words" -- especially in the context of Dark Passage, one of my favorite noir pictures.

I found your site as the result of a search to gather -- or, rather, support -- information I intended to give in reply to a question about the song: Some years ago, I noticed that in imbd someone had, as I recall, merely speculated that the mystery voice was Jo's. Being a Stafford aficionado of many years, I knew this not to be the case. Later, I discovered that many others had, in the absence of concrete proof, clutched this assumption to their bosoms -- and now, as sometimes happens in the cyberworld, guess is accepted as fact. I noticed just yesterday that Wikipedia, which identifies Jo as the singer, has no reference for their assertion. The reason is that there is no legitimate reference. I must conclude, too, that Eddie Muller, that renowned font of information on noir, who also credits Jo with the vocal, is, if at all, only a casual Stafford fan, because if he were well-acquainted with her sound, he would know that the woman on the spurious phonograph record (the arrangement is a giveaway that this is not even a genuine commercial platter)is somebody else. I'm quite surprised, actually, that I've happened upon no statement from Jo's son or daughter in response to an enthusiastic query from a Dark Passage fan. I suspect that some confusion arose because a little delving will reveal that Jo did indeed record the song, on 10/22/43, for her boss at Capitol and the gentleman responsible for its lyrics, Johnny Mercer, but neither this version nor any other from Jo is in the film.

It's not Helen Forrest, either. My hunch, based -- admittedly -- solely on my fan's understanding of the modus operandi of the film studios in the Golden Age, is that the singer was merely someone, a relative unknown, on the WB payroll, whose typical assignment was to dub for the non-singing actresses; this route would undoubtedly have been a more economical alternative to securing Jo's or Helen's services. I suspect that the song itself may have been a freebie to Warner Brothers on the basis of its having debuted in one of the studio's own films, 1937's Ready, Willing and Able; thus, further expense would have been spared.

Are you familiar with the film, Fallen Angel, from Twentieth Century-Fox? In it, Linda Darnell plays a waitress who continually feeds the jukebox at her place of work to hear her favorite record, "Slowly," which was written specifically for the film by David Raksin, composer of "Laura," from the film of the same name, and lyricist, Kermit Goell. Raksin, I strongly suspect, was under contract to the studio, which would have meant no extra expense. Too, the singer on the fictitious record was Dick Haymes, who definitely was signed to Twentieth Century-Fox at the time. He made a commercial recording for Decca, by whom he was also employed, but this is not the version used in the film. This example, I think, provides insight into the studios' typical methodology.

What I really want to know is why Agnes Moorehead's Madge assumed Bacall had company, simply because she, Madge, heard the phonograph playing? What? -- people don't play records when they're by themselves???

Yes, here's to legitimate swing!

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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