Category Archives: Film

Fin de Cycle

fare you well
‘Fare you well Daisy Bell’ by Harry Dacre, published by Francis, Day & Hunter, London in 1894 and illustrated by H. G. Banks.

The proud man on the bicycle of this cover is Harry Dacre writer of the timeless classic Daisy Bell. He was also the owner of the Frank Dean & C° publishing house. Born as Frank Dean (1857–1922) on the Isle of Man he started writing songs in 1882. After some minor successes he emigrated to Australia and later moved to America. He arrived there in 1892, with a song in his pocket that would become a mega hit. Daisy Bell (also known as ‘A bicycle built for two’) would conquer the world with an annoying earworm chorus:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’d look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle made for two.

daisybellaustralia copy
Left, the sheet music cover of ‘Daisy Bell’ by Harry Dacre, not in our collection. Right, English couple on a tandem in 1900.

Allegedly Harry Dacre had brought with him his bicycle, for which he had to pay import duty. A friend of his remarked: ‘You’re lucky that you didn’t bring a bicycle built for two, or you would have to pay double’. This witticism inspired Dacre to write a song about the pleasures of riding a tandem.

portrait of Frances Evelyn “Daisy” Greville, Countess of Warwick (1889)
Frances Evelyn “Daisy” Greville, Countess of Warwick, 1889, National Portrait Gallery London

However, the source of inspiration for Daisy Bell could also have been Frances Evelyn “Daisy” Greville, Countess of Warwick.  She was a celebrated society cyclist, feminist and socialist. But she is best remembered for her extramarital affairs, including her liaison with the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

daisybell duits copy
Left Daisy by Harry Dacre, published by Bosworth & C°, Leipzig (not in our collection). Right Isabella (Daisy Bell) by Harry Dacre published by Carl John, Stockholm.

After a lukewarm start Daisy Bell went on to become a worldwide success. It was translated in different languages, and strangely in Sweden it was renamed Isabella. The song spawned numerous sequels, parodies and imitations.

daisybell kaps
‘Daisy Bell’ waltz arranged by Karl Kaps, published by Francis, Day & Hunter, London in 1893.

We gladly entertain you with the following contemporary version by the English rock band Blur. But know that the band members themselves consider it to be one of the worst moments in their career…

In 1894 Harry Dacre himself wrote the sequel Fare you well Daisy Bell, the cover shown at the beginning. Its success however was as disappointing as the relation between Daisy and her beau: she became bored of the tandem and he rode away on a bicycle built for one. The author signed this cover with a pun: ‘yours-fin-de-cycle-ly, Harry Dacre’.

A state of the art computer in 1957, IBM model 704 at NASA.

Stanley Kubrick immortalised the song in his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the final act the computer HAL-9000 sings the Daisy Bell chorus. This was a tribute to HAL’s great ancestor, an IBM model 704, the first computer to ever sing. It happened in the Bell Labs in 1961 and they recreated the song Daisy Bell for obvious reasons. You can hear the recording of this earliest known computer-synthesized voice singing.

The science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke witnessed this first ‘artificial singing’ demonstration. He was so impressed that he incorporated it in his 1968 novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the film, we witness near the end of the movie that HAL is deactivated. After the famous lines ‘I’m afraid Dave… Dave my mind is going, I can feel it…’ (2:43) he, she or it sings Daisy Bell increasingly slow and distorted, before finally shutting down (5:03).

En Goguette

en goguette
‘En Goguette’ by Aimé Lachaume, published by Enoch & Cie, Paris 1907. Illustrated by Marius Stéphane.

We didn’t know the expression ‘en goguette’ so we had to look it up. It means going on a spree, being in a good mood, ready to have fun. Or to say it with a beautiful English word: gallivanting. It goes without saying that the participants are often mildly or hopelessly inebriated…

According to our examples of sheet music covers everyone could take delight of being ‘en goguette’, even cantors (chantres) or statues.

les chantres
‘Les Chantres en Goguette’ by Gérald-Baldran, published by Bassereau in Paris. Illustrated by Faria.
‘Les Statues en Goguette’ by Wachs, published by Répertoire Paulus in Paris. Illustrated by Butscha.  Do you recognize all of the historical figures in the merry row of statues ?

Even figures on a poster can be en goguette as can be seen in this surreal short film Affiches en goguette (The Hilarious Posters). It features a wall full of advertising posters coming to life to make fun of the French police. The film was made in 1906 by the French film maker and pioneer in special effects, George Méliès.

Springtime: Tiptoe Through the Tulips

Gold diggers030 copy
‘Tip Toe Through the Tulips’ from Gold Diggers of Broadway published by M. Witmark & Sons in 1929.

Nick Lucas a popular crooner and jazz guitar player introduced the song Tiptoe Through the Tulips in the film Gold Diggers of Broadway. Nick Lucas was the first to make guitar playing into an act. In 1922, while others were still playing ukuleles, mandolins and banjos, Lucas made the first solo jazz guitar record for Pathé.

Nick Lucas (1897-1982)

Gold Diggers of Broadway was a 1929 Warner Brothers popular musical film, a remake of the 1919 play Gold Diggers. Warner Brothers had already made a silent version of the play in 1923 but that film got completely lost. Apart from a few minutes, found in England in the late eighties and including the song Tiptoe Through the Tulips, the 1929 film remake was also lost. Luckily the entire soundtrack of the film survived on Vitaphone track. Gold Diggers of Broadway was a lavish, all-Technicolor musical. It was one of I929’s biggest hits. It was a stage-show-within-a-show to cope with the many musical numbers combined with romance and gags. The plot centers around some New York chorus girls desperately seeking a wealthy husband. The optimistic film premiered just before the big Wall Street Crash of October 1929.

diggers palette
A still from ‘Gold Diggers of Broadway’ film in 1929. (Photo from

The newspaper The Daily Oklahoman used the still above to announce ‘the first all-talking, all-singing, all-dancing, and all natural color photoplay’ in Oklahoma. As if that wasn’t enough, it added: ‘with a chorus of 100 dazzling beauties!’. The joyful dancing girl from the still was also used to enliven the front of the film poster. We already published another version of the film poster, together with a Nick Lucas sheet music cover (see our ‘Cryin’ For The Carolines’ post).

gold_diggers_of_broadway_xlgNow, listen and see Nick Lucas perform his serenade, Tiptoe Through the Tulips. Standing under a huge moon he sings with a soft, sweet, appealing voice. If you don’t have time to view the full serenade-at-the-balcony and the little tap-dance, be sure to fast-forward to minute 3 in order not to miss the magic moment of the chorus-girl appearing out of the tulips in the giant greenhouse. Tiptoe Through the Tulips was actually written for this film by Joseph Burke and Al Dubin. It was among the first recordings to sell over two million discs as did the sheet music. Nonetheless the film was no springboard to a film career for Nick Lucas.

Forty years later, in the late 60s, Tiny Tim (1932-1996) made an infamous version of Tiptoe Through the Tulips in his typical high falsetto tenor. In 1969 when Tiny Tim married a 17-year old girl live on The Tonight Show, Nick Lucas sang Tiptoe Through the Tulips for him with an audience of 40 million television viewers.

Tiptoe Through the Tulips was also used in Warner Brothers’ very first Looney Tunes cartoon, starring Bosko in 1930. The playful instrumental version of our song starts at around 1:35. Enjoy !