Fascinating History of Fascination Waltz
Subtitle: Many Wonderful Sounds of “Fascination” Song
I like to explore different versions of songs. It’s interesting, and I learn something new in the process. If you are a ballroom dancer, you are probably familiar with the waltz song “Fascination”. There are many versions that are played on ballroom floors – including Nat King Cole’s. But did you know that the first U.S. singer who made this song popular was not Nat King Cole? Moreover, did you know that the song originates from France, and the song did not have lyric when it was first written(that is, it was instrumental music) and that the current popular lyric has no relation to its original French lyric? Keep on reading to find out more.
First let me introduce you to a wonderful acoustic guitar rendition of the Fascination(Fascinação)
( The above guitar version is based on the arrangement of Dilermando Reis of the original song as written by F.D. Marchetti. Played by this amazing Italian guitarist, Modesto De Renzio who has a website here. You can go here to listen to more of his wonderful guitar plays.)
There’s a whole lot more interesting and fascinating history to the song.
- Originally written in 1904 by Italian F. D. Marchetti(1876-1940). He was born in Massa, Italy, and later moved to Paris, France where he composed the song.), the instrumental song’s title was “Valse Tzigane”, which means “Gypsy Waltz” in French. The song was initially written for instruments only, and later(1905?) the French words written by Maurice de Féraudy (1859-1932) was adopted (The title Fascination seems to have been given at this time). It’s hard to find the original instrumental recordings on internet.
French Version Sung by Florelle
The song became popular in France and probably in other parts of the world as well. Some of the earlier versions used in American films from 1930 through 1949 are listed in F.D. Marchetti imdb database. I found a 1931 recording by Florelle, French singer and actor.
Florelle’s birth name was Odette-Elisa Josephine Margaret Rousseau (also known as Odette Rousseau). Her biography appears here (in French Wikipedia) and here (translation into English here). There is another bio from chanson.udenap.org. Its translation into English is here.
- Interesting facts about Florelle ( Odette Rousseau): born August 9, 1898 in Les Sables d’Olonne (Vendée) and died September 28, 1974 in La Roche-sur-Yon (Vendée).
- She started to sing at the age of 13.
- In 1923 she toured with Maurice Chevalier, who later (in 1957) appeared in film “Love in the Afternoon”(or “Ariane” for European release). She continued her singing career in the 1920s, appearing in Moulin Rouge (Cabaret in Paris, not film).
- In the 1930s, she made many films with Austrian Film director Georg Wilhelm Pabst.
- She appeared in 54 films throughout her career.
- The original french lyrics of Florelle’s Fascination and its English translations are here. Her song is a great representation of French song, and it indeed sounds so good. Please listen to it here (This link requires that you enable an mp3 player on your computer; if you cannot play this, you do not have an mp3 player on your computer. If the link does not work properly, you can search for the file called florelle_fascination_1932.mp3 on Google.) Her version is rather dramatic, reflecting the atmosphere of Moulin Rouge.
I assume that instrumental version must have been around during this period(1920’s and 1930’s) to entertain social dancers. Although I cannot find 1920’s- or 1930’s- “Fascination” waltz, I will illustrate the style of waltz that was popular in dances during this period in the below (where the instrumental versions would have been played – Florrelle’s version seems to fit more stage performance).
There is a 1943 recording of the song in Portuguese.
(The above is not the original recording, but Carlos Galhardo himself is singing his version in this clip.)
English lyrics were added by Dick Manning in 1932. This English version had a totally different lyric from the original French version (meaning it was not a translation of French lyric). It’s not clear if this English version was even recorded or not before 1957. In 1957, however, the song was used in the film “Love in the Afternoon”, followed by single albums by numerous artists, and became a hit song.
- Interesting facts about Dick manning: Dick manning was originally born in Russia with a name, Samuel Medoff. His family immigrated to U.S when he was 6 years old.
- 1957 Spring, at the age of 22, Nana Mouskouri records her first song ever in her career in Greek and in English. The song was “Fascination”. This was before the film “Love in the Afternoon” was released. But she remains still unknown artist until 1959 when she wins the Greek Song Festival 1st prize. Below is the Greek version sung by Nana Mouskouri.
