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"Anna Christie"


Old Chris, Anna Christie's father, sings his favorite tune "My Yosephine" four times in the play.  The song survived through two versions of the play and the sound film starring Greta Garbo.  It was composed by "Lefty" Louis, a bartender at one of O'Neill's early hangouts, The Golden Swan Saloon, nicknamed "The Hell Hole" by its patrons.  On December 2, 1919, O'Neill wrote to his wife Agnes, who had been concerned that using the song might involve the payment of royalties, that "Lefty" was

tremendously elated.  Also, to my astonishment, he swears—(and I believe him)—that Josephine is his own stuff, a song he made up when he was singing in a tough Wop cabaret—"my own bulls—t" he explains proudly.  That it is to be heard on Broadway is a great event in his life.  He offers, as soon as rehearsals start, to go up for a couple of hours every morning to instruct Corrigan how to sing it—without desiring pay for his services!  All he wants is two seats to take his girl to surprise her with his song—on Broadway!  This little incident of the song seems to me quite touching in a way.  Don't you think so?  And quite characteristic.  It sounds rock-bottom and I think all the hours seemingly wasted in the H[ell] H[ole] would be justified if they had resulted in only this.

"Lefty" never heard the actor Emmett Corrigan sing the song on Broadway, for the play , then entitled Chris Christophersen, closed out of town.  He may, however, have heard it when the successfully rewritten play, "Anna Christie," opened in 1921 with George Marion replacing Corrigan.  Since the words are the same in all versions, there is no reason to assume that Lefty's tune was not used in "Anna Christie" or that the song was changed when Marion took up the role again in the Greta Garbo sound film.

Chris—Ay yust come ashore.  Give us drink, Larry.  Ay vas a little drunk, not much.  Yust feel good.  (He laughs and commences to sing in a nasal high-pitched quaver....  He waves his hand as if he were conducting an orchestra.)  [I, 961-1; 965, 967, 993; cf. Chris Christophersen, I, 802, 808, 813, 826, 841, 889]

My Yosephine - words and music by "Lefty" Louis


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