Betty Comden


Lyricist

About

Also Known As
Elizabeth Cohen
Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born
May 03, 1919
Died
November 23, 2006
Cause of Death
Heart Failure

Biography

With her writing partner Adolph Green (to whom she is not married), Betty Comden has been responsible for some of the most acclaimed and beloved musicals both on film and on stage. She and Green began their collaboration in 1939 when they formed (with Judy Holliday) "The Revuers," a cabaret act. Their success in such venues as the Village Vanguard and the Blue Angel led to several TV app...

Family & Companions

Steven Kyle
Husband
Married on January 4, 1942.

Bibliography

"Off-Stage"
Betty Comden, Simon & Schuster

Notes

Named Woman of Vision by the EyeBank for Sight Restoration (1991); she had her sight restored by a cornea transplant.

Comden was named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Biography

With her writing partner Adolph Green (to whom she is not married), Betty Comden has been responsible for some of the most acclaimed and beloved musicals both on film and on stage. She and Green began their collaboration in 1939 when they formed (with Judy Holliday) "The Revuers," a cabaret act. Their success in such venues as the Village Vanguard and the Blue Angel led to several TV appearances as well. In 1944, Comden and Green wrote their first stage musical, "On the Town," adapted from a Jerome Robbins' ballet that traced one day in the life of three sailors on leave in NYC. They subsequently provided the lyrics (for composers ranging from Leonard Bernstein to Jule Styne to Cy Coleman), book or both for "Wonderful Town" (1953), "Bells Are Ringing" (1957), written especially for Judy Holliday, "Do Re Mi" (1960), "Hallelujah Baby!" (1967), "Applause" (1970), "On the Twentieth Century" (1978), "A Doll's Life" (1982) and "The Will Rogers Follies" (1991). Many of their memorable songs from these shows have become minor classics, like "Ohio" from "Wonderful Town," "The Party's Over" from "Bells Are Ringing" and "Make Someone Happy" from "Do Re Mi."

Comden and Green segued to the big screen with their screenplay for the remake of the 20s hit "Good News" (1947). The pair also wrote the witty musical "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949), which brought Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers together after ten years. The same year, they provide lyrics for the Gene Kelly vehicle "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." In 1952, they provided the brilliant structure for what many consider to be the greatest movie musical, "Singin' in the Rain." The following year, Comden and Green adapted the stage musical "The Band Wagon" and provided Astaire with one of his best screen roles. The duo adapted their own "Bells Are Ringing" (1960) and wrote the non-musical screenplay for "Auntie Mame" (1958).

Comden has sporadically worked as a performer. On stage, she was featured in "On the Town" and she and Green won kudos for their revue "A Party With Betty Comden and Adolph Green" (first performed in 1957), a collection of sketches and songs. Comden turned in a fine comic portrayal of a Jewish mother in Wendy Wasserstein's off-Broadway hit, "Isn't It Romantic" (1984- 85). On film, the petite, dark-haired, throaty-voiced Comden was featured in "Greenwich Village" (1944), played the reclusive screen legend in "Garbo Talks" (1984) and appeared in James Ivory's "Slaves of New York" (1989).

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Musicals Great Musicals (1996)
Slaves of New York (1989)
Garbo Talks (1984)
Garbo

Writer (Feature Film)

What a Way To Go! (1964)
Screenwriter
Bells Are Ringing (1960)
Screenwriter
Auntie Mame (1958)
Screenwriter
It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
Story and Screenplay
The Band Wagon (1953)
Story and Screenplay
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Story and Screenplay
On the Town (1949)
Screenwriter
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Original Screenplay
Good News (1947)
Screenwriter

Music (Feature Film)

The Incredibles 2 (2018)
Song
The Bronze (2015)
Song
Arthur Christmas (2011)
Song
Dummy (2002)
Music Lyrics
Small Time Crooks (2000)
Song
Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)
Song
Ronin (1998)
Song
That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Theme Lyrics
Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Song
Dr. Giggles (1992)
Song
29th Street (1991)
Song
The Addams Family (1991)
Song
Bert Rigby, You're a Fool (1989)
Song
The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)
Song
Blue Sunshine (1979)
Song
What a Way To Go! (1964)
Composer
Bells Are Ringing (1960)
Composer
It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
Composer
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Composer
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)
Composer
On the Town (1949)
Composer
Good News (1947)
Composer

Cast (Special)

Leonard Bernstein: Reaching For the Note (1998)
Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow (1997)
Oscar Levant: Brillant Shadow (1997)
Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM (1996)
On the Town in Concert (1993)
Narrator
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1992)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1991)
The 45th Annual Tony Awards (1991)
Performer
Music By Richard Rodgers (1990)
Bernstein at 70 (1989)
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1988)
Performer
Broadway Sings: The Music of Jule Styne (1987)
Follies in Concert (1986)
The American Film Institute Salute to Gene Kelly (1985)
Performer

Writer (Special)

On the Town in Concert (1993)
Book As Source Material
On the Town in Concert (1993)
Other Writer
Applause (1973)
Writer
Let's Celebrate (1972)
Writer

Music (Special)

Leonard Bernstein's New York (1997)
Theme Lyrics
On the Town in Concert (1993)
Theme Lyrics
Diamonds on the Silver Screen (1992)
Song
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1991)
Theme Lyrics
Bernstein at 70 (1989)
Song Performer
Tony Bennett (1988)
Song
Follies in Concert (1986)
Song Performer
Wonderful Town (1958)
Lyrics

Special Thanks (Special)

On the Town in Concert (1993)
Book As Source Material
On the Town in Concert (1993)
Other Writer
Applause (1973)
Writer
Let's Celebrate (1972)
Writer

Misc. Crew (Special)

Wonderful Town (1958)
Vignettes

Music (TV Mini-Series)

Peter Pan Starring Cathy Rigby (2000)
Theme Lyrics

Life Events

1939

Formed cabaret act The Revuers with Judy Holliday and Adolph Green

1944

Feature film acting debut with The Revuers, "Greenwich Village"

1944

Co-wrote (with Green) the book and lyrics for Broadway hit "On the Town" in which she also acted

1947

Co-screenwriting debut (with Adolph Green), "Good News"

1952

With Green, wrote the screenplay for "Singin' in the Rain"

1958

First performance of stage revue "A Party With Betty Comden and Adolph Green"

1964

Last screenplay to date, "What a Way to Go"

1970

Provided book only for the musical "Applause", an adaptation of the film "All About Eve"

1973

TV adaptation of "Applause" aired on CBS

1977

Revised production of "A Party With Betty Comden and Adolph Green" opened on Broadway

1984

First film appearance in forty years, as title character in "Garbo Talks"

1986

Appeared with Green as a vaudeville team in "Follies in Concert"

1991

Last Broadway musical to date "The Will Rogers Follies"

1991

Received Kennedy Center Honors with Adolph Green

Photo Collections

Bells Are Ringing - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Bells Are Ringing (1960), starring Judy Holliday and Dean Martin, and directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Videos

Movie Clip

Singin' In The Rain (1952) - Moses Supposes Silent star Don (co-director and choreographer Gene Kelly) with diction coach (Robert Watson), joined by musical partner Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) for the flat-out athletic tap number to the song by Roger Edens, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, a rousing bit from Singin’ In The Rain, 1952.
Singin' In The Rain (1952) - All I Do Is Dream Of You The studio boss (Millard Mitchell) after a talking-picture demo, with Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) pal of star Don (Gene Kelly), who’s delighted to find snooty Cathy (Debbie Reynolds) doing a cheesecake gig, song by Nacio Herb Brown and producer Arthur Freed, bimbo Lina (Jean Hagen) getting pied, in Singin’ In The Rain, 1952.
Singin' In The Rain (1952) - Dignity, Always Dignity Dora (Madge Blake) the M-C, sidekick Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) already in place, co-director Gene Kelly (as matinee idol Don Lockwood), with Jean Hagen, silent for now (as co-star Lina), launches the biography bit, song by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart, from the opening to MGM’s Singin’ In The Rain, 1952.
Good News (1947) - French Lesson Tait College football star Tommy (Peter Lawford) at the library meets hard working student Connie (June Allyson), who helps him learn French to woo another girl, with a Comden & Green specialty number, in Good News, 1947.
Singin' In The Rain (1951) - Zelda's Kid Sister In the “Revolution In Hollywood” montage, Rita Moreno as “Zelda” in the cocktail shaker routine and the cutaways, with four Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed tunes, Jimmy Thompson the crooner, Debbie Reynolds with him as Kathy, Millard Mitchell the studio boss, Donald O’Connor as Cosmo, Tommy Farrell as Sid the A-D, in Singin’ In The Rain, 1951.
Singin' In The Rain (1951) - That Famous Zip Girl In fact the greater part of Rita Moreno’s performance as flapper movie star “Zelda Zanders,” in Singin’ In The Rain, 1951, at the opening of the Gene Kelly/Jean Hagen (Don Lockwood, Lina Lamont) movie, introduced by Madge Blake, Stuart Holmes her “eligible bachelor.”
On the Town (1949) - New York, New York (Open) Gabey (Gene Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra) and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) launch their shore leave with Comden & Green's "New York, New York" in the first musical shot on location, directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen, On the Town, 1949.
On the Town (1949) - My Place! Cabbie Hildy (Betty Garrett) has advice for tourist Chip (Frank Sinatra) delivered through the song "Come Up to My Place" by Leonard Bernstein, Beddy Comden and Adolph Green, in On the Town, 1949.
Auntie Mame (1958) - Madam Is Having Affair New York, 1928, Irish maid Norah (Connie Gilchrist) delivers Chicago orphan Patrick (Jan Handzlik), meeting Ito (Yuki Shimoda) along the way, to Rosalind Russell (her first scene, reprising her Broadway performance in the title role) in the original non-musical version of Auntie Mame, 1958.
Auntie Mame (1958) - Books Are Awfully Decorative Rosalind Russell (title character) cons her paid biographer O'Bannion (Robin Hughes) into taking her frump secretary Gooch (Peggy Cass) on a date, so she can receive her nervous nephew Patrick (Roger Smith) and his snooty new girlfriend Gloria (Joanna Barnes), in Auntie Mame, 1958.
Band Wagon, The (1953) - That's Entertainment Bloviating director Cordova (Jack Buchanan) has just fallen from a platform while making his point, which he continues for Lester & Lily (Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray) and Tony (Fred Astaire), a now-famous tune by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, in Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon, 1953.
Band Wagon, The (1953) - Dancing In The Dark Ballerina Gaby (Cyd Charisse) and comeback-track movie star Tony (Fred Astaire) have suddenly warmed to each other, strolling in Central Park into "Dancing In The Dark," by Arthur Schwartz, choreographed by Michael Kidd, in The Band Wagon, 1953.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Family

Leo Cohen
Father
Lawyer.
Rebecca Cohen
Mother
Schoolteacher.
Susanna Kyle
Daughter
Alan Kyle
Son
Died from complications of AIDS.

Companions

Steven Kyle
Husband
Married on January 4, 1942.

Bibliography

"Off-Stage"
Betty Comden, Simon & Schuster

Notes

Named Woman of Vision by the EyeBank for Sight Restoration (1991); she had her sight restored by a cornea transplant.

Comden was named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Theatre Hall of Fame.

With Adolph Green, received an honorary degree from New York University in May 1999