Esther Williams & Ricardo Montalbán – “Baby it’s Cold Outside” From “Neptune’s Daughter”

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I was a young girl when I first heard this song. For many years, I’ve loved it and thought of it as just a cute song. Never did I once think of it as anything else. When I saw this video, I loved it and thought both actors where great. The song just made me imagine it was winter and snowing outside with the wind blowing and ice cycles hanging from trees. Predatory song?! No, I don’t think of the man behaving like a predator. The woman is clearly a strong woman and lets the man know that she is in control of whether she stays or leaves. I love the tune and the original video from “Neptune’s Daughter.”

“Neptune’s Daughter,” is a 1949 musical romantic comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Ricardo Montalbán, Betty Garrett, Keenan Wynn, Xavier Cugat and Mel Blanc. It was directed by Edward Buzzell, and features the Academy Award winning song Baby, It’s Cold Outside by Frank Loesser.

In 1949, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” was used in the movie “Neptune’s Daughter,” where it was performed twice; once with Ricardo Montalban trying to persuade Esther Williams to stay, and again with Betty Garrett trying to detain Red Skelton. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year.

Frank Loesser wrote this song in 1944 for a housewarming party he and his wife were throwing after moving into the Hotel Navarro in New York. Their rendition proved very successful and the couple continued to perform the song at parties they attended in New York and Hollywood. Their son John Loesser recalled to The Palm Beach Post December 7, 2010: “It was something that songwriters did in those days. If you were invited to a party, you were expected to sing for your supper. Oscar Levant, Roger Edens, Harry Warren – they all did it. But the song was a private social piece for parties. My mother just loved both the song and the fact that it was hers. And it kept them in champagne and caviar.”

Eventually, MGM offered Frank Loesser good money for the song, and used it in “Neptune’s Daughter.” However his wife was not impressed. “He went home and told my mother and she was furious,” John recalled to The Palm Beach Post. “You sold our song for Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban!,” she complained to her husband. “I felt as betrayed as if I’d caught him in bed with another woman,” she complained to their children.

For a long time afterwards, Lynn would simply sigh, “Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban!”

This song is a point-counterpoint between a man and a woman, each with very clear goals: She wants to go home, he wants her to stay. In the end, it’s not clear what happens, as they join together to sing the chorus.

The song is generally heard as whimsical fun, but the guy’s persistence is a little troubling. When she asks, “What’s in this drink?” it makes you wonder if he’s trying to get her drunk – or worse.

To keep it from sounding predatory, the female voice in the song is usually a strong one, making it clear that it is her decision.

Several recordings of this song emerged in 1949, the most popular of which was by Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer, backed by the Paul Weston Orchestra. Whiting was a popular singer of the era, but Mercer was better known as a lyricist – he later penned the words to “Moon River.” Their version went to #4 on the Billboard chart that year, but renditions by Dinah Shore & Buddy Clark, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jordan, and Don Cornell & Laura Leslie all charted that year as well.

Oddly, it was the summer of 1949 when the song was hit: Every chart entry happened between May and August. “Neptune’s Daughter,” which popularized it in film, was released that June.

After a wave of recordings in 1949, the song didn’t get much attention until 1957, when Mae West and Rock Hudson performed it in a steamy duet at the Academy Awards ceremony. This induced more covers, including a version by Ray Charles and Betty Carter that went to #62 in the US.

There was only a smattering of new recordings in the ’70s and ’80s, but Bette Midler and James Caan gave it new life when they sang it in the 1991 movie “For The Boys” (it plays over the end credits). Robert Palmer & Carnie Wilson and Vanessa Williams & Bobby Caldwell are some of the ’90s pairings.

In the 2000s, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” found its way onto many Christmas playlists, with the song recorded in every conceivable format. Lady Antebellum hit #103 with their version in 2008, the Glee Cast reached #57 in 2010, and Haley Reinhart & Casey Abrams made #120 in 2011.

This wasn’t considered a holiday song until the ’90s, when it joined songs like “My Favorite Things” and “Winter Wonderland” as Christmas songs that don’t have anything to do with Christmas. Its appearance in Elf, which is very much a Christmas movie, entrenched it as a seasonal favorite.

In 2018, some radio stations, including WDOK in Cleveland, dropped this song in response to the #MeToo movement. Earlier in the year, Bill Cosby was sent to jail, accused of sexual assault by several women who claimed he drugged their drinks. With that story in the headlines, the “hey, what’s in this drink?” line carried a criminal connotation. “Bill Cosby ruined it for everybody,” Frank Loesser’s daughter, Susan, said.

Many stood by the song, which became a political wedge. To show their support, the Louisville, Kentucky radio station WAKY played five different versions for two consecutive hours on December 16, earning plaudits from listeners and lots of free publicity. Some stations that pulled the song, including KOIT in San Francisco and KOSI in Denver, ended up reinstating it after listener backlash.

The controversy earned the song a lot more plays, and on December 22, Dean Martin’s version ranked at #10 on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart.


Song Lyrics –

I really cant stay
(But baby it’s cold outside)
Ive got to go away
(But baby it’s cold outside)
This evening has been
(Been hopin’ that you’d drop in)
So very nice
(Ill hold your hands, they’re just like ice)

My mother will start to worry
(Beautiful, what’s your hurry?)
And father will be pacing the floor
(Listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry
(Beautiful, please don’t hurry)
Well maybe just a half a drink more
(Put some records on while I pour)

The neighbors might think
(Baby, its bad out there)
Say, what’s in this drink?
(No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how
(Your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell
(Ill take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say no, no, no, sir
(Mind if I move in closer)
At least Im gonna say that I tried
(Whats the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay
(Baby don’t hold out)
Ahh, but it’s cold outside

I simply must go
(But baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no
(But baby, it’s cold outside)
This welcome has been
(How lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm
(Look out the window at that storm)

My sister will be suspicious
(Gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door
(Waves upon a tropical shore)
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
(Ooh your lips are delicious)
Well maybe just a cigarette more
(Never such a blizzard before)

Ive got to get home
(But baby, you’ll freeze out there)
Say, lend me a coat
(Its up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand
(I thrilled when you touched my hand)
But don’t you see
(How can you do this thing to me?)

There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
(Think of my life long sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied
(If you caught pneumonia and died)
I really cant stay
(Get over that old out)

Ahhh, but it’s cold outside

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6 thoughts on “Esther Williams & Ricardo Montalbán – “Baby it’s Cold Outside” From “Neptune’s Daughter”

  1. This is a clever song. I never thought about the drink but yea now days it can be twisted into something sinister. I hate when people do this to songs and movies because they didn’t mean that at all when they were written. I don’t have to say that no, I don’t support spiking drinks but…it wasn’t about that. It’s kinda like all of those songs banned after 911 that had nothing to do with it.

    Great post…I knew nothing of that. I always though it was a cute clever song.

    I can’t help it…When I think of Ricardo Montalban…I think of two things. Fantasy Island and Khan from Star Trek

    1. This comment was in my spam. Not sure why, but it sure isn’t now. I have to agree with you, this song wasn’t written and meant to be sinister, but these are the times we live in. This is a very cute song, and I love the way the husband wrote it for he and his wife to sing at their parties. That’s a unique idea and I would have loved to be a fly on the wall.

      1. Today in this PC world you can’t say anything. I don’t believe in being cruel to someone dont get me wrong…but yea everything is taken wrong now…or a lot is