I’ll admit it here, but don’t tell anyone else. I was watching an old Lawrence Welk program dedicated to Irving Berlin. (Hey, it was a rainy day!) I was carefully listening to the lyrics of “The Girl That I Marry” from the 1946 musical Annie Get Your Gun. In context, it is the desires of Frank Butler, Annie Oakley’s heartthrob, describing everything Annie Oakley is not. Unfortunately, the song is usually presented out of context, as in the Lawrence Welk Show, suggesting it is every man’s desire. And this was believable in 1946.
Frank Sinatra recorded a version without mentioning Frank Butler or Annie Oakley.
The singer is listing all of the qualities he demands in the girl he will finally marry, but nowhere does he mention the quality of her putting up with him and tolerating all of his faults.
He seems obsessed with superficial appearances. Take any docile girl, clean her up, dress her in satins and laces, spritz her with perfume, stick a flower in her hair, and he will have the perfect, purring wife—he thinks. Boy, do I have advice for him! Purring gets old fast. Even back in the 1940s, did anyone really think this way? (“Git in that kitchen and rattle those pots and pans!” Shake, Rattle, and Roll)
(He also wants a girl he can carry. This was a teenaged sexual fantasy of mine, but I out-grew it long ago. So should he.)
This is not something to get upset over. It just shows how times have changed and women are no longer perfumed, purring kittens. The song would not fly today.
The girl that I marry will have to be
As soft and as pink as a nursery.
The girl I call my own
Will wear satins and laces and smell of cologne.
Her nails will be polished and, in her hair,
She’ll wear a gardenia and I’ll be there.
`Stead of flittin’, I’ll be sittin’
Next to her, and she’ll purr like a kitten.
A doll I can carry, the girl that I marry must be.