"The Way You Look To-night[1]"
Single by Fred Astaire
B-side"Pick Yourself Up"
PublishedJuly 24, 1936[1] by Chappell & Co.[2][3]
ReleasedAugust 1936
RecordedJuly 26, 1936[4]
StudioLos Angeles, California
GenreJazz, Popular Music
LabelBrunswick 7717[5]
Composer(s)Jerome Kern
Lyricist(s)Dorothy Fields
Fred Astaire singles chronology
"A Fine Romance"
"The Way You Look To-night[1]"
"Never Gonna Dance"
"The Way You Look Tonight"
Single by The Lettermen
from the album A Song for Young Love
B-side"That's My Desire"
ReleasedJune 13, 1961
StudioCapitol (Hollywood)
GenrePop, Easy listening
LabelCapitol 4586
The Lettermen singles chronology
"The Way You Look Tonight"
"When I Fall in Love"

"The Way You Look To-night" is a song from the film Swing Time that was performed by Fred Astaire and composed by Jerome Kern with lyrics written by Dorothy Fields. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936.[6][7] Fields remarked, "The first time Jerry played that melody for me I went out and started to cry. The release absolutely killed me. I couldn't stop, it was so beautiful."[8]

In the movie, Astaire sang "The Way You Look To-night" to Ginger Rogers while she was washing her hair in an adjacent room.[6] Astaire's recording was a top seller in 1936. Other versions that year were by Guy Lombardo and Teddy Wilson with Billie Holiday.[5]

Composition and publication

The song was sung by Fred Astaire in the 1936 film Swing Time in the key of D major,[9] but it is typically performed in E-flat major with a modulation to G-flat major.[10]

It was first copyrighted on March 17, 1936 as "Way (The) you look to-night; song from I won't dance", and was unpublished ("I Won't Dance" was a song from the 1935 film Roberta by Kern and Fields). The next copyright on July 24, 1936 was from Swing Time and was published. Both were renewed in 1963.[1]

Contemporary recordings

Fred Astaire recorded "The Way You Look To-night" in Los Angeles on July 26, 1936.[11] Bing Crosby and his wife Dixie Lee recorded the song as a duet on August 19.[12]

To take advantage of the song's success, pianist Teddy Wilson brought Billie Holiday into a studio 10 weeks after the film Swing Time was released. Holiday was 21 when she recorded "The Way You Look Tonight" with a small group led by Wilson in October 1936.

A number of British dance bands also made contemporary cover recordings of the song: Ambrose (with vocals by Sam Browne), Roy Fox (with vocals by Denny Dennis), Tommy Kinsman, Harry Roy, Carroll Gibbons and the Savoy Hotel Orpheans (vocal by George Melachrino) and Jay Wilbur (with vocals by Sam Costa).[13]

Cover versions


The Lettermen

Chart (1961) Peak
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 36
US Billboard Hot 100 13
US Billboard Easy Listening[14] 3


Frank Sinatra

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[15] Silver 200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also


  1. ^ "The way you look to-night / words by Dorothy Fields ; music by Jerome Kern". The Morgan Library & Museum. 2021-07-09. Retrieved 2021-09-13.
  2. ^ Limited, Alamy. "Stock Photo - Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers 1930's Cover Sheet music 'SWING TIME' for the song "The Way You Look Tonight," with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. It was". Alamy. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  3. ^ "BRUNSWICK 78rpm numerical listing discography: 7500 - 8000". www.78discography.com. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  4. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories, 1890–1954. Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 604. ISBN 0-89820-083-0.
  5. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19 ed.). London: Guinness World Records. p. 134. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  6. ^ Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 449–451. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  7. ^ Wilk, Max (1997). They're Playing Our Song: Conversations with America's Classic Songwriters (1st Da Capo Press ed.). Da Capo Press. p. 56. ISBN 0-306-80746-7.
  8. ^ "The Way You Look Tonight". Musicnotes.com. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  9. ^ "The Way You Look Tonight". Jazzstandards.com. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  10. ^ Rust, Brian (1973). The complete entertainment discography, from the mid-1890s to 1942. Allen G. Debus. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House. ISBN 0-87000-150-7. OCLC 700684.
  11. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  12. ^ Rust, Brian (1987). British dance bands on record 1911 to 1945. Sandy Forbes. Harrow: General Gramaphone Publications. ISBN 0-902470-15-9. OCLC 17951884.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 144.
  14. ^ "British single certifications – Frank Sinatra – The Way You Look Tonight". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 20 October 2023.