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"Miss Otis Regrets" is a song by Cole Porter from 1934. It was first performed on stage by Douglas Byng in Hi Diddle Diddle, which opened October 3, 1934 at the Savoy Theatre, London. However, the song was originally written for Ada "Bricktop" Smith to perform.
The song is in the blues style, and Porter's wry take on some common lyrical subject matter of the genre, telling the tale of a woman who comes to a bad end after an encounter with a man. But Porter's peculiar twist is that Miss Otis is a polite society lady, and the story of her last evening is told by her servant after Miss Otis has met her demise. In a few compact lines, the servant reveals how, after being seduced and then abandoned, Miss Otis hunted down and shot her seducer, was arrested, taken from the jail by a mob, and lynched. The servant conveys Miss Otis's final, polite, apologetic words to her friends: "Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today." The song was written after Porter received a challenge while at lunch with some friends. He claimed he could write a song on any subject. The friends challenged him to write something based on the next thing they heard in the restaurant.[dubious ] The waiter at an adjoining table then said to the person at that table "Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today".
The song has been recorded by Nat King Cole, Rufus Wainwright, Ethel Waters, Édith Piaf, Alberta Hunter, Nancy Wilson, Jose Feliciano, Linda Ronstadt, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Carmen McRae, Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues, The Mills Brothers, Labelle, Joan Morris, Bette Midler, Josh White, Bryan Ferry, The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Richard Manuel, The Lemonheads, Patricia Barber, Lonnie Donegan, Marlene Dietrich, Clare Teal, and many others.
The 2007 television adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, Marple Mystery: At Bertram's Hotel, opens with the hotel desk clerk repeating the full "Miss Otis Regrets" line to a Mr. Porter on the telephone.
For her February 2, 2009 article in The New Yorker magazine, Larissa MacFarquhar, in reference to Caroline Kennedy's U.S. Senate prospects, titled the article: "MS KENNEDY REGRETS: She's Unable to be in the Senate Today", referring to the Porter lyric.
The jazz classic "Lulu's Back in Town", written by Al Dubin and Harry Warren and introduced in the 1935 movie Broadway Gondolier, contains the phrase "Mister Otis Regrets", a clear homage to the Porter song and a sign that the phrase was instantly recognizable to a large audience. The title of a Cheers episode, "Mr. Otis Regrets", is a pun – a reference not only to the Porter song, but also to Elisha Otis, as the episode is largely concerned with happenings on an elevator.