Mark Steyn is a conservative columnist who also writes extensively on American popular songs. In today's column on Oscar nominated songs, he digresses at length on how "Love in Bloom" became Jack's theme:
"But you should have been there three-quarters of a century back, when every studio had the best composers, lyricists, arrangers, conductors and musicians all on payroll, right there on the lot. The losing songs in those first five years included "Cheek To Cheek" (SotW #59), "I've Got You Under My Skin" (see also Mark Steyn's American Songbook), "They Can't Take That Away From Me", "Change Partners", "Jeepers Creepers": all movie songs - that's to say, songs written for movies. Yet that first year it was an oddly tentative toe in the waters. For the Best Song of 1934, the Academy nominated just three numbers. The first was introduced by Bing Crosby in She Loves Me Not, one of those silly little pictures he made before Paramount wised up and recognized he was a real star. In this case, it was something to do with a gal who witnesses a gangland murder and decides to hide out as a male student at Princeton. Of course. Who wouldn't? But, along the way, Bing crooned:
Can it be the trees
That fill the breeze
With rare and magic perfume?
Oh no, it isn't the trees
It's Love In Bloom...
Not so much in bloom as over-ripe. It was by the team of Robin & Rainger - Leo Robin (words), Ralph Rainger (music) - who would go on to win the award four years later with "Thanks For The Memory". This time round they lost, yet the song stuck around for 40 years due to a happy accident. One night, while Crosby's record was still a big hit, Jack Benny and his wife Mary Livingstone wandered into a nightclub, and the bandleader invited Benny, a competent violinist, to sit in on the next number. It happened to be "Love In Bloom", so Jack borowed a fiddle, played along and it turned up as a squib in a gossip column: "Jack Benny playing 'Love In Bloom' was a breath of fresh air," cracked the wiseacre. "If you like fresh air." A couple of nights later, he and Mary strolled into another supper club, and immediately the orchestra struck up "Love In Bloom". It took off from there, and, when Benny needed a theme for his radio show, it was the obvious choice. And so, every week, on radio and then TV, the intro to Robin & Rainger's lush Bing ballad was inseparable from Don Wilson's warm baritone announcing "It's The Jack Benny Program!", and a rhapsodic love song achieved immortality by being sawed into pieces by a fiddle-playing comic week in, week out, decade after decade. Off-air, Benny could actually play the tune rather well, if anyone had wanted to hear it that way."