The Film “Love in the Afternoon” and the Song Fascination
Released June 30, 1957, the film “Love in the Afternoon” (1957, Directed by Billy Wilder, starring Gary Cooper, Maurice Chevalier, and Audrey Hepburn) does not do well commercially in U.S., but becomes a hit in Europe where it was distributed under the name “Ariane(1957)”. In this film, rather unknown music group, “The Troubadours”, plays the song “Fascination”. This film was an English remake of the film “Ariane(1931, released in Germany)” made by director Paul Czinner.
(Song by Lisa Ono was dubbed in the above film clips; the mix video shows the last part of the film starting at 3;13. Notice that the Troubadours plays the song at 4:27 in the video clip.)
- August 8, 1957 Nat King Cole records the song “Fascination” at Capitol Record (but this version does not become the most popular version in 1957). I believe the readers are much familiar with this version.
- David Kapp of Kapp Records brought “The Troubadours” to the studio, and asked Jane Morgan(who had already recorded at Kapp Records previously) to sing with The Troubadours. This song reached billboard #7 in September 9, 1957, and it became an instant sensation, remaining on the best selling charts for 29 weeks and selling millions of records. (Jane Morgan previously sang in Paris, France and had a great sense of French mood (!). This version reflects the French mood very nicely). Jane Morgan and the Troubadours’ version becomes the most popular version of the many competing versions during 1957.
(Single cover, Fascination / Whistling Instrumental, Label: KAPP 191)
Here below is the above record playing (KAPP 191). Occasionally one may hear this version being played in a ballroom dance. (This is special !)
Below is the Jane Morgan and the Troubadours’ version of “Fascination” with film clips from “Love In The Afternoon” for the fans of Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn.
The song was also released in an album the same year.
Music Scenes of 1957
Dinah Shore (1957), Dick Jacobs (1957) and David Carroll (1957) followed with the same song that year. They all reached billboard chart —— Dinah Shore (#15), Dick Jacobs (#17) and David Carroll (#56). You may wonder how there could be so many singers doing the same song. This was a quite common practice back then that many singers release different versions of a song, and compete against each other.
I want to add that, in the year 1957, the music chart of the 1957 lists such heavy hitters as Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, Perry Como, Pat Boone, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis. Well, the music scene wasn’t all that quiet(?), and the Rock’n Roll song was mixing with pop songs.
The film Jailhouse Rock was released November 8 in1957. Here Elvis sings his famous Jailhouse Rock.
Fascination After 1957
- Many other artists all over the world recorded this song since then. I am sorry I could not list all of them here. Some later versions are mentioned in Wikipedia article of Fascination (1932 song). I will list a few interesting versions in the below.
- A lovely voice of Connie Francis here.
- ” José Augusto” – (1976) Fascination (Portuguese) Brazilian singer: I think one can dance a rumba to this version.
- Lisa Ono — She is a modern bossa nova singer born in Brazil, and is active in Japan — has a wonderful rendition — bossa nova style. Her singing was dubbed to original film clips in the above. But remember this is a more recent rendition.
I must add ballroom dancing illustration to this precious song, although the readers are very familiar with how to do it themselves. So here is a Viennese Waltz version, “Vals Facinacion”, danced by young Peruvian dancers.
What have I learned? As waltz dance came from Europe, one of the most popular American waltz song’s origin is in Europe. I am so thankful to those – a lot of people (truly of international and multi-country) contributed to the existence of this song.
So which version is your favorite?
I would like to dance to all the (danceable) versions one day. But I also do love just listening to those wonderful (not-so-danceable but beautiful) renditions.
I think the following version is a great play on the ballroom dance floor.
From Album: Gold Star Ballroom Series: Waltz (2005)
You can listen to it here (track #7).
Filed under: Ballroom Dance, Ballroom Dance Music, Dance in Film & Musical, Dancing & Society | 23 Comments
Tags: Ballroom Dance, Carlos Galhardo, Connie Francis, Dick Manning, Dilermando Reis, F. D. Marchetti, Fascination Song, Fascination Waltz, Florelle, Jane Morgan, José Augusto, Lisa Ono, Love In the Afternoon film, Maurice de Féraudy, Modesto De Renzio, Nana Mouskouri, Nat King Cole, The Troubadours, waltz, Waltz music