Mad About the Boy

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"Mad About the Boy"
Song by Joyce Barbour, Steffi Duna, Norah Howard, Doris Hare
Published 1932
Songwriter(s) Noël Coward

"Mad About the Boy" is a popular song with words and music by actor and playwright Sir Noël Coward. It was introduced in the 1932 revue Words and Music by Joyce Barbour, Steffi Duna, Norah Howard and Doris Hare. The song deals with the theme of unrequited love for a film star. It was written to be sung by female characters, although Coward also wrote a version, which was never performed, that contained references to the then risqué topic of homosexual love. The song gained new popularity in 1992 when Dinah Washington's rendition was used in the Levi's television advertisement "Swimmer", directed by Tarsem Singh.


The song expresses the adulation of a matinee idol by a number of women as they queue outside a cinema and is sung by several female characters in turn.[1] The adoring fans sing of their love for their hero:

On the silver screen
He melts my foolish heart in every single scene (original version)

Coward later wrote additional verses for the New York production, to be sung by a male character. The lyrics make explicit reference to homosexual feelings with lines such as:

When I told my wife
She said "I've never heard such nonsense in my life!" (Broadway version)

The lyrics also make camp humorous reference to the supposed effeminacy of the character, who is likened to the contemporary film actress Myrna Loy, and to his repeated unsuccessful attempts at conversion therapy with his psychiatrist. The verses were never performed, as the management thought them too risqué.[1]

"The boy" was rumoured to be Douglas Fairbanks Jr, who, according to an American newspaper years later, "Noel loved...[but] Doug definitely didn't love him back, although the two men became good friends."[2] Actor Tyrone Power has also been the rumored subject of the song.

Dinah Washington version[edit]

"Mad About the Boy"
Mad about the boy mercury19.jpg
Single by Dinah Washington
from the album Dinah Washington's Mad about the Boy
Released 1992
Format CD single, 7-inch single
Recorded 1952
Genre Jazz, easy listening, traditional pop
Length 2:47
Label Mercury
Songwriter(s) Noël Coward
Producer(s) Quincy Jones

Dinah Washington's 1952 recording of "Mad about the Boy" is possibly the most widely known version of the song. The 6/8-time arrangement for voice and jazz orchestra by Quincy Jones omits two verses and was recorded in the singer's native Chicago on the Mercury label.[3]

Washington's version was popularised for a new generation when it was used as a backing track in a 1992 television advertisement for Levi's jeans. In the commercial, which is influenced by the 1968 Burt Lancaster film The Swimmer, a young man runs through an American suburban neighbourhood stripping down to only his jeans, invades private gardens and dives into a series of swimming pools to shrink his jeans. Washington's recording was re-released by Mercury as a tie-in in with the advertising campaign, and the cover art featured a shot of the shirtless man emerging from a swimming pool and bore the Levi's logo. The single entered the Top 50 in the UK singles chart.

Other recordings[edit]

The song has been performed by a number of other artists, including:

Other references in popular culture[edit]

  • Mad About the Boy is a Norwegian live action role-playing game (LARP) that was performed in Trysil, Norway, in July 2010. The LARP was based on the comic book series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. The music "Mad About the Boy" was used to mark the transitions between the acts during the play.
  • In the 1950 movie Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) gives her boy-toy Joe Gillis (William Holden) a gold cigarette case on New Year's Eve. Engraved inside the cover is "TO JOE FROM NORMA" and two bars of music, with the inscription "Mad about the Boy".
  • In the BBC television comedy series 'Allo 'Allo!, the ostensibly gay character Lieutenant Gruber sings the song while seated at René's café piano, staring at another male character.
  • Mad About the Boy is a novel by Karen Mason and references the song.
  • Peter Sellers recorded a version of the song on the soundtrack of the 1969 film Magic Christian.
  • The German designer-duo Talbot Runhof used "Mad about the Boy" to start their inspiration for the Fall/Winter 2011 Collection.
  • The song was referred in the book Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams. The song was hummed by Ford Prefect on his encounter with Slartibartfast on Earth. However, it was said that it was just one note repeated at intervals. He was hoping that somebody would ask him what he was humming, but nobody did. If anybody had asked him he would have said he was humming the first line of a Noël Coward's song called "Mad About the Boy" over and over again. It would then have been pointed out to him that he was only singing one note, to which he would have replied that for reasons which he hoped would be apparent, he was omitting the "about the boy" bit.
  • Mad About the Boy is the title of the third Bridget Jones novel by author Helen Fielding published on 10 October 2013.
  • A version of the song recorded by Helen Forrest appears in the 2010 video game Fallout: New Vegas on the in-game radio station Radio New Vegas.


  1. ^ a b Morley, Sheridan (2005). Noël Coward – Life & times. Haus Publishing. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-904341-88-8. Retrieved 28 September 2009. 
  2. ^ Hoare, Philip (1998). Noel Coward: A Biography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0-226-34512-3. 
  3. ^ "Sold on Song: "Mad About The Boy"". BBC Radio 2. Retrieved 29 September 2009. 

External links[edit]