George Gershwin


Composer, Songwriter

About

Also Known As
Jacob Gershwine
Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born
September 26, 1898
Died
July 11, 1937
Cause of Death
Brain Tumor

Biography

Along with Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter, George Gershwin ranks as one of the most important American composers of the first half of the 20th century. Gershwin also proved to be a master classical composer, fashioning the familiar "Rhapsody in Blue" (1924) and creating what is arguably the first popular American opera "Porgy and Bess" (1935). Born in Brooklyn, Gershwin spen...

Family & Companions

Mollie Charleston
Companion
Marguerite Eriksen
Companion
Margaret Manners
Companion
Chorus girl. Was married at time of her liaison with Gershwin; allegedly had a son with Gershwin who was born on May 18, 1926 as Albert Schneider; later adopted the name Alan Gershwin; his paternity claims have never been conclusively proven.
Kay Swift
Companion
Pianist, composer.

Bibliography

"An American Rhapsody: The Story of George Gershwin"
Paul Kresh, Universe Publishing (1987)
"The Gershwin Years"
Edward Jablonski and Lawrence Stewart, Doubleday (1973)
"The Memory of All That: The Life of George Gershwin"
Joan Peyser

Notes

In addition to his compositional skill, Gershwin was an amateur painter and art collector.

Oscar Levant tells of an overnight train trip taken with George Gershwin. When it came time to go to bed, George settled into the more comfortable lower berth leaving Levant to climb to the upper. He later recounted, "I adjusted myself to the inconveniences of the upper berth, reflecting on the artistic economic progression by which Paderewski has a private car, Gershwin a drawing room and Levant a sleepless night. At this moment my light must have disturbed George's doze, for he opened his eyes, looked up at me and said drowsily, 'Upper berth - lower berth. That's the difference between talent and genius'."

Biography

Along with Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter, George Gershwin ranks as one of the most important American composers of the first half of the 20th century. Gershwin also proved to be a master classical composer, fashioning the familiar "Rhapsody in Blue" (1924) and creating what is arguably the first popular American opera "Porgy and Bess" (1935).

Born in Brooklyn, Gershwin spent a peripatetic childhood, moving each time his father took a new job. In 1910, his parents purchased a piano for younger brother Ira, but George surprised the family by sitting down to play several popular songs by ear. He began to study music in earnest and decided to pursue a career as a musician. By the time he was in his teens, Gershwin was spending summers as a pianist at resorts in the Catskills and by 1914 had made his professional debut as a pianist (courtesy of his younger brother Ira). When he landed a job as song plugger at Remick's, he found his niche, earning five dollars for his first published song "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Have 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want 'Em" (1916; lyrics by Murray Roth). Later that year, he contributed the song "The Runaway Girl" to the Shubert's "The Passing Show of 1916," marking his Broadway debut.

While working on Tin Pan Alley, Gershwin began making important contacts with people in show business (including Fred Astaire, who was then a budding songwriter). He toured as pianist for singer Louise Dresser and continued to submit songs to Broadway productions, most notably to the unsuccessful musical "Half Past Eight." In 1919, Gershwin's first full song score was featured in "La La Lucille" (lyrics by Arthur Jackson and B G De Sylva) and his career began to blossom. The following year, Al Jolson included "Swanee" (with lyrics by Irving Caesar) in the stage musical "Sinbad" and Gershwin enjoyed his first hit single (which remains a classic to this day). For the next four years, each edition of "George White's Scandals" included several Gershwin songs (often with lyrics by Jackson). In 1920, he also began to write songs with his brother Ira (who used the pen name of Arthur Francis), crafting "Waiting for the Sun to Come Out" and the score to the musical "A Dangerous Maid" (1921). The 1922 edition of the "Scandals" marked the debut of one of the composer's first "serious" works the one-act opera "Blue Monday" which was pulled after one performance. Nevertheless, it marked the beginning of Gershwin's explorations of more than just the popular material. Orchestra leader Paul Whiteman invited the composer to contribute to his program "An Experiment in Modern Music at Aeolian Hall" on February 12, 1924. The result was the now classic "Rhapsody in Blue"; From its opening clarinet wail, this "musical kaleidoscope of America" drew from numerous musical idioms--jazz, blues, Russian-Jewish folk harmonies and classical conventions--to create a piece that not only proved to be controversial in its day but has continued to divide critics as to classification. It nevertheless succeeded in achieving his goal of formulating a truly "American" musical sound and laid the groundwork for future "serious" compositions. The "Rhapsody" remains one of the composer's best-known and most popular and its initial premiere helped to land Gershwin on the cover of TIME magazine.

Even with his "highbrow" musical pursuits, Gershwin did not abandon more plebeian works, frequently partnering with older brother Ira for scores to Broadway musicals that have yielded numerous now-classic standards. While working as a song plugger, he had made the acquaintance of a dancer with songwriting aspirations, Fred Astaire. In the 1920s, Astaire generally took a back seat to his sister and dancing partner Adele, but the collaborations between the Astaires and the Gershwins yielded some of the best work either pair of siblings accomplished in their stage careers. A handful of Gershwin tunes were interpolated into the Astaire vehicle "For Goodness Sake" in 1922 but it was "Lady, Be Good!" (1924), under the auspices of producers Alex A. Aarons and Vinton Freedly, that marked their formal collaboration. For the first time in their careers the Astaires played siblings and the brothers Gershwin plumbed that relationship crafting a melodious score that were tailored to the unique abilities of its stars. Adