By THE ENTHUSIAST
Get Me Rewrite! Round One
Judy Garland saw the first draft of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" while Meet Me In St. Louis was in pre-production. She urged songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane to make a merry little change or two, declaring that the song was simply too depressing. And she had a point; the line "Let your heart be light, from now on our troubles will be out of sight" originally read "It may be your last, next year we may all be living in the past." Have Yourself A Nice Little Cry, in other words.
Get Me Rewrite! Round Two
And if you think that's a downer, check out this original lyric:
Faithful friends who were dear to us
Will be near to us no more
Garland again demurred, pointing out that "If I sing that to sweet little Margaret O'Brien, they'll think I'm a monster." Martin resisted changing the line until the movie's leading man, Tom Drake (who happened to be a friend of his), set him straight. "You stupid son of a bitch! You're going to foul up your life if you don't write another verse of that song!" he insisted. At which point Martin uncorked the Wite-Out once again.
Get Me Rewrite! Round Three
Those changes may have been enough for Judy, but they weren’t enough for Frank. While recording a Christmas album in 1957, Sinatra took exception to the lyric "Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow." “The name of my album is A Jolly Christmas,” he pointed out. “Do you think you could jolly up that line for me?” And they jolly well did, changing the lyric to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough."
Waste Not, Want Not
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" very nearly ended up in a merry little dumpster. After jotting down the melody, composer Hugh Martin decided that it wasn’t working. Ralph Blane says, “So he played with it for two or three days and then threw it in the wastebasket.” Blane plucked it out and asked him to stick with it. "Faithful friends who are dear to us," indeed!
Jingle All The Way
Though "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is the holiday song most closely associated with Judy Garland, her connection to Christmas went way back: she made her vaudeville debut at the age of two, singing "Jingle Bells."
Number nine in a series.
9 December 2020
The Enthusiast (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the pen name of critic Michael Collins. He reports back only on what’s good, never what’s bad. He is currently imbued with the holiday spirit.