"Blue Moon" Materials Registered for Copyright

The evolution of the song, "Blue Moon," involves at least three previous iterations—and three previous copyrights—prior to its becoming the iconic song we know today.

To trace its trajectory, we turned in each instance to the material known as the "deposit." This refers to what was actually copyrighted by the U.S. Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Our inquiry took us to Washington, D.C., where we requested the deposits registered for copyright as unpublished works on July 10, 1933, March 30, 1934, and May 9, 1934. These are referenced in the first section of the Memoir. We also requested the deposit for the published song.

Curiously, on our visit to the Library of Congress to view these materials, we learned that the deposit for the first copyright was missing, and nowhere to be found. This would have been the one closest to what Edward W. Roman actually wrote.

In the sections that follow, we show the deposits for the versions registered on March 30, 1934, and May 9, 1934, and we discuss the deposit for the song "Blue Moon" in its final form.

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 wrote, '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 As MGM’s Song #225, dated June 14, 1933, 'Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)' was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10, 1933."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, the one 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“The unpublished copyright deposit for 'Prayer' seems like it may be missing from the folder for the production, Hollywood Party, especially because of the additional songs in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

The title, "It's Just That Kind of Play," comes from a line of lyrics in this version. It was also called "Manhattan Melodrama," because it was to be the film's title song. "Manhattan Melodrama" is the title on the March 30, 1934, deposit. 

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 wanted 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

But 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