Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable to Lunch Today) (1956)

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Cole Porter
Cole Porter

"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.

"Miss Otis Regrets" is a song 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 hanged. The servant conveys Miss Otis's final, polite, apologetic words to her friends: "Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today."

The song has been recorded by Nat King Cole, Ethel Waters, Edith Piaf, Nancy Wilson, Jose Feliciano, Linda Ronstadt, Ella Fitzgerald, Kirsty MacColl with The Pogues, The Mills Brothers, Labelle, Bette Midler, John Barrowman, Josh White, Bryan Ferry, The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Shani Rigsbee, Richard Manuel, The Lemonheads, Patricia Barber, Joan Morris,Lonnie Donegan and others. The title of the Cheers episode "Mr. Otis Regrets" is also, presumably, a reference to the song.

The 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 someone on the telephone.

Hungarian author Jenő Rejtő also refers to the song in his novel Vesztegzár a Grand Hotelben.

The song is also referenced in the number "I Hate Musicals" from Ruthless! the musical.

The song closes the first act in John Penzotti's 2001 play Five Blue Haired Ladies Sitting on a Green Park Bench sung by Lala Carmichael a 'returning legend of the music industry'. The song is also played in the 2008 South African film noir Black; sung by Marley Cooper in a night club.

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Our Users Review This Song
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Miss Otis Regrets (She's Unable to Lunch Today) mojo

I'm always a little sad when I hear this version of this song, though not for the obvious reasons. It's a good, slow wronged-woman ballad saved from boredom by cleverly subversive lyrics. You don't really expect the line "When the mob came and...

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Bette Midler's Version of Miss Otis Regrets

Just what Mojo sez: Bette Midler doing Miss Otis Regrets. Slightly different from Ella's.

mojo External Video