Mervyn LeRoy was assigned to direct Warner's next musical extravaganza, Gold Diggers of 1933. He chose me to play the role of Fay Fortune, a fortune-hunting chorine. ... The picture opened with a line of choristers covered in huge silver coins singing "We're in the Money." Harry Warren and Al Dubin of 42nd Street were responsible for the music and lyrics. And Busby Berkeley was again the inventive dance director.
One day on the set, I was handed the opening song and told to learn it by that evening. The scene was to be shot the next day and we had to be up on the number. I pleaded with Malcolm Beelby, the pianist, to forsake his lunch hour to help me learn my lyrics. ... We went into a corner of the sound stage and started to rehearse. After about three hours, I started getting a little slap-happy, so instead of singing the lyrics as they were written, I translated them into pig latin:
Er'way in-hay the oney-may, ...
In the middle of this nonsense, ... Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a man standing at the left of the stage, wearing a porkpie hat, with a big cigar in his mouth. It was Darryl F. Zanuck, Warner's production chief. Immediately, I stopped singing.
"What are you doing?" asked the observer. ...
I knew that I was going to get fired for fooling around on company time, but I did as he asked. I sang the song as it was written, and then lapsed into my pig-latin version.
After I finished, Darryl paused, thinking. Finally, he said, "You tell Mervyn I want you to sing it just like that tomorrow." He walked out with the measured deliberation of a producer.
I repeated the story to Mervyn and he said, "Darryl's right. It's a great way to start the movie." The next day, Mervyn brought in a big crane and started filming from the back of the set. As I sang "We're in the Money," the camera came in slowly for a close-up and the screen was filled with my lips singing the song ... in pig latin! It was a sensational opening.
My Story (1991)