"Blue Moon" Materials Registered for Copyright

Our inquiry into Edward W. Roman's authorship of "Blue Moon" necessitated an examination of the song's complicated and unsual copyright history.

The song as we know it today was registered for copyright by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. on December 5, 1934, and credited to songwriters Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, who had been under contract at the studio throughout 1933 and into March 1934. But three unpublished iterations of the same melody had been registered by MGM as unpublished works in the year and a half prior, each with a different title and set of lyrics. 

Our research took us to the Library of Congress, where we asked to review the "deposits," the material that is actually registered for copyright, for all four. The deposit for the first iteration, registered on July 10, 1933, was missing. What appears to be a copy surfaced at the New York Public Library with a telling date handwritten on the upper left: 1/12/32, the date of broker Jack Mahoney's offer letter for "Blue Moon" to the Troy, New York, teenager.

A look at the deposits follows. What they reveal about the song's authorship is discussed in the first and final sections of the Memoir.  

Deposit: July 10, 1933


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 As MGM’s Song #225, dated June 14, 1933, 'Prayer (Oh Lord, make me a movie star)' was registered for copyright as an unpublished work on July 10, 1933."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“The unpublished copyright deposit for 'Prayer' seems like it may be missing from the folder for the production, Hollywood Party, especially because of the additional songs in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

Hmmm. . .The mystery deepens. . .

UPDATE: A document that appears to be a copy of this deposit was located at the New York Public Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division, with the1/12/32 date on the upper left. See the following images:

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

Deposit: March 30, 1934


"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 A 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

"It's Just That Kind of A Play," from a line  in the lyrics," is the alternate title for the song's second iteration. It is entitled "Manhattan Melodrama" on the deposit, as it was to be the title song for the film of the same name.

We also found the deposit for "The Bad in Every Man," with Hart's new lyrics for the nightclub scene. This third iteration 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 would be that for the iconic song itself, "Blue Moon," which 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 couldn't 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 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.