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Herman Hupfeld and “As Time Goes By”


Herman Hupfeld (February 1, 1894 – June 8, 1951) was a little-known American songwriter, pianist, and conductor whose most notable composition was “As Time Goes By,” for which he wrote both the lyrics and music.  Hupfeld was born on February 1, 1894, in Montclair, New Jersey, the son of Charles Ludwig Hupfeld and his wife Fredericka (Rader), a church organist. He was sent to study violin in Germany at age nine. Returning to the United States, he completed his education at the local Montclair high school. He sang his own songs in the Broadway revue “Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic” (1912) and wrote songs for the musicals “A la Carte,” “The Little Show,” “Everybody’s Welcome”, and “Murder at the Vanities.”  During World War I, he did military service in the U.S. Navy.  After the war, he worked as a pianist-singer before contributing songs such as ‘Baby’s Blue,’ ‘Sort Of Lonesome,’ and ‘The Calinda’ to the smart and fashionable Broadway revues of the day.   In 1930 his ‘Sing Something Simple’ attracted some attention when it was introduced by Ruth Tester, with Arline Judge and Fay Brady, in The Second Little Show. A year later, he contributed the amusing ‘When Yuba Plays The Rumba On His Tuba’ to The Third Little Show. He never wrote a whole Broadway score, but he became known as a composer who could write a song to fit a specific scene within a Broadway show, and was particularly adept in interpolating the occasional superior song into stage shows and films of the 20s and 30s.

Also in 1931, Hupfeld wrote the song for which he will always be remembered – ‘As Time Goes By.’ It was originally written for the Broadway musical show Everybody’s Welcome (1931), which ran for 139 performances, where it was first sung by the popular platinum blonde singer Frances Williams, and subsequently recorded by Jacques Renard and Rudy Vallee, amongst others. In 1931, the song was a modest hit, with versions issued on Victor, Columbia, Brunswick, and the dime store labels. The song was featured in the unproduced play Everybody Comes To Rick’s, which was the basis for the Casablanca story and script.   However, it came to world-wide prominence in the 1943 film Casablanca, when it was memorably performed by Dooley Wilson. Against the wishes of Max Steiner, who wrote the music for the film, it was decided to feature the 1931 song in the film.  The producers considered dropping the song in post-production, but since Ingrid Bergman had been given the part of Maria in Paramount’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and had cut her hair for the part, it would not have been possible to reshoot any of her scenes with another song being performed, or to have her request that Sam play a different song.

Joining ASCAP in 1931, Hupfeld had many other popular-song compositions such “A Hut in Hoboken,” “Honey Ma Love,” and “Untitled.”   While not known as a public performer, Hupfeld was featured on a Victor Young & His Orchestra 78 recorded on January 22, 1932, singing and playing piano on two of his compositions, “Goopy Geer (he plays piano and he plays by ear)” and “Down the Old Back Road.”  In 1932 Hupfeld had another of his best-known numbers, ‘Let’s Put Out The Lights And Go To Sleep,’ featured in George White’s Music Hall Varieties stage show.  During the remainder of the 30s his other songs included ‘Wouldn’t That Be Wonderful’ (Hey Nonny Nonny! revue), ‘Savage Serenade’ (Earl Carroll’s Murder At The Vanities), and ‘Buy Yourself A Balloon’ (The Show Is On revue). He also placed songs in movies such as Moonlight And Pretzels (‘Gotta Get Up And Get To Work’ and ‘Are You Makin’ Any Money?’) and Take A Chance (‘Night Owl’).

Later Hupfeld  was a singer and pianist throughout the United States and Europe, and during World War II he travelled widely, entertaining the troops at military camps and hospitals in the U.S.A. and Europe.   In 1950 he had one last fling at Broadway, contributing material to the musical Dance Me A Song. The show was notable only for an early appearance of dancer Bob Fosse, and was quickly withdrawn.   Hupfeld never married and, with rare exceptions, he remained living in the family home with his mother in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, only traveling as far as New York City in his entire life. He died at Montclair on June 8, 1951, of a stroke at the age of 57 and was buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Montclair. His mother died six years later aged 90.

My collection includes the following work by Herman Hupfeld:

As Time Goes By.


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