Livingston & Evans: The Last Of The Great Songwriters From The Golden-Age Of Hollywood
Even though 1948 ended up becoming a very good year for the songwriting team of Jay Livingston & Ray Evans, it began as a roll up your shirtsleeves and work your ass off kind of time.
After coming off of the most successful song of 1946, “To Each His Own”, Livingston & Evans were now on a mission to continue their newfound success by coming up with another major hit song. What the boys would soon find out however was, once they became hit song makers, the front office depended upon them to come up with hit after hit on a moments notice.
Paramount called upon Livingston & Evans to write songs for numerous projects, including the theme for the classic film noir piece THE BIG CLOCK starring Ray Milland and Charles Laughton; five songs for the Pearl Bailey, Veronica Lake, Mona Freeman ISN’T IT ROMANTIC production; two songs for L&E’s old friend Betty Hutton’s film DREAM GIRL; the theme for the Melvyn Douglas, Wanda Hendrix film MY OWN TRUE LOVE and songs for two Alan Ladd films: first the theme for BEYOND GLORY, and then the second for a western classic called WHISPERING SMITH.
You can imagine how difficult it was for this relatively novice songwriting team to now pull lightning out of a bottle time after time. Remember, not only was it important for L&E to write the best song possible (that hopefully could eventually become a radio hit that would help promote the film) it was most important for the director’s needs that the L&E songs help move the storyline along. Doing both in many instances were challenging to say the least. However, one of the classic Livingston & Evans, Paramount stories is from the 1948 Bob Hope, Jane Russell film THE PALEFACE.
Norman Z. McLeod, the director, called L&E to his office and requested a song be written for a scene in the film where Bob Hope’s bumbling character, Paleface Potter, leads the wagon train accidentally astray into an Indian ambush while singing a song to the beautiful sharpshooting damsel, Jane Russell. Jay & Ray went back to their office in the Bing Crosby Building after researching Indian language in the Paramount library and knocked out a little ditty called SKOOKUM. A funny song about “everything gonna be SKOOKUM, everything gonna be good!” Well after Jay & Ray played SKOOKUM for the director he said something to the effect “Are you nuts?. This is a serious mistake Hope’s character has made, he has led the entire wagon train into an ambush. This is not supposed to be funny”! Naturally, Livingston & Evans immediately tried to argue that having Hope’s character, a funny guy, do a funny song is in character. Norman McLeod wanted no part of it and demanded they go back and write a new song.
The result of McLeod’s forceful demand and Livingston & Evans reluctant acquiescence ended up winning the boys their first Academy Award for Best Song from a motion picture for the year 1948. The song “BUTTONS AND BOWS”. This song continues to be published by Paramount via Sony ATV/Harmony.
Dinah Shore / Buttons And Bows
Also included out of the Jay Livingston Music catalogue is “SATINS AND SPURS”. Jay & Ray wrote this song on behalf of one of the first TV Specials in America starring their old friend Betty Hutton.
Betty Hutton / Satins And Spurs
If you have the time (1:18) and inclination, you are welcome to watch the entire Special here. All of the songs included in the Special SATINS AND SPURS were written by Livingston & Evans and are included in the Jay Livingston Music catalogue.