Indian Love Call

"Indian Love Call" (first published as "The Call") is a popular song from Rose-Marie, a 1924 operetta-style Broadway musical with music by Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart, and book and lyrics by Otto Harbach and Oscar Hammerstein II.[1] Originally written for Mary Ellis,[2] the song achieved continued popularity under other artists and has been called Friml's best-remembered work.

Indian love call poster from the movie Rose Marie (1954 film)

The play takes place within the Canadian Rocky Mountains and features the sonorous tune in the overture and in Act One while the love interests call to each other per a supposed Aboriginal Canadian legend about how men would call down into the valley to the girls they wished to marry.[1][3] In most (or all) versions of Rose-Marie, including the best-known movie version, the tune is reprised several times throughout the narrative.[4]


The musical was the longest running musical of the 1920s, enjoyed international success, and became the basis of four films with the same title.[1] As the musical's biggest hit,[5] "Indian Love Call" outlived its origins. The New York Times described the song as being among those Rudolf Friml songs that became "household staples" in their era.[2] The song was said to have been a favorite of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.[5]

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald versionEdit

"Indian Love Call (Also The Call)"
Song by Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald
PublishedSeptember 2, 1924 Harms, Inc., New York[6]
Genrepop, folk
Composer(s)Rudolf Friml, Herbert Stothart
Lyricist(s)Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II

When Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald performed the song as a duet in the 1936 film version of Rose Marie, it was a hit that remained a signature song for the two singers throughout their careers.[1][7][8] As featured in the 1936 film version, Nelson Eddy as Sergeant Bruce and Jeanette MacDonald as Rose Marie are alone by a lakeside campfire. They hear a distant and haunting call across the lake, which Bruce tells her is "just an Indian". They listen and hear in the distance a mysterious feminine voice make its reply. The rest of the scene has been summarized thus:

It is an old Indian legend, he tells her. Years ago two lovers from different tribes met here. Their families were enemies, sort of a Romeo and Juliet affair. They were discovered and sentenced to die, but their spirits still live. When a lover gives the call, their spirits echo it, sending it on until it reaches the one he loves. Rose Marie is moved by the beauty of it. She stands at the edge of the lake and gives the haunting call. Sergeant Bruce takes it up and sings the classic "Indian Love Call".[4]

That same night, after Rose Marie has gone to her tent, she hums the song while beside the campfire and Sergeant Bruce quietly hums the response. In a dramatic moment later in the play, after Sergeant Bruce rides off on his horse to arrest Rose Marie's brother for murder, she sings "Indian Love Call" in an attempt to summon him back. Still later, as Rose Marie performs the last act of Puccini's Tosca, she hears the voice of Bruce singing "Indian Love Call". Finally, she "hits a perfect high note and collapses in the middle of the stage".[4]

Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald's recording of "Indian Love Call" (with "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life" from Naughty Marietta on the B-side) sold over a million copies,[4] was included in the 1974 compilation film That's Entertainment!, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.[9] It was the only song from the stage score that MacDonald recorded, although Eddy recorded a number of songs from Rose Marie, including a different version of "Indian Love Call" performed as a duet with Dorothy Kirsten.[4]

Plugging into the popularity of the Eddy and MacDonald version of this song and attempting to avoid confusion with the 1954 remake of Rose Marie, the 1936 version of the movie was broadcast on television under the title Indian Love Call.[4][10]

Other versionsEdit

Use in popular cultureEdit

  • The 1996 sci-fi comedy film Mars Attacks! uses a recording of Whitman's version to kill off the aliens by way of their brains full of green goo exploding as a crucial deus ex machina.[20]
  • At one of Mary Martin's first auditions in Hollywood, she announced her intention to sing "in my soprano voice, a song you probably don't know, 'Indian Love Call'". After her singing the song, "a tall, craggly man who looked like a mountain" told Martin that he thought she had something special and told her, "Oh, and by the way, I know that song. I wrote it." The man was Oscar Hammerstein and the event marked the start of her career.[21]
  • Spike Jones performed a characteristically zany interpretation of this song on The Spike Jones Show.[22]
  • In the 1976–1977 first season of the Muppet Show, the muppets Wayne and Wanda performed a short (0:32) duet of this song.[23][24]
  • Rainier Beer of Seattle, Washington, spoofed the song in 1977 for their commercial campaign, featuring Mickey Rooney and his wife, Jan, in costume. Two versions were released: one, where Rooney blindly pours a beer into a glass held by Jan at the commercial's end; and another, where the beer is poured blindly down Jan's cleavage.[25]
  • When Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie performed this song as an opening number at a Valentine's Day 2009 performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Washington Post described how "Mazzie trilled 'Indian Love Call' from the stage, Danieley crooned in return, traipsing down the Terrace Theater aisle as if struck by Cupid's arrow."[26]
  • The first verse is sung by an offscreen narrator in Nickelodeon's 1995 television special Oh, Brother featuring Stick Stickly, who seeks his twin brother in New York City.
  • Brendan Fraser and Sarah Jessica Parker performed a version of the song in the 1999 film Dudley Do-Right.
  • The song was spoofed on Sesame Street as "I'm in Love with U" and "Maiden Love."

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Bloom, Ken and Vlastnik, Frank. Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of all Time. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York, 2004. ISBN 1-57912-390-2
  2. ^ a b New York Times: Rudolf Friml, Beyond 'Indian Love Call'
  3. ^ New York City Theatre: The Imperial Theatre
  4. ^ a b c d e f Rose Marie ( Archived February 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b Juilliard Journal Online (September 2004)
  6. ^ Library of Congress. Copyright Office. (1924). Catalog of Copyright Entries, 1924 Musical Compositions New Series Vol 19 Part 3. United States Copyright Office. U.S. Govt. Print. Off.
  7. ^ All Media Guide: Indian Love Call
  8. ^ The New York Times (Monday, February 3, 2003)
  9. ^ 2008 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Inductees
  10. ^ IMDb: Rose-Marie (1936)
  11. ^ Notable Biographies: Artie Shaw
  12. ^ Alicia Leschper. "LOWERY, FRED". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  13. ^ All Music Guide: Stringin' Along with Chet Atkins
  14. ^ All Music Guide: Slim Whitman Biography
  15. ^ "SLIM WHITMAN | Artist | Official Charts". UK Chart Archive. Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  16. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 151. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  17. ^ The Dream Duet at Discogs (list of releases)
  18. ^ Gloria Lynne (
  19. ^ Buechner CD Gets Rave Reviews[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Mancini, Mark (March 24, 2017). "10 Invasive Facts About Mars Attacks!". Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  21. ^ Martin, Mary (1976). My Heart Belongs. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03009-2.(pp. 58–59)
  22. ^ All Music Guide: The Best of Spike Jones, Vol. 2
  23. ^ TV Guide
  24. ^ The Cape Radio (used for length of Muppet duet)
  25. ^ "Mickey Rooney 1977 Rainier Beer Commercial". YouTube.
  26. ^ The Washington Post: For Valentine's Day, a Pair Of Songbirds at Kennedy Center