On Oct. 14, 1930, “Girl Crazy,” a new musical by George and Ira Gershwin, premiered at the Alvin Theater on Broadway. The show made stars of Ginger Rogers (who sang “Embraceable You”) and Ethel Merman (who belted out “I Got Rhythm,” among other numbers).
But the real cavalcade of stars appeared not on stage, but under it, where George Gershwin conducted an orchestra that included such future greats as Benny Goodman (then 21) on clarinet, Jimmy Dorsey (26) on sax, Gene Krupa (21) on drums, and Tommy Dorsey (24) and Glenn Miller (26) on trombone.
“Girl Crazy” would run for 272 performances. It contained more hit songs than any other Gershwin musical. Other hits from the stage show and movie included “Bidin’ My Time,” “But Not for Me,” and such forgotten gems as “Goldfarb, That’s I’m!” and “(When It’s) Cactus Time in Arizona.”
“Girl Crazy” was also the only Gershwin musical comedy to be turned into a movie three times, including 1992’s “Crazy for You.” Best of the bunch was a 1943 version starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. In the 1943 movie, Garland’s role combined the parts—and songs—performed by Rogers and Merman on Broadway.
To show you how much things have changed, back then you could have gotten a balcony seat for a Saturday matinee for 50 cents. Today, a decent seat on Broadway can set you back one hundred bucks or more.