The composer and the plugger of the nation's biggest song hit met last fortnight for the first time. The song: As Time Goes By ("A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, the fundamental things apply as time goes by").* The composer: massive, white-haired Herman ("Dodo") Hupfeld, who wrote it in 1931. The plugger: a short, stocky Negro named (Arthur) Dooley Wilson, who started this forgotten ditty toward its sensational present success by the loving way he sang it in the Warner Bros, movie Casablanca (TIME, Nov. 30). Dodo and Dooley met at Manhattan's Greenwich Village Inn, where the veteran Negro minstrel was doing a singing turn.
In 1931, As Time Goes By was sung in a Broadway show called Everybody's Welcome, recorded by Rudy Vallee (Victor) and Jacques Renard (Brunswick). Forty thousand discs were sold and then the tune dropped from U.S. memory. Composer Hupfeld, who in his time had turned out such Tin Pan Alley hits as Sing Something Simple and When Yuba Plays the Rumba on the Tuba, came to the conclusion that he was through. For ten years he seemed to be right.
Then, last year, Warner Bros., seeking a love theme for Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, fished As Time Goes By out of the files. Instead of giving the tune to a conventional crooner, Warners picked Dooley Wilson. He is something special. He has one of the warmest personalities that ever got into show business. He sings with understatement and a sense of mood worthy of a great lieder singer. Dooley gave As Time Goes By everything he had. When Ingrid Bergman in the film says that no one can sing the song like Sam (Dooley), millions of moviegoers have agreed with her.
A Man Who Knew Europe. Since Dooley started, As Time Goes By has sold over 300,000 copies. Recording companies, searching their files for the old Vallee and Renard records, have found their biggest bonanza since Boss Petrillo's ban on popular recording (TIME, June 22). While that ban exists, no disc can be made of Dooley's version. But both Dooley and Dodo are doing all right.
Born in Tyler, Tex., Dooley Wilson trouped at the age of eight with Western medicine shows and circuses. Some time between 1910 and 1914 he went to Manhattan, where he sang with the late James Reese Europe's historic Negro jazz band, which was a feature of the A.E.F. during World War I. When Jim Europe was stabbed to death by his drummer after the war, Dooley Wilson formed his own band abroad, toured from Paris to Casablanca and Port Said.
In more recent years Dooley has worked in the Federal Theater Project with John Houseman and Orson Welles, played in The Show-Off, Androcles and the Lion and the Broadway production of Cabin in the Sky. He is as reticent and earnest as his musical interpretations. His wife is a onetime physiotherapist who trained in Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital. They have a five-room house in Los Angeles. Dooley spends his spare time on a victory garden where, besides vegetables, he is raising chickens by the hundred. Last week, having finished his run in Greenwich Village, he sighed with relief and rushed back to his Los Angeles garden. Says he: "I've had to be a lot of man all my life."
* Copyright 1931 by Harms Inc. (used by permission).