Stella by Starlight
"Stella by Starlight" is a jazz standard written by Victor Young and featured in The Uninvited, a 1944 film released by Paramount Pictures. Originally played in the film as an instrumental theme song without lyrics, it was turned over to Ned Washington, who wrote the lyrics for it in 1946. The title had to be incorporated into the lyrics, which resulted in its unusual placement: the phrase appears about three quarters of the way through the song, rather than at the beginning or the end.
"Stella by Starlight" is one of the most popular standards, ranked number 10 by the website jazzstandards.com. Its May 1947 recording by Harry James and his orchestra reached the 21st place in the pop charts. Two months later, the recording by Frank Sinatra with Axel Stordahl and his orchestra also rose to the 21st position.
Charlie Parker, playing alto saxophone, made the first jazz recording of the song in January 1952, which was shortly followed by a tenor sax version by Stan Getz (December 1952), a piano version by Bud Powell, and a rendition by the big band of Stan Kenton, which featured bass trombonist George Roberts. Nat King Cole recorded an instrumental version for his 1955 album The Piano Style of Nat King Cole. Other instrumental versions were played by Miles Davis, which first appeared on 1958 Miles, Earl Grant, Joe Pass, Royce Campbell, and Dexter Gordon and vocal versions sung by Billy Eckstine, Dick Haymes, Ray Charles, Anita O'Day, Helen Reddy, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others. Al Hirt released a version on his 1961 album, The Greatest Horn in the World and was also featured on his greatest hits album, The Best of Al Hirt. In 1993, guitarist Larry Coryell covered the song on his album Fallen Angel.
The Italian-born American tenor/actor Sergio Franchi had strong connections with this romantic ballad. His first venue was the song's performance on Meredith Willson's CBS variety show (Texaco Star Parade) broadcast on June 5, 1964. Franchi then recorded the song on his 1965 RCA Victor album Live at The Coconut Grove. The liner notes for this album stated that Willson was so impressed with Franchi's performance that he (Willson) presented the singer with his copy of Victor Young's original score. Franchi later performed the song on a 1965 broadcast of CBS's The Ed Sullivan Show.
"Stella by Starlight" (performed by Victor Young orchestra) is a recurring theme in The Uninvited. At a focal point of the film, the main character, Rick (Ray Milland) tells Stella (Gail Russell) that he is playing a serenade, "To Stella by Starlight".
The song also appeared in the following films:
- The Nutty Professor (1963) with Jerry Lewis singing to Stella Stevens, as well as an upbeat version for the film's main titles.
- Sabrina (1995) as part of the track "The Party Sequence"
- Casino (1995) with Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone, performed by Ray Charles
- Bajo las estrellas (2007) covered by Spanish flamenco singer Enrique Morente, starring Alberto San Juan and Emma Suárez
- Al Hirt, The Greatest Horn in the World Retrieved April 6, 2013.
- Al Hirt, The Best of Al Hirt Retrieved April 11, 2013.
- "Email Jazz News". All About Jazz.
- "Fallen Angel overview". Allmusic.com.
- "CBS Wire Photo" released June 15, 1964
- March 28, 1965. http://www.tv.com