At 21 words, the title of this tune is claimed to be the longest for a song used in a Hollywood film. It was performed by Fred Astaire and Jane Powell in the 1951 musical Royal Wedding; music is by Burton Lane with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.
The nuptials of the title are the ones that united Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip in 1947, when she was 21 and he, 26.10 Footage of that blessed event is included. Astaire and Powell play a brother-sister act that is loosely based on a similar relationship Astaire and his sister Adele11 had early in their careers.
Like Adele, who met and married an English lord, the Astaire character's (Tom Bowen) sister (Ellen) meets and becomes engaged to an aristocrat played by a young Peter Lawford.
Although it's hard to beat the song and dance Astaire and Powell perform to the witty "How Could You...," later in the movie Tom Bowen is so happy about his love interest he dances up the walls and across the ceiling of his hotel room.
"How Could You..." rings true with anyone who has manipulated the facts a little to get what he or she wants. Oddly, in the version below, which was on the long play record of the movie soundtrack, spoken parts come toward the end of the song. In the movie, they are at the beginning.
Outstanding lines are Powell's triple negative question, "Didn't your mother never teach you no manners?" and Astaire's double-negative response "I didn't have no mother, we were too poor" and the exchange that begins with her, "I'll give you one more chance: Do you love me or don't you?" His immediate and emphatic "No, I don't" reply is met by her "Quit stalling! I want a direct answer."
Powell, evidently the fourth choice to play Ellen after Ginger Rogers declined, June Allyson took the role but became pregnant and had to withdraw, and Judy Garland was hired but then fired,12 is great throughout. Her costumes, especially the yellow and red outfit she wears during "How Could You..." are strongly period and cool as a 50s jukebox.
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