Mama Kitzel wouldn't allow any of her other children (three sons and
a daughter) to get married until her daughert Betsy, who had no boyfriend,
found a husband.
The audience had a long wait for the first
"charm" song, when Belle Baker (Betsy) and Allen Kearns, as boyfriend
Archie the pigeon-fancier, sat on a fire escape to sing the cute duet
"In Our Parlor On The Third Floor Back" Then Belle Baker-drab in
the clothes of a cleaning woman in a vaudeville house-sang "This
Funny World" a song whose downbeat sentiment offer a glimpse of
the other side of Larrv Hart's mercurial character. It didn't do down
well. "Follow On" an ensemble by the "Daughters of the
Belles of New" was followed by the first of two grandiose solos by
Borrah Minnevitch and his Harmonica Symphony Orchestra (later to become
known as the Harmonica Rascals), a knockabout specialty, act.
This in turn was followed by an ensemble of "National Dances" which looked lovely but hardly moved the so-called plot forward. After these, Belle Baker sang her second solo "Push Around". More ho-hum. The uninspired ensemble which followed "Bugle Blow" purported to show how jazz had turned a nation of immigrants into "good Americans'' It led directly into the first-act finale; the audience's response was less than rapturous.
Act Two, set on Conev Island, opened with Evelyn Law and ensemble doing the bright "Cradle Of The Deep" Next came "If I Were You", with its cleverly juxtaposed sentiments ("I' d tell me that I really loved me"). It was at this point that Dick and Larry received the shock of their lives. Belle Baker stepped up front and belted out a song they'd never heard before!
It turned out Rodgers and Hart weren't the only ones who'd smelled turkey. The night before the show opened, Belle was in despair. This was her Broadway debut, and her two solo numbers gave her no chance to show off that great big voice of hers. She called her old friend Irving Berlin, who came over to see her. Belle told him her troubles and begged him to come up with something. Berlin told her he had an idea for a song, but he couldn't get a middle eight for it. He played it for her on the piano: two notes, then four, then five. He kept banging away one-fingered on the black notes (Berlin could only play in one key) halfway through the night till he found what he wanted, and then put words to the whole tune. Next morning, he and Belle played it for Ziegfeld, who turned it over to an arranger.
It was this song that Belle Baker now stepped up and sang. It was "Blue Skies'' and it stopped the show cold. The audience wouldn't let her off. She did twenty-seven encores. On the twenty-eighth, she blew the lines. Ziegfeld had them put a spotlight on Irving Berlin, who stood up and fed her the words.
It was a great moment-provided you weren't Rodgers and Hart. Nothing they had written came anywhere close to the verve of the Berlin song, and nobody knew it better than they.
When the show was over, Dick slunk off in one
direction, and Larry, who always brought his mother to every opening,
slunk off in another. On the sleet music of "Blue Skies,'' published shortly
after the opening, there is a drawing of Belle Baker tying strings around
three embarrassed-looking men. Two of them look surprisingly like the
composer and lyricist. It isn't diicult to imagine the reason for their
embarrassment. The critics tore Betsy apart, and the show died on its
feet with only 39 performances to its credit, a catastrophic flop.