8/29/13 - simply love her

In today's encore selection -- from Alan Jay Lerner, partner and co-writer with Frederick Loewe of Camelot, My Fair Lady, Gigi and other plays -- an encore selection we often retrieve from the archives at this time of year. Here Lerner explains the painfully poignant lyrics of the Camelot song 'How To Handle a Woman', sung by King Arthur at a point when he is both lost and soon to lose his wife Guinevere to his most loyal knight, Lancelot:

"By the middle of the first act, Guinevere has met Lancelot and has begun behaving in a manner that is to Arthur both perplexing and maddening. Alone on stage, he musically soliloquizes his confusion and out of desperation resolves it for himself in an uncomplicated reaffirmation of love in a song called 'How to Handle a Woman.' I had had that idea for two or three years, but I cannot claim sole inspiration for it. My silent partner was Erich Maria Remarque [author of All Quiet on the Western Front].

"He had just married an old friend of mine, Paulette Goddard, all woman, magnificently distributed, as feminine as she is female. One night when we were having dinner, I said to Erich (not seriously): 'How do you get along with this wild woman?' He replied: 'Beautifully. There is never an argument.' 'Never an argument?' I asked incredulously. 'Never,' he replied. 'We will have an appointment one evening, and she charges into the room crying, 'Why aren't you ready? You always keep me waiting. Why do you ...?!' I look at her with astonishment and say, 'Paulette! Who did your hair? It's absolutely ravishing.' She says, 'Really? Do you really like it?' 'Like it?' I reply. 'You're a vision. Let me see the back.' By the time she has made a pirouette her fury is forgotten. Another time she turns on me in rage about something, and before a sentence is out of her mouth I stare at her and say breathlessly, 'My God! You're incredible. You get younger every day.' She says, 'Really, darling?' 'Tonight,' I say, 'you look eighteen years old.' And that is the end of her rage.'

"I was as amused as I was admiring and I said to him: 'Erich, one day I will have to write a song about that.' The song was 'How to Handle a Woman' which ends:

"The way to handle a woman is to love her,
Simply love her; merely love her,
Love her, love her."


Alan Jay Lerner


The Street Where I Live


W.W. Norton & Company


Copyright 1978 by Alan Jay Lerner


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