See the current revival of On the Town on Broadway, and you’ll hear three sailors proclaim “New York, New York — a helluva town.”
See the 1949 film version and you’ll instead hear the three sailors insist “New York, New York – a wonderful town.”
“Helluva” was a bit profane for Hollywood sixty-five years ago, so Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the show’s lyricists, were forced to find a new three syllable word. Little did they know then that they were writing the title of a musical they’d eventually do four years later: Wonderful Town.
They weren’t supposed to work on this musical version of My Sister Eileen, in which budding writer Ruth Sherwood and would-be actress Eileen come to New York, have some harrowing misadventures and then convince us that they’ll be all right. Rosalind Russell would star, and getting her was a coup for fledgling producer Robert Fryer. She’d played the man-deprived Ruth in the 1942 film version of the 1940 Broadway hit, and had received an Oscar nomination. For Wonderful Town, she’d win a Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical. Read more…