A Bootleg Betty Exclusive
The missing lyrics: “I Put My Hand In” from Hello, Dolly! For now, Bette’s extra verse can only be heard on Broadway
BY TODD SUSSMAN
July 22, 2017
By golly, Miss Dolly…say it isn’t so. For the complete version of Bette Midler‘s vocal performance of her opening number, “I Put My Hand In,” you have to see Hello, Dolly! live at the Shubert Theatre. The song quickly introduces Dolly Levi as the meddlesome matchmaker who gets the job done, and lucky ticket holders get to hear the entire song with all of composer Jerry Herman’s verses. However, for owners of the cast CD, it’s another story. That’s because the final verse of the song has been omitted for the recording. On the CD, the song ends with this verse:
I put my hand in here
I twist a little, stir a little
Him a little, her a little
Shape a little, mold a little
Some poor chap gets sold a little
When I use my fist a little
Some young bride gets kissed a little
Pressure with the thumbs
When, I put my hand in there.
In the show, Bette follows up that verse with a heartfelt, spoken plea to her dearly departed Ephraim. She is looking for a sign to move on with her life – hoping to find the two divine M’s (marriage and money). Following her request, she reprises the song with these final lyrics:
For when my little pinky wiggles
Some young maiden gets the giggles
Then I make my knuckles active
“My” he says “She’s so attractive.”
Then I move my index digit
And they both begin to fidget
Then I clench my palm
The preacher reads a psalm
When I put my hand in there!
On Broadway, Bette “acts out” the lyrics with matching finger movements – hand choreography that would make even Celine Dion jealous. And her nine extra vocal lines drive home Dolly’s special matchmaking powers. With the new cast recording’s running time of just under 50 minutes, there would have been room to include the brief “I Put My Hand In” reprise. So I went back and listened to the Carol Channing original cast CD from 1964 and guess what. The verse does not appear there either. However, three decades later, on the Broadway revival cast CD, Channing’s vocal with the extra verse remains intact.
In 2003, the original cast CD was also re-issued in a deluxe collector’s edition digipak with bonus tracks, and one of those tracks is Mary Martin’s version of “I Put My Hand In” from the 1965 London cast recording. That one also contains the “bonus” verse! In both Channing’s 1994 revival and Martin’s 1965 London version, the spoken plea does not appear; the music simply and seamlessly segues into the final vocal. Completists may wonder about the Pearl Bailey 1967 cast CD. Nope, no extra verse there.
By the way, there’s an entire musical number not included on any of the cast recordings: “The Contest.” It’s an Act II instrumental that sets music to the special dance contest taking place at the Harmonia Gardens, where Ermengarde and Ambrose – hey, those would make good names for pet cats, but I digress – are hoping to win the prize money. “The Contest” instrumental contains a rollicking portion of “I Put My Hand In,” cleverly (if subtly) tying the scene back into Act I.
While it may be “the little song that could,” when Barbra Streisand signed on to star in the big screen version of Hello, Dolly! in the late 1960s, “I Put My Hand In” was pulled out, and a new song written just for Miss Barbra was added in. The song: “Just Leave Everything To Me.” According to the composer (from the book, Jerry Herman: The Lyrics), “Barbra asked for a new opening number and mentioned that she loved singing ‘list songs’ with lots of complicated lyrics. That’s all I had to hear. And boy, was it wonderfully sung.” However, “I Put My Hand In” was not totally gone. Its introductory verse, “I have always been a woman who arranges things…” remained as the opening verse for “Just Leave Everything To Me.”
Interestingly, there was speculation in advance of the Midler/Dolly previews that Bette would perform “Just Leave Everything To Me” in the Broadway revival. When she started to sing, “I have always been a woman…” at the Shubert, many a baby boomer who grew up on Barbra’s film but missed Carol Channing’s characterization may have momentarily thought Bette was indeed starting to sing the song written especially for Barbra. Alas, with Jerry Herman’s ingenious songwriting skills, it is nice to have both songs available for the listening ear.
Maybe one day we will get a deluxe CD of Bette’s Dolly performance, with the entire version of “I Put My Hand In,” dialogue from the show, and additional instrumentals (including the gorgeous exit music). Until then, let’s be thankful for what we have.