“Three Little Words” (1950) has always been one of my favourite musicals, mainly because I love the songs of Bert Kalmar (1884-1947) and Harry Ruby(1895-1974).

Kalmar wrote  the words and was played by Fred Astaire , while composer Harry Ruby was Red Skelton in a rare semi-serious role.

Despite the usual liberties taken by Hollywood , this biopic had some truth in it – Ruby loved baseball , and Kalmar was an amateur magician and had been a dancer in his youth.

They were a songwriting team for nearly 30 years, and THREE LITTLE WORDS is a fine tribute to their songwriting skills.

They wrote for the Marx Brothers in “Animal Crackers” and “Duck  Soup”, including Groucho’s ‘Hello ,I Must be Going” and “Hooray for Captain Spaulding”.

Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby


A  great song, “Nevertheless” ( written in 1931) is sung in perfect harmony by Astaire and Skelton.


Though written in  1923, “Who’s Sorry Now” first reached the screen in 1946’s “A Night in Casablanca “ sung by Lisette Verea.  Gloria deHaven (playing her mother, Flora deHaven) sings it in “Three Little Words”.
It was recorded by many singers, and in 1958 Connie Francis had a top ten hit with it.

For  this song, Ted Snyder wrote the music.


This song lists a Herman Ruby as one of the writers. I couldn’t find out if he was related to Harry Ruby.


Debbie Reynolds, Carleton Carpenter.

Debbie Reynolds ( in her first film) sings ‘I wanna be loved by you’ to an uncomfortable Carleton Carpenter. But Debbie is dubbed by Helen Kane (1904-1966) who had first sung it in the 1928 stage musical, “Good Boy.”

A nice touch to have Helen reprise her trademark song.
(Helen Kane’s “This Is Your Life” in 1958 ( available on You Tube) has Helen singing the iconic song, with Harry Ruby at the piano.)

Harry Ruby’s “This Is Your Life” is also on You Tube.

Helen Kane with Debbie Reynolds on the set. Helen was said to be the model for cartoon “Betty Boop”, with her famous ‘boop-boop-a-doop’.


Vera-Ellen as ‘Jessie Brown’, Bert Kalmar’s wife. Vera- Ellen was dubbed  by Anita Ellis.


Arlene Dahl  plays silent star Eileen Percy who married Harry Ruby in 1936. Arlene sings ‘I Love You So Much.’ in a lovely production number.


Arlene Dahl, Red Skelton, Harry Ruby, Fred Astaire, Vera -Ellen


Harry Ruby, Red Skelton

Harry Ruby was a baseball fan and in this  shot  from the film  he is seen with Red Skelton.




4 responses »

  1. Couldn’t find anything to suggest Harry and Herman were related.
    Amongst many other things Herman Ruby wrote some lyrics for “Citizen Kane”.

  2. This is a terrific article about this very entertaining film. I liked it before, but I appreciate it even more now. Thank you!

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