Molly OMorgan (The Irish-Italian Girl)
Fred Godfrey & Will Letters — London: Bert Feldman Melbourne: Stanley Mullen, 1909.
Note: Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) apportions royalty shares as follows: Godfrey (12.5%), “non copyright” (75.0%), B. Feldman & Co. (12.5%)
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The “hook” of this huge success was combining the popular fads for Irish and Italian “ethnic” songs in one multicultural mix — and throwing in the inevitable organ for good measure. Not very politically correct now, but no one minded at the time. One story has it that the song was inspired by a real-life Molly O’Morgan, the daughter of an Irish mother and an Italian father, who, complete with organ, was a street performer in various continental European watering holes in the 1890s. While in Monaco around the turn of the century, she caught the attention of the 71-year-old Duke Medici-Sinelli, who, captivated by her sweet Irish smile and long brown tresses, married her. She ended her life in Hungary in 1929 as the widow Duchess Maria della Casa Medici-Sinelli.1
Ella Retford, above all, put the song over. One venue she did so was the Theatre Royal, Sheffield, where she sang it in the 1909 Christmas pantomime Jack And Jill:
The song is heard in the 1946 British film Gaiety George, starring Richard Greene and Ann Todd, and, somewhat remarkably, Ella Retford’s rendition is used in the 2017 blockbuster Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. English sci-fi and fantasy writer Michael Moorcock also saw fit to include the words of the chorus of Molly O’Morgan in his novel The English Assassin (1972).
——— (Zonophone X-43201, 1909)
Ella Retford (Pathé 8204, 1910; Jumbo 503, 1910; Jumbo A-28096); reissued on LP “Music Hall — Top Of The Bill” (EMI SHB-22, 1980); reissued on 4-CD set “A Night At The Music Hall” (JSP, 2007)
———, in “Ella Retford Songs Medley” (Regal Zonophone MR-205, 1930); reissued on LP “The Greatest Music Hall Bill Ever Assembled” (Music For Pleasure MFP-1146, ca. early 1960s); reissued on cassette “Playing The Halls 1” (Evergreen Melodies EVR9, 1991); reissued on CD “Top Of The Bill” (Pearl PAST CD 9753, 1992)
Harry Fay (The Twin 223, 1910; Columbia-Rena 1254, 1910)
——— as “Fred Vernon” (Clarion 382, 1910) [cylinder]
Band Of H.M. King Edward’s Horse, in “Pick Of The Basket: Popular Songs Of The Day” (Bell Disc 229, ca. 1910; reissued on Edison Bell Velvet Face 1030, ca. 1922)
Radio Concert Orchestra & Chorus, in “Old Time Music Hall Songs” (Mayfair G223, 1931)
Charles “Nat” Star & His Dance Orchestra, in “Communityland” (Sterno 639, 1931)
Arthur Lally & The Million-Aires; Maurice Elwin, vocal, in “Communityland” (Decca F-2570,1931)
The London Orch.; dir. by John Firman; Maurice Elwin, vocal, in “Memoryland” (Zonophone5850, 1931)
International Novelty Orch. (Zonophone 5901, 1931)
Reginald Dixon, in “Communityland” (Regal Zonophone T-6218, 1932)
Selma Mouth-Organ Band, in “Medley Of Old Songs” (Zonophone 6118, 1932)
Sydney Thompson & His Old-Tyme Dance Orchestra, on LP “Take Your Partners, no. 2” (Parlophone PMD-1037, early 1950s)
Glen Daly, on LP “Mr. Glasgow” (Pye NSPL-15062, 1973)
Pasquale & Co. 44-Note Street Piano, on LP “Music Of The Streets: Mechanical Street Entertainment” (Saydisc SDL-340, 1983)
Stage and Film Interpolations
Interpolated by Ella Retford in pantomime Jack And Jill (Theatre Royal, Sheffield, December 1909); by Lilian Drake in pantomime Cinderella (Aquarium Theatre, Yarmouth, January 1910); by Daisy Wood in pantomime The House That Jack Built (Opera House, Cheltenham, February 1910).
Interpolated in films Gaiety George (1946); Wonder Woman (2017).
1 “‘Molly O’Morgan,’ Irish girl whose romance inspired a song,” Nottingham Evening Post, 21 February 1929.