"Blue Moon" Materials Registered for Copyright

The matter of Edward W. Roman's authorship of the 1934 American standard, "Blue Moon," necessitated a review of the song's unusual and complicated copyright history.

"Blue Moon" as it is known today was registered for copyright on December 5, 1934, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. But in the year and a half prior—specifically, on July 10, 1933, March 30, 1934, and May 9, 1934—the movie studio had registered three earlier iterations as unpublished works. These were intended for MGM films and featured titles and lyrics far removed from those of "Blue Moon." Authorship was credited to Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, who were under contract at MGM throughout 1933 and into March 1934, decamping at that point to rival Paramount.

Essential for the review was an examination of what are called the "deposits," the material actually copyrighted by the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Curiously, the earliest deposit was missing, and nowhere to be found. This was presumably the version closest to what Ed Roman wrote (melody, if not lyrics) in 1931 and submitted to New York song broker Jack Mahoney.

What clearly stood out was the extent to which the lyrics and titles of the earlier iterations weakened the entirety of those versions. None presents with the artistic assurance and emotional depth of "Blue Moon."

A look at each with the deposit follows. What it means for Roman's authorship is discussed in the first and final sections of the Memoir.  

Deposit: July 10, 1933

FROM THE MEMOIR:

"The story goes that MGM asked them for a song for actress Jean Harlow for the movie Hollywood Party. The song they delivered, 'Prayer,' in which a young girl prays for fame to the melody of  'Blue Moon,' was neither used nor recorded. As MGM’s Song #225, dated June 14, 1933, 'Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)' was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10, 1933."

Deposit Reference: "Prayer," by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, a piano arrangement with arranger C. Mockridge, July 10, 1933, Eunp #73528

On our visit to the Library of Congress, we were unable to locate, and thus view and study, the deposit for this first copyright, whose melody was likely closest to Edward W. Roman's original. At our request, our librarian searched far and wideto no avail.

The librarian’s explanation is as follows:

“The unpublished copyright deposit for 'Prayer' seems like it may be missing from the folder for the production, Hollywood Party, especially because of the additional songs in the folder and the copyright deposit accession number sequences. This particular version of 'Blue Moon' does not appear to have been individually cataloged, and we have been unable to find it within broader classification schemes where it would likely have been otherwise placed.” 

Hmmm. . .The mystery continues. . .

A sample performance of the song. . .not related to the movie.


Deposit: March 30, 1934

FROM THE MEMOIR:

"Hart, the story continues, wrote a new set of lyrics, reviving the song for the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama. Entitled 'It’s Just That Kind of Play,' it was cut from the film, and registered for copyright as an unpublished work on March 30, 1934. The studio then requested a nightclub number for the film. Rodgers still liked the music, so Hart wrote a third set of lyrics, 'The Bad in Every Man.' It was sung by Shirley Ross in the film and released as sheet music. It wasn’t a hit."

Deposit Reference: "Manhattan Melodrama," by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers, March 30, 1934, Eunp #85144

"Manhattan Melodrama" is listed as the title on the March 30, 1934, deposit, as this second iteration was to be the title song for the so-named film. But it had another title, "It's Just That Kind of Play," taken from a line of its lyrics. 

We also found the deposit for "The Bad in Every Man," with Hart's new lyrics for the nightclub scene. This version was used in the film, but, interestingly, registered for copyright as an unpublished work on May 9, 1934, five days after the release of the film.

The Bad In Every Man Page 4

Deposit: December 5, 1934

The final deposit we wished to reference was for the iconic song itself. "Blue Moon" was registered for copyright as a published work on December 5, 1934.

Deposit Reference: "Blue Moon," words by Lorenz Hart, melody by Richard Rodgers, published December 5, 1934, received and mg. December 7, 1934, Epub #45186

However, that deposit also could not be foundanywhere. Where could it be? And how could it be that the material registered for copyright on one of the most universally recognized songs of the 20th century is, simply, missing? 

Our librarian said the "Blue Moon" deposit would be "close to" the published sheet music from the era. Here is an example:

Blue Moon Copyright Deposit Page 1
Blue Moon Copyright Deposit Page 2
Blue Moon Copyright Deposit Page 3
Blue Moon Copyright Deposit Page 4
Blue Moon Copyright Deposit Page 5
Blue Moon Copyright Deposit Page 6

Lyrics to "Blue Moon"

Blue moon, you saw me standing alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.

Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for,
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for.

And then there suddenly appeared before me,
The only one my arms will ever hold.
I heard somebody whisper, “Please adore me.”
And when I looked, the moon had turned to gold!

Blue moon,
Now I’m no longer alone,
Without a dream in my heart,
Without a love of my own.