Sunday, August 17, 2008
WE REMEMBER A LYRICIST AND A BOMBSHELL
In 1983 on this date, the world lost an amazing artist: a lyricist by the name of Ira Gershwin. Think of the songs "Fascinating Rhythm" "Swanee", "Someone To Watch Over Me" "Our Love is Here To Stay" and with guys like Arthur Schwartz ("I'll Guess I'll Have To Change My Plan") and Jerome Kern ("Far Away & Long Ago")Wow what an amazing life! While his younger brother, George began composing and "plugging" in Tin Pan Alley from the age of eighteen, Ira (believe it or not, folks) worked as a cashier in his father's Turkish baths. What an artist must start off doing can be out right amazing! It was not until 1921 that Ira became involved in the music business. Alex Aarons signed Ira to write the music for his next show Two Little Girls in Blue with co-composers Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin. His lyrics were well received and allowed him to successfully enter the theatre world with just one show. Not too bad in any one's dictionary! Well, It was'nt until 1924 that Ira and George teamed up to write the music for their first Broadway hit, Lady, Be Good! Once the brothers joined together, their combined talents became one of the most influential forces in the history of American Musical Theatre. Together, they wrote the music for over twelve shows and four films. Some of their other more famous works include "The Man I Love", "Summertime" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me". Their partnership continued up until George's sudden death from a brain tumor in 1937. Ira was simply devastated and he could barely function. There are reports that I read that say he never again believed in God. My favorite story is that George and Ira were writing songs for a little picture called "The Goldwyn Follies of 1938" when George collapsed and died. The picture which was producer Samuel Goldwyn's first use of Technicolor starred Adolph Menjou, The Ritz Brothers and Edgar Bergen and Charlie Mccarthy plus some small time new performers. There was still one melody left for the picture and after about a month had passed, the MGM studio was getting really impatient and antsy about Ira finishing the lyric. They kept calling him. "Please, Ira, we need that lyric!" The picture was going to be released in February of 1938 and this was August of 1937. Ira wrote the lyric not intended as a love song for a married couple or a couple of lovers-- oh no-- this song was a love song from one brother to another. The song was "Our Love is Here To Stay" And if you haven't looked at those lyrics lately, I suggest that you do. ("In time, Gibraltar may tumble, the Rockies may tumble: they're only made of clay, but our love is here to stay." Wow! Following his brother's death, Ira waited nearly three years before writing again. After this interlude, he teamed up with such accomplished composers as Jerome Kern (Cover Girl), Kurt Weil (Where Do We Go from Here?, Lady in the Dark), and Harold Arlen (A Star Is Born). Over the next fourteen years, Ira continued to write the lyrics for many film scores and a few Broadway shows. But the failure of Park Avenue in 1946, a 'smart' show about divorce, co-written with composer Arthur Schwartz, was his farewell to Broadway . As he wrote at the time, "Am reading a couple of stories for possible musicalization (if there is such a word) but I hope I don't like them as I think I deserve a long rest." Ira died on August 17, 1983, fifteen years ago and is now interred in the Westchester Hills Cemetery, Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. Together, the Gershwin siblings left behind a legacy that would help shape American Musical Theatre. Solely, Ira played a huge part in bringing about a new type of song lyric: a smart, witty, vernacular style that the common man could relate to and enjoy. And now we move on to the bombshell. Today would have been the 118th birthday of the one and only Mae West. My cousin was the cinematographer on her very last picture called "Sextette". Dear God! It took the poor thing two hours to do one scene! But in her golden days, Mae West was absolutely beautiful and incredibly amazing. On the premiere of "Catherine The Great" Mae quipped to the opening crowd "Catherine had over four hundred lovers-- I did what I could in a couple of hours!" Her classic pictures with WC Fields was simply one of the funniest pictures ever. Personal wise, John and i continue our marketing efforts. So keep your fingers crossed.