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"the lady in red"

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 07, 2006

In Reply to: "The lady in red" posted by richard on February 03, 2006

: "the lady in red" what is the meaning? I know it occurs in a song, seems to refer to a prostitute or more accurately a home wrecker, perhaps an ambitious one? could its origins be in a play or opera?

The original "lady in red" was, I believe, the one that was John Dillinger's last (of course) girl friend, Polly Hamilton. She went with him to the movies, but not before telling the police where they were going. When they emerged from the Biograph theater, that day in 1934, the police were waiting for Dillinger and shot him dead.

The 1979 movie, The Lady in Red, retells this story, with Pamela Sue Martin, as Polly, shedding much of her Nancy Drew image.

There's a song by Paul Cavin and Chris de Burgh, which I think was part of the movie. A vigorous instrumental arrangement of it can be played on the Web.

Since then every woman who favors red dresses, or is so dressed when captured in a dramatic venue on film, is likely to be called a Lady in Red. One such was Nancy Reagan, who favored red dresses, as did Hillary for a while. Recently a woman named Rachel Brand was photographed in a bright red dress at the Alito hearings, and voila, a Lady in Red.

There's another Lady in Red song, which can also be heard on the Net (see the URL below). It is there treated as an Irish song and sung with an Irish accent. It was sung as a college song at my school, to the tune of "She was just a poor man's daughter." Our version differed a bit from the one on the Net, so I'll render our collegiate version.

'Twas a cold winter's evening,
The guests were all leaving,
O'Leary was closing the bar,
When he turned round and said
To the lady in red,
"Get out, you can't stay where you are!"

She shed a sad tear in her bucket of beer
As she thought of the cold night ahead,
When a gentleman dapper stepped out of the crapper
And these are the words that he said:

"Her mother never told her
The things a young girl should know,
About the ways of college men
And how they come and go.
Age has taken her beauty,
Sin has left its sad scar,
But remember your sisters and mothers, boys,
And let her sleep under the bar."