Pulitzer Prize-winning songwriter Frank Loesser is celebrated around the world for his Golden Age Broadway classics GUYS & DOLLS and HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, among others, yet it is his ubiquitous holiday tune "Baby, It's Cold Outside" that is perhaps his most recognizable contribution to the Great American Songbook. Originally composed as a coyly winking party song in 1944 to be performed alongside his wife, Lynn Garland, as a nudging notice to guests to pack up and brave the elements for the evening, Loesser received the 1949 Academy Award for Best Song when the composition was eventually included in the hit movie musical NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER.
In 2018, the holiday standard has received considerable controversy regarding its lyrical content and characterological intentions, but is it justified?
Originally composed to be performed by characters named Wolf and Mouse, in NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is enacted by a quartet made up of two couples - the first, portrayed by Ricardo Montalban and Esther Williams, and, the second, played by Betty Garrett and Red Skelton. In the first half, Montalban attempts to seduce Williams to stay and enjoy another libation due to the brutal conditions just outside the door, whereas in the second, the roles are reversed and Garrett attempts to entice Skelton to stay a while longer. Although the song is traditionally performed in the Wolf/Mouse mold, it is instructive to note that its original intention was a twist on common conventions of the time, with the woman becoming the aggressor as opposed to the man. Viewing it through a 2018 #MeToo lens, it was remarkably progressive and innovative for its time, actually, making the current controversy even more curious.
Following outcry from social justice warriors and the Twitter mob over the last several weeks, the song has been pulled by several radio stations and has suddenly become a controversial entity, with arguments against it largely leaning upon the lyric extolling, "What's in this drink?" In 1949, the term merely meant that the drink was strong, not that it contained anything lurid or nefarious. Furthermore, the context of the song as originally presented in NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER makes a strong case for it actually being a startlingly progressive and even liberating illustration of then-standard gender roles and the reverse.
Although many will undoubtedly argue against the dated references to drinking and cigarettes, not to mention the mischievously lascivious intentions expressed, there is little doubt that the song was and is nothing more than a playful party song with no ill intent meant at all. Looking any further into its meaning, one realizes that objecting to its content is outright overreaction and misguided misunderstanding. One need look no further than the original film for proof.
View the original "Baby, It's Cold Outside" from NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER below.