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'Downton Abbey' pays homage to Jerome Kern musical

February 14, 2012 |  1:10 pm


"Downton Abbey" introduced the phonograph to the aristocratic Crawley household in Sunday's episode of the popular Masterpiece Classic series on PBS. The newfangled technology horrifies Violet, the Dowager Countess, but the younger members of the family are instantly enamored -- perhaps none more so than Lady Mary and her distant cousin Matthew, who turn up the volume to share a romantic dance and clandestine kiss.

In the scene, the song playing on the phonograph is "Look for the Silver Lining," penned by Jerome Kern, from the 1919 musical "Zip Goes a Million."  As Matthew indicates, the musical was a flop. "We were a show that flopped," sighs Lady Mary. 

Their rapturous kiss is interrupted by Lavinia Swire, Matthew's fiancée.

The song was written by Kern, with lyrics by B.G. DeSylva. "Zip Goes a Million" debuted in 1919 and was indeed a failure. (An article that ran in Britain's Daily Mail suggests the use of the song in the episode was slightly anachronistic.)

"Look for the Silver Lining" eventually became a popular number. It was repurposed in the musical "Sally" and has been performed by numerous singers since then.

This isn't the first time that "Downton Abbey" has pulled from the early 20th century songbook.

Earlier this season, Lady Mary and her sister, Edith, put down their swords to perform for war invalids convalescing at Downton. The song they performed was "If You Were the Only Girl (In the World)," by  Nat D. Ayer, with lyrics by Clifford Grey.

The song was featured in the 1916 musical revue "The Bing Boys Are Here."


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Photo: Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery in a scene from "Downton Abbey." Credit: Masterpiece Classic / PBS