Wise Guy (musical)

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Wise Guy, which had at different points the working titles (in approximate order) The Last Resorts, Palm Beach, The Mizner Story, and Sentimental Guy, is a musical whose music and lyrics were written by Irving Berlin between 1952 and 1956. It has never been produced.

The subject of the musical is Berlin's deceased friend, the famous Florida architect Addison Mizner, to a lesser extent Addison's younger brother and sometimes partner Wilson, and their friends and clients. Berlin had been an investor in Mizner's visionary but ultimately ruinous Boca Raton project,[1]:139–140, 144[2] and there had been talk (but no serious plans) of Berlin setting up a nightclub in Boca Raton.[1]:145

The Last Resorts (1952)[edit]

Berlin's first, 1952 attempt to write a musical about the Mizners was called The Last Resorts, with an alternate title Palm Beach. It was "apparently based on Cleveland Amory's 1952 book, Last Resorts",[3]:53 and was written "with Amory".[4]:10 The Irving Berlin archives at the Library of Congress contains a synopsis of Act I, and lyrics for the following songs:

  • Sittin' in the sun (counting my money) - also intended for White Christmas (1954), but not used[3]:185
  • The snobs on the wrong side of the track
  • The top 400 people.[3]:53

This project was set side.

Wise Guy (1956)[edit]

The project was reactivated after the 1953 publication of Alva Johnston's The Legendary Mizners (in England, The Incredible Mizners).[5] Berlin worked with playwright S. N. Behrman on the project, also called Sentimental Guy and The Mizner Story; it was to have starred José Ferrer.[4]:10

Recorded songs from the musical[edit]

These songs are all featured on the album Unsung Irving Berlin and were unearthed from Berlin's files by the producer of the album, Bruce Kimmel. "Sentimental Guy" was sung by Laurie Beechman and "You're a Sucker for a Dame" was sung by Guy Haines.

You're a Sentimental Guy[edit]

This song was written in December of 1956.[4]:4 "Since Wise Guy's original title had been Sentimental Guy, this may be an example of the title song that gets cut when the name of a musical is changed."[4]:4 It was published in sheet music form in 1996.[6] The lyrics compare life on Broadway with Westchester County ("Yonkers").

You're a sentimental guy
It's a charge that you'll deny
But a song of home and mother
In a pinch could make you cry
And it seems my nat'ral bent
Is to love a sentimental guy

You can always knock them dead
With some clever thing you've said
But your heart is not in tune with
What is running through your head
And I'm perfectly content
Just to love a sentimental guy

You think you're the type for Broadway
You prowl it from night till dawn
You really belong in Yonkers
With a garden and a lawn

Tho' I never heard you say
In the ordinary way
That you're simply wild about me
But I know there'll come a day
When my evenings will be spent
With a very sentimental guy

You're as wrong as you can be
In your estimate of me
When the rent for my apartment
Is delayed a month or three
If some tears will save the rent
I'm a very sentimental guy

When I'm speaking soft and low
To a copper that I know
Who is taking in a pal
And I would like him to let go
If a sob will get consent
I'm a very sentimental guy

I melt with the breath of springtime
When grass starts to green the lawn
I get very sentimental
As I take my coat to pawn

So you think and so you say
In your clever sort of way
But I know it won't be long before
There'll come that happy day
When my evenings will be spent
With a very sentimental guy

You're a Sucker for a Dame[edit]

You know the big percentage in roulette
And that is why you never place a bet
You've talked to sev'ral horses that have won
And once or twice you knew who'd win before the race was run
You know what's coming when the cards are cut
You're onto each and ev'ry racket, but

You're a sucker for a dame
The pucker of a dame will make you jump
Just like a chump

When you gaze into her eyes
The springs that make you wise refuse to work
And you're a jerk

I've seen you playing poker with three aces
A hand of which you're very, very fond
You knew that your opponent had three deuces
But it happened your opponent was a blonde

So you just threw your cards away
And thought about the day when you became
A sucker for a dame

You're a softy for a dame
You're lofty till a dame sets out her traps
Then you collapse

You can hold your own with guys
But when a lady's eyes begin to pop
You blow your top

You're selling real estate that's under water
The deal is set, you're riding on a crest
The customer comes in to sign the papers
In a sweater and a shelf upon her chest

So you just tore your papers up
And took her out to sup, then you became
A sucker for a dame
A sucker for a dame

Go Home and Tell It to your Wife[edit]

This 1957 comedy duet was originally meant to be sung by Perry Como and Mary Martin "in a television spectacular modeled after the Irving Berlin Music Box Reviews." That project fell through. It was also intended at one point for Wise Guy.[4]:8

You can't do this to me, you can't do this to me
I've given you the best years of my life
You can't put on your hat, walk out and leave me flat
-Go home tonight and tell it to your wife

You can't do this to me, you can't do this to me
I'm hurt, we haven't even had a row
You can't give me the air and end this love affair
-Go home tonight and tell it to your frau

I guess that you've forgotten those wonderful nights
Remember, in this country, a husband has rights

You can't do this to me, you can't do this to me
Remember that a home is not a house
You can't say that we're through with all I've done for you
-Go home tonight and tell it to your spouse


  1. ^ a b Curl, Donald W. (1992). Mizner's Florida. Florida Resort Architecture. The Architectural History Foundation and the MIT Press. ISBN 0262530686. First published 1984
  2. ^ Boca Raton Historical Society. "Mizner's Dream: The Built and the Unbuilt". Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Music Division, Library of Congress (2004). "Irving Berlin Collection" (PDF). Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Sheffer, Isaiah (1995). Unsung Irving Berlin. Varèse Sarabande Records.
  5. ^ Johnston, Alva (2012). The Legendary Mizners. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 9781466807983.
  6. ^ Berlin, Irving (1996). Unsung Irving Berlin. Irving Berlin Music, distributed by Hal Leonard. ISBN 9780793565597.