Judy Garland’s interpretations of “The Trolly Song,” “Have Yourself a Very Little Christmas,” and the “The Boy Next Door.” All familiar film performances to members of this group, I would guess. Those who are into the Great American Songbook know that they were written by the team of Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Before settling in Hollywood to write for the movies, Martin and Blane had partnered with sisters Phyllis and Jo Jean Rogers to form a close harmony quartet called, appropriately enough, the Martins. The group appeared in the hit Irving Berlin musical Louisiana Purchase, after which Martin and Blane were called upon to write the score for Best Foot Forward, the long-running 1941 George Abbott Broadway play choreographed by Gene Kelly, and featuring June Allyson, Rosemary Lane and Nancy Walker.
Neither Martin nor Blane wrote the song in our featured Soundie, however. Let’s Get Away from It All was penned by Ted Adair and Matt Dennis, two talented songwriters who were in the employ of Tommy Dorsey at the time. (Frank Sinatra helped introduce a number of their songs with the Dorsey band, including our Soundies title, along with “Everything Happens to Me,’ “Violets for Your Furs” and “The Night We Called it a Day.”
Not only is the vocal blend of the quartet strong, but the vocal arrangement written by Hugh Martin is inventive, not straying too far from the melody while still adding some harmonic twists that keep the listener fully involved. Some online sources suggest that the tap dancer is Dixie Dunbar, but this is not the case. The hoofer is almost certainly Betty Jane Smith, a performer who was working at Manhattan’s Copacabana during the early 1940s.
For those of you who know the song, keep an ear open. One line in the lyrics apparently worried the producers and they asked someone, probably Minoco jack-of-all-trades Charles Abbott, to write a replacement … which he did, unintentionally creating one of the more twisted and inappropriate lyrics in all of Soundies.