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Overview for Arthur Schwartz
Arthur Schwartz

Arthur Schwartz



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Also Known As: Died: September 3, 1984
Born: November 25, 1900 Cause of Death: complications from a stroke
Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York, USA Profession: Music ... producer composer singer high school teacher attorney camp counselor


A former educator and attorney, composer Arthur Schwartz began his career in the 1920s and remained active for some six decades, crafting lilting, memorable melodies for such standards as "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," "That's Entertainment" and "Dancing in the Dark." Ironically, Schwartz was not encouraged by his family in his musical interest. The second son of an attorney, he was not allowed to study music and instead encouraged to pursue the law. As is often the case, the forbidden became appealing and Schwartz secretly taught himself how to play the piano and by age 14 was accompanying silent films at the Cortelyou Movie Emporium in his native Brooklyn. Still, he was a dutiful son and completed his studies at New York University and Columbia University.

While working on his law degree, Schwartz taught English to high school students and pursued composing songs as a hobby. In 1923, he published his first song, the now forgotten ditty "Baltimore, MD, You're the Only Doctor for Me" (with lyrics by Eli Dawson). The following year, he passed the New York State bar exam and opened a law office on Broadway. During the summer of 1924, Schwartz spent time working as a counselor at the Brant Lake Camp in the Adirondacks where he made the acquaintance of lyricist Lorenz Hart and the pair soon collaborated on songs for camp shows. One of their numbers, "I Know My Girl By Her Perfume," was sold to the vaudeville act of Besser and Amy for $75.

Schwartz also became friendly with composer George Gershwin who provided encouragement. While not abandoning law, he continued to pen songs, several of which began to find placement in revues like "The Grand Street Follies." At Hart's insistence, Schwartz took a year off from his successful legal practice and quickly caught the attention of producer Tom Weatherly who hired him to compose the score for a Broadway revue. Weatherly introduced Schwartz to the man who was to become perhaps his best remembered collaborator -- Howard Dietz, a native New Yorker who was a classmate of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II.

The pair enjoyed success with their contributions to "The Little Show," a revue with sketches by Dietz and George S Kaufman, among others, and starring Clifton Webb, Fred Allen and Libby Holman. One of the show's musical numbers was "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," a Schwartz melody originally with lyrics by Lorenz Hart (then called "I Love to Lie Awake in Bed"). Dietz and Schwartz were hired to make magic strike again on "The Second Little Show" (1930), but despite their efforts the show was not a success. The duo fared somewhat better with "Three's a Crowd" (also 1930), which reunited them with Webb, Holman and Allen. Of the numbers created for the show, Holman's solo "Something to Remember You By." Originally meant as an up-tempo comic number, the song was reinterpreted by Holman as a torch song.

In 1931, Schwartz and Dietz were asked to compose a complete score for a musical, the revue "The Band Wagon," a vehicle for Fred and Adele Astaire. Once again Dietz collaborated with George S Kaufman on the sketches and the finished product was highly praised. The Astaires shone in their dance numbers (like "Hoops") but the standout song was "Dancing in the Dark," sung by John Barker and danced to by Tilly Losch.

Although the duo continued to collaborate throughout the 1930s on revues ("Flying Colors" in 1932 and "At Home Abroad" in 1935) and book shows (1934's "Revenge With Music" and 1937's "Between the Devil"), none was a box-office hit, although these productions produced such standards as "Alone Together," "Love Is a Dancing Thing," "You and the Night and the Music," and "I See Your Face Before Me." Perhaps the most prolific assignment was providing the songs -- close to 100 written over a two-week period -- for the radio program "The Gibson Family" in 1936. Having enjoyed a run of nearly a decade (during which each also enjoyed outside collaborations), Schwartz and Dietz went their separate ways in 1937. By that time, Schwartz had already begun to contributed songs to motion pictures, including "Seal It With a Kiss" and "Live and Learn" (with lyrics by Edward Heyman) introduced by Lily Pons in "The Girl From Paris" (1937). During the next ten years, he would enjoy a new phase in his career composing for movies and collaborating with some of the top lyric writers in Hollywood. In 1943, he and Frank Loesser crafted the Oscar-nominated "They're Either Too Young or Too Old" introduced by Bette Davis in "Thank Your Lucky Stars." Schwartz garnered a second Academy Award nomination for "A Gal in Calico" (with a Leo Robin lyric) which was featured in 1946's "The Time, the Place and the Girl." He then segued to producing films like "Cover Girl" (1944) and the sanitized Cole Porter biopic "Night and Day" (1946).

Schwartz, however, did not abandon the stage during this period. Neither "Virginia" (1938, written with Irving Stillman) nor "American Jubilee (1939, with Oscar Hammerstein II) proved a success. In 1939, he was teamed for the first time with lyric writer Dorothy Fields on the score for the Ethel Merman-Jimmy Durante vehicle "Stars in Your Eyes." They later enjoyed modest hits with a pair of Broadway musicals, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1941) and "By the Beautiful Sea" (1954), both starring Shirley Booth. Schwartz and Ira Gershwin joined forces for the ill-fated "Park Avenue" (1946) and a reunion with Dietz on "Inside U.S.A." (1948) was also a disappointment. (Although the latter included the lovely "Haunted Heart" and the amusing "Rhode Island Is Famous for You.")

When MGM decided to film "The Band Wagon" in 1953, Schwartz and Dietz reunited to provide a new song, "That's Entertainment," which has since became a sort of unofficial showbiz anthem. Yet, unbelievably the number wasn't even nominated for a Best Song Oscar. Dietz and Schwartz rounded out their long partnership with a TV musical (1961's "A Bell for Adano") and a pair of Broadway shows that were intriguing failures. "The Gay Life" (1961, now known as "The High Life") was a musicalization of Arthur Schnitzler's play "The Affairs of Anatol" that suffered from a uneven book. The lush score was enhanced by the presence of Barbara Cook at the height of her vocal prowess as the original cast recording attests. "Jennie" (1963) holds the distinction of being the only flop on star Mary Martin's resume. Loosely based on the life of actress Laurette Taylor, "Jennie" also featured a weak libretto but the Schwartz-Dietz score is not without its charms and at least has been preserved in the original cast recording.

In 1969, Schwartz relocated to London where he became a frequent contributor to BBC and Thames Television broadcasts. For the first time in his career, he also began to pen his own lyrics and in collaboration with his second wife, Mary O'Hagan, wrote a musical adaptation of Dickens' "Nicholas Nickleby" and revised "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (complete with eight new songs) as "Look Who's Dancing." Although the latter was produced in 1978 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, it was no more successful than the original. Often hailed for his craftsmanship and the beauty of his melodies, Schwartz was awarded the second annual ASCAP/Richard Rodgers Award (shared with Harold Arlen) just prior to his 1984 death from a stroke.

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