You’ll Find That You’re in the Rotogravure

Hum along while Mark Steyn explains the origins of the only secular Easter song I know…

Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” has its beginnings in a very obscure chin-up song from the Great War written in 1917. In this audio special, Mark traces its origins as a First World War morale booster to its re-emergence a generation later as the American Songbook’s only Easter standard. Along the way, we’ll also explore the long languished tradition of Easter parades, the meaning of the word “rotogravure”, and whether anyone actually could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet.

There are lots of old versions out there; this one is the earliest I could find. Notice that it keeps the original foxtrot cadence:

So were you ever curious about that word “rotogravure”? I was…

And as it turns out, so was Kathy Shaidle according to her comment left on Mark Steyn:

When we were learning this song in grade school, the teacher stumbled over the word “rotogravure” and said something like, “Whatever that means.” So I told her. I was THAT kid…

Yeah, I knew it, too; but then so did my 5th-grade teacher. I was motivated to look up the word because Irving Berlin’s ability to make that internal rhyme in the song struck me as wickedly creative. Who else could manage to mate “you’re” and “rotogravure”? A genius, I tell you. I’d love to have spent a few minutes in his brain when he was composing.

It took way too long to find a version of the lyrics which included the introductory verse:

Never saw you look quite so pretty before
Never saw you dressed quite so lovely, what’s more
I could hardly wait to keep our date this lovely Easter morning
And my heart beat fast as I came through the door.

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.

On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.

Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.

Happy Easter, everybody — and happy Palm Sunday to the Orthodox Christians.

12 thoughts on “You’ll Find That You’re in the Rotogravure

  1. rotogravure was how multi-color, then full colour, printing was done. The full color Sunday newspaper magazine was called a ‘roto’ for short. Of course if you have multi-colored plumbing clogs you would call ‘roto’-rooter.

  2. In a nutshell, rotagravures are those ‘brown’ photos in the newspaper supplement showing the society folks going about their 1920’s pleasures.

    • Maybe they were faded to brown by the time you saw them. When new, they had more color but were often kind of smudgy and out-of-focus.

  3. Just perfect. Brought back a thousand memories. While perusing the illustrated record label I noticed that the vocal was by Clifton Webb. THAT Clifton Webb, I wonder?

  4. Rotogravure. My first job was in a plastics company where we made plastic bags for bread, nappies and frozen foods. We used to print them using two different systems, rotogravure and flexograph. Roto gravure had each colour etched in the surface of a metal cylinder. There were about 4 cylinders, one for each colour and they built up a colour image on a substrate (plastic). there was one cylinder for cyan, yellow, magenta and ? The ink was transferred onto the metal etched roller using a rubber sheathed transfer roller. This ink then transferred onto the substrate as the roller turned. Then it went to be printed with the next colour. If the rollers weren’t lined up properly you couldn’t get a proper image, it was like shadows as each image of a different colour didn’t line up. We called this out of register. Before printing on the plastic we had to treat it with static electricity to roughen the surface so the ink would “key”/stick. I don’t think there is much printing here any more except newspapers and magazines and I think they’re probably flexographic as it’s cheaper as the rubber plates are cheap to make.

  5. Curious how many American singers and actors of the period affected an “English” accent; maybe they though it added claass?

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