A MUSICAL MUSING–“AS TIME GOES BY”: A Song Older Than Me From a Movie Not Quite As

While we’re roasting musical “chestnuts” as we wind down this year’s series of “Musical Musings,” I thought I would touch on that film favorite “As Time Goes By.” Today we remember it mostly as an earworm from the movie “Casablanca” that premiered exactly eighty years ago–1942.  It still resonates for the tech-savvy in the 2020s!

While most of us know this song from its truncated version in the movie,

it did have a much earlier life.  It was written by New Jersey’s own Herman Hupfeld (1894-1951) in 1931 for the Broadway musical “Everybody’s Welcome.” 

While this song was ranked at Number Two on the American Film Institute’s best songs of all time, after “Over the Rainbow,” it seems to be the only song by Hupfeld that anyone today remembers and plays.  He did, however, write songs like “When Yuba Plays The Rhumba On The Tuba“, “I’ve Got To Get Up And Go To Work”, “Are You Making Any Money?,” “A Hut in Hoboken”, and, of course, “Let’s Put Out the Lights and Go to Sleep.”  Such is the cachet of the movies! 

Oh, why not? Click or tap on the triangle in the next image for somewhat of a musical diversion if not a treat.

But I digress . . .

As Time Goes By” was sung in the musical by Frances Williams

but was first recorded by the crooner and bandleader Rudy Vallee and his “Connecticut Yankees.”  This was a hit record in 1931. Click or tap on the triangle in the next image to listen to this version.

By far, however, the best-known take on our song is the one from “Casablanca” as sung by the character “Sam,” played by Dooley Wilson, at the request of “Ilse,” played by Ingrid Bergman. 

Wilson was a drummer and actor—alas, not a piano player.  So, in the movie the piano music was dubbed.  Such is the magic of film! Click or tap on the triangle in the next image for a look and listen.

If you are interested in the history of collectible musical instruments and don’t mind another digression, the piano that Wilson “played” in the movie—built with a shortened keyboard, 58 instead of 88 keys, and decorated in a “Moroccan” motif—was recently restored and sold at a Bonham’s auction for $3.4 million! 

For you buffs of old-school jazz/popular songs, such as “As Time Goes By,” here are the words for the first verse.  The chorus and bridge are, of course, what we are most familiar with. The rhymes are, to my eldie ears, much more listenable–and witty– than today’s rap! Just sayin’ . . .

VERSE:  This day and age we’re living in, Gives cause for apprehension,
With speed and new invention, And things like third dimension.
Yet we get a trifle weary, With Mister Einstein’s theory.
So we must get down to earth, At times relax, relieve the tension.

No matter what the progress, Or what may yet be proved.
The simple facts of life are such, They cannot be removed.

CHORUS:  You must remember this, A kiss is still a kiss.
.   .   .

Of course, there are hundreds of versions of this favorite tune.  Here are a few just to illustrate the variety of interpretations! Click or tap on the triangle in any of the images to give a listen.

As an aside, the producers of the movie “Casablanca” wanted to cut the “As Time Goes By” scene from the movie fearing that it was a bit too long and really didn’t “push” the plot.  Ingrid Bergman, however, had moved on to another film (“For Whom the Bell Tolls”) and had cut her hair for that role.  It was deemed impossible in that day and age to reshoot so, against their better judgement, the producers left the song in.  How musical history is made!

Got another earworm to live with until Christmas music overtakes us?  You’re welcome!

Stay Tuned!

Author: NohoBanjo of Northampton and, now, Easthampton, Mass.

Hi friends, neighbors, and fellow strummers. These “musings” are based on my interest and study of Banjo and Ukulele history, lore, and music. My goal is to both educate and enlighten by sharing what I have learned within a broad musical and historical context—with honesty and, at times, a bit of humor. Needless to say, your thoughts and comments are, as always, welcome.

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