Reader in American Film, Television and Cultural History, Dr Karen McNally discussed classic cinema and music on Radio 4’s Cover Story.
Date: 16 August 2022
Dr Karen McNally, recently appeared on the BBC Radio 4 show Cover Story, a series which discusses various covers of a particular song.
This edition of the show explored the George and Ira Gershwin standard ‘A Foggy Day’ and its relationship to two artists, Rufus Wainwright and Judy Garland.
Dr McNally discussed the origins of the song that first appeared in RKO’s 1937 film musical A Damsel in Distress starring Fred Astaire. As Karen explained, “Astaire’s performance of the song is one of the highlights of the film that’s otherwise considered one of his less successful films in the series he made at RKO. In each of the other films Astaire famously co-starred with Ginger Rogers, who was at this time busy with other projects and replaced by the non-singing or dancing Joan Fontaine.
Rather than its intended placement in the London portion of the film, “A Foggy Day” (…in London town) becomes a very wistful number in the misty grounds of Fontaine’s family castle. It’s a very visually cinematic moment in the film and launches “A Foggy Day” way beyond the film itself.”
George Gershwin passed away at the age of 38 a few months before the film was released, so it was one of only a small number of film projects he completed. However, his music would continue to appear in numerous films throughout Hollywood history. His brother Ira also wrote lyrics for countless movies.
‘A Foggy Day’ went on from these origins to become a standard of American popular song and was recorded by artists including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and David Bowie.