They Didn't Believe Me
First introduced in the 1914 musical The Girl from Utah it was one of five numbers added to the show by Kern and Reynolds for its Broadway debut at the Knickerbocker Theatre on August 14, 1914. The show had originated in Britain, but impresario Charles Frohman had felt it needed additional material to enliven its U.S. run. It became Kern's first major song success.
The song, with four beats to a bar, departed from the customary waltz-rhythms of European influence and fitted the new American passion for modern dances such as the fox-trot. Kern was also able to use elements of American styles, such as ragtime, as well as syncopation, in his lively dance tunes. The song is also remarkable in its use of 'everyday' language in a love song. Theatre historian John Kenrick writes that, until this point, the majority of love songs had relied on flowery vocabulary to express romantic sentiments. The song put Kern in great demand on Broadway and established a pattern for musical comedy love songs that lasted through the 1960s.
"They Didn't Believe Me" became a standard, featured in the 1949 MGM musical That Midnight Kiss where it was sung as a duet by Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson. (It had been used in the movies as early as 1930, sung by Corinne Griffith in Back Pay.) The artists who have recorded it include Frank Sinatra, George Sanders, Dinah Washington, Jeanette MacDonald, Charlie Parker, Elvis Costello, Stan Kenton, Bill Frisell, Harry Belafonte, Leontyne Price and Marian McPartland.
The timing of the song's arrival (the outbreak of World War I) meant that it was one of many songs adapted by soldiers in the trenches- on this occasion an ironic take on the allegedly 'easy' life in the trenches. It is featured in that form (retitled "We'll Never Tell Them") at the end of Richard Attenborough's 1969 film Oh! What a Lovely War.
- Bordman, Gerald (1 January 1985). "Jerome David Kern: Innovator/Traditionalist" (PDF). The Musical Quarterly LXXI (4): 468–473. doi:10.1093/mq/LXXI.4.468.
- Kenrick, John. "Jerome Kern: 'They Didn't Believe Me'", History of The Musical Stage, 1910-1919: Part I, The Cyber Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre, TV and Film (2008)