“How Long Has This Been Going On?” was originally written as a duet by George and Ira Gershwin for a Broadway show called Smarty. It was a song for Adele Astaire and Jack Buchanan on the occasion of their first kiss. According to lyricist Ira Gershwin in his book Lyrics on Several Occasions, the musical received a lukewarm reception at the Philadelphia preview. Two weeks later the song was dropped from the show and replaced by “He Loves and She Loves” (“not as good a song as the former,” says Gershwin, “but one that managed to get over.”) In his book Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist Philip Furia says the song was dropped because it was not in the vocal range of Allen Kearns (mistakenly referred to as “Alex” in Furia’s book) who replaced Stanley Ridges in the starring role.
After many changes in the book, the music, and the cast, Smarty became Funny Face, which featured both Adele and Fred Astaire. The show opened for a successful run of 244 performances on November 27, 1927, but without “How Long Has This Been Going On?” However, Ira credits the origin of the song to Funny Face in his book. Other hits from the show included the title cut, “S’Wonderful,” “My One and Only,” and “High Hat,” which featured Fred Astaire wearing top hat and tails in a solo tap dance. “This would become his trade mark, especially in the movies,” says William G. Hyland in The Song Is Ended: Songwriters and American Music, 1900-1950.
'Neath the stars, at bazaars Often I've had to caress men Five or ten, dollars then, I'd collect from all those yes-men Don't be sad, I must add, that they meant no more than chess-men
Darling, can't you see? 'Twas for charity? Though these lips have made slips, it was never really serious Who'd have thought, I'd be brought to a state that's so delirious?
I could cry salty tears Where have I been all these years? Little wow, tell me now How long has this been goin' on?
There were chills up my spine And some thrills I can't define Listen sweet, I repeat How long has this been goin' on?
Oh, I feel that I could melt Into heaven I'm hurled I know how Columbus felt Finding another world
Kiss me once, then once more What a dunce I was before What a break, for heaven's sake How long has this been goin' on?
(spoken) Kiss me twice, once more, thrice, make it four
What a break, for heaven's sake How long has this been goin' on?