George Gershwin’s first song to make it into a Broadway show, Making of a Girl, is back 100 years later!
Originally known by the titles “How to Make a Pretty Girl” and “How to Make a Pretty Face,””Making of a Girl” was included in The Passing Show of 1916 and features lyrics by Harold Atteridge (see lyrics below). Atteridge took his philosophy degree from the University of Chicago to New York City in 1910 and became the staff book writer and lyricist for the Shuberts, including their Winter Garden Theater’s Passing Shows from 1913 to 1921. The lyrics are clearly designed for a fashion show number, as that was a common element of musical revues at the time. While “Making of a Girl” may not be Atteridge’s most lasting contribution to the stage, he is much better known for his song “By the Beautiful Sea.”
When asked about his technique for writing for Broadway, Atteridge said this:
“I do most of my writing between the hours of midnight and 5 AM. I write in long hand under and electric desk lamp, and always alone. Most of the comedy dialogue that I write for the Winter Garden revues I observe in every day life – on the subway, in restaurants, on the street, in hotel lobbies, at church, in barber shops, in business offices, and most any place where ordinary people are to be seen. During the day I watch persons and at night I write about them. It usually takes me from thirty minutes to an hour to write the finished lyrics for a song. I read all the newspapers every day and this afford me a field of current information. The winter Garden revues, especially the annual ‘Passing Show,’ is a resumé of theatrical, business, and political topics of the past season set to song, dance and laughter.”
I did a lot of research to find a single photo of Harold Atteridge to be included here, but to no avail. If you can find one, please let me know!
Musically, Gershwin was made to share the credit with Sigmund Romberg who was the staff composer for the show, though most agree that Romberg’s contribution was minimal if not completely absent.
PDF of the original sheet music of Gershwin’s Making of a Girl: making-of-a-girl-1916-score
Gershwin’s original arrangement has a ragtime-influenced 2/4 time signature. To update the song and to make it easier to play, I have changed the key from E flat to C and the time to 4/4. And here is what my GarageBand “jazz trio” has done with the song:
PDF of fake-book style sheet music of Gershwin’s Making of a Girl in the key of C in 4/4 time: making-of-a-girl-in-c-44
Lyrics by Harold Atteridge
Every girl is made more or less,
by her knowledge of how to dress.
It’s just a question of what she will put on.
It all depends on the clothes that she may don.
You can tell by the fashion books
the way to fix a girlie’s looks.
For when in fashion,
you must know the tricks,
and just like a chef you mix.
You take a pretty shoe,
with a style that’s new.
Then you must mix it up with a hat.
Then the lingerie comes in after that.
And then to make the concoction seem pat,
you add some silly stockings.
Then you add a pretty dress.
Don’t use the dress, though, to excess.
And then you stir them round,
and behold! What’s found?
You will find that you have made a pretty girl.