Although he is not well known today, songwriter Herman "Dodo" Hupfeld scored a number of successes in the early 1930's, including the immortal standard "As Time Goes By."
Hupfeld was born into a musical New Jersey family in 1894. As a child, Hupfeld studied violin in Germany. Later he was a member of the United States Navy Band, where he played saxophone. As a young man Hupfeld penned the Princeton fight song "Here Comes That Tiger" but did not have a string of songwriting successes until the early 1930's. Hupfeld rarely performed in public and only recorded once, playing the piano and singing with Victor Young and his Orchestra on two performances of obscure original songs from 1932 -- "Goopy Geer (He Plays Piano And He Plays By Ear)" and "Down The Old Back Road."
Hupfeld's first wide commercial success was a novelty song entitled "When Yuba Plays The Rhumba On The Tuba." Here is the Ben Selvin Orchestra recording as The Knickerbockers in June 1931 playing "Yuba." The vocalsit is the prolific Dick Robertson:
In 1931, Hupfeld was asked to write a song for the Broadway Show Everybody's Welcome. Hupfeld did this often; he never wrote a complete Broadway or film score, but contributed many individual songs to shows and musical films when requested by producers and directors. For Everybody's Welcome, Hupfeld wrote a song called "As Time Goes By." Rudy Vallee and Jacques Renard both recorded it. The song failed to chart in 1931 and was soon forgotten. Here is Rudy Vallee's 1931 recording of "As Time Goes By," which includes the song's lovely verse:
Vallee greatly admired Hupfeld, and immediately jumped on Hupfeld's sentimental 1932 song "Let's Put Out The Lights And Go To Sleep." With Hupfeld's permission, Vallee used the song for years as the signing-off theme for his regular radio broadcasts. Here is Rudy Vallee's own version of the song:
Hupfeld's next hit, "Are You Makin' Any Money," came from the score of Universal's low-budget 1933 musical Moonlight and Pretzels. Our version is provided by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra, with an appealing vocal by Ramona Davies. Listen for a brief trumpet solo by Bunny Berigan:
Another 1933 musical film, Take A Chance, was the source for our final 1930's Hupfeld hit, the eerie "Night Owl." Cliff Edwards recorded the song in October 1933, reprising his performance of it in the film:
By 1935 Hupfeld had made enough money to build a spacious residence in his hometown of Montclaire, New Jersey. He never married, and lived quietly in his Montclaire estate by himself, all but certain that the changing times ushered in by the Swing Era and a new World War had effectively ended his career as a hit songwriter.
Then by chance, the producers of the 1943 Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman drama Casablanca decided to revive his long-forgotten 1931 hit "As Time Goes By." They also chose a then-relatively unknown African American entertainer named Dooley Wilson to perform the song in the film. Wilson's relaxed, sympathetic vocal, accompanied only by his own piano, became an immediate sensation. But Casablanca was released in the midst of the long musician's strike of 1942 - 1944, which meant that no contemporary recordings of the song could be made. So Victor and Decca (which owned the catalog of Brunswick recordings made before the end of 1931) dug into their vaults and reissued their rather dated (by 1943 standards) recordings of the songs. Suddenly, Herman Hupfeld became a household name again.
He made radio and stage appearances, played the piano and sang his songs, and entertained the troops. After WWII ended and the allure of Casablanca was replaced by other hit motion pictures, Hupfeld retired once again to Montclair, New Jersey, and to the life of seclusion that he so fondly enjoyed. He died there in 1951 at the age of 55.