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Words and Music

Words and Music(1948)

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In New York City, in 1919, Lorenz "Larry" Hart, a diminutive, twenty-five-year-old lyricist, has created words to make hit songs but lacks music to accompany them. Larry's search for a suitable composer to bring his lyrics to life ends on a spring day when his friend, Herbert Fields, introduces him to Richard Rodgers, a talented composer who is looking for a good lyricist. Although Dick is initially offended by Larry's impertinent and erratic behavior, he and Larry eventually forge a close friendship, devoting themselves entirely to the creation of songs. Despite their hard work, two years pass without a single contract with a producer. Dick loses hope and decides to take a job selling infant clothing for fifty dollars a week. Though Larry is more optimistic about their future, he accepts Dick's departure and hosts a farewell party for him. At the party, Larry meets Peggy Lorgan McNeil, a young singer, and falls instantly in love with her. The evening ends on a happy note when Herb arrives with news that the Theatre Guild wants to produce Larry and Dick's first show, Garrick Gaieties . The show soon opens on Broadway with Eddie Lorrison Anders in the leading role, and critics award the musical with very favorable reviews. Larry and Dick's success continues with the sale of their next musical, which will star Gene Kelly. Exhilarated by the news of the sale, Larry immediately telephones Peggy and, without consulting the producers, promises her the feminine lead in the show. Determined to win Peggy's affections, Larry buys a pair of shoes with special heels that will add two inches to his height. His exuberance is dashed, however, when Herb and Dick inform him that actress Joyce Harmon has been selected by Kelly to play the female lead. When Larry breaks the news to Peggy, she tells him that she will be leaving New York to go on the road with another show. Dick, meanwhile, tries to begin a romance with Joyce, but she rejects him because he is ten years younger than she. Later, Dick invites Dorothy Feiner, the sister of his old friend Ben, to the movies, but she rejects his offer, insisting that he is too old for her. Larry, who has not given up on Peggy, makes another desperate attempt to woo her and proposes marriage, but she shows little interest in him. Following a brief estrangement, Larry and Dick resume their partnership and travel to London to work on their next successful show, The Girl Friend , which allows them to return to America and follow it up with Connecticut Yankee . Despite this string of successes, Larry becomes restless and sinks into a depression. At Dick's suggestion, Larry offers the leading role in their next show to Peggy, who is in California. The prospect of seeing Peggy again gladdens Larry, but his joy is soon dashed when Peggy declines the offer and informs him that she has signed a motion picture contract. Devastated by the rejection, Larry abandons Dick just before the opening of Connecticut Yankee and goes to Hollywood to search for Peggy. Dick, meanwhile, sparks a romance with Dorothy, and they eventually become engaged. When Larry returns to New York, Dick and Dorothy tell him about their engagement and invite him to move to Los Angeles with them to pursue a career in motion pictures. Larry makes a fresh start in California, and soon after buying a large house in the Hollywood Hills, throws a lavish, star-studded party. Dorothy and Dick attend Larry's party, as does Judy Garland, who agrees to do a picture with Larry and Dick. Larry is drunk at the end of the evening, and, after the guests leave, he winds up alone in his big house. Years pass, and Dorothy and Dick, who now have two children, decide to return to New York to do a Broadway show. Larry, however, sinks into greater despair, and another period in which Dick loses contact with Larry ensues. Larry takes to wandering the city streets and consorting with shady characters until one day, he hears one of his songs being sung inside a nightclub. The song prompts Larry to return to Dick and continue his work. A new musical by Dick and Larry, On Your Toes , soon opens in New York, but Larry, who is spiritually exhausted, collapses in the lobby right after the show. A lengthy illness follows and Larry is confined to a hospital bed for several months. When a revival of Connecticut Yankee opens on Broadway, Larry escapes from the hospital and arrives at the theater in a tragic state. Larry leaves the theater gasping for air, and dies in front of the shoe store where he bought his special height-enhancing shoes. Months later, Larry is honored in a musical tribute, during which Dick fondly recalls their twenty-year friendship.