“Dream Dancing” was written for the 1941 film, “You’ll Never Get Rich”, which starred Fred Astaire and the extraordinarily beautiful, Rita Hayworth. While Porter had been particularly looking forward to working on this assignment as Astaire was his favorite male star (Ethel Merman was his favorite female performer), he found himself amused but slightly disconcerted when the studio head at Columbia Pictures insisted on submitting all of the film’s songs to clerical workers to pretest their appeal. Really? I guess Hollywood productions were pretty lowbrow in those days.
The critics gave the picture and its songs (including “Dream Dancing”) mostly favorable reviews, but Cole was less sanguine about them, feeling they didn’t measure up to his best work and were ones that any Tin Pan Alley songwriter might turn out. This seems overly severe on Porter’s part, as to my ears, the combination of a slow foxtrot tempo and the passionate lyrics here is ethereal.
Many of the songs that Porter wrote in the 1920’s seem rooted in the strong feelings – expressed in letters and song lyrics — that he had for Boris Kochno, the régisseur of the Ballets Russes and Serge Diaghilev’s lover at the time, but none seemed to say more exactly what he felt than “Dream Dancing”:
“It’s joy sublime Whenever I spend my time Dream-dancing with you.” “Oh, what a lucky windfall! Touching you, clutching you, all The night through, So say you love me, dear, And let me make my career Dream-dancing, To Paradise prancing, Dream-Dancing with you.”
Although this song is not among his best known, it has been recorded by an impressive array of vocal artists. Here are renditions by two iconic performers, Tony Bennett with the incomparable Bill Evans on the piano and Mel Torme with the influential and beloved, jazz pianist, George Shearing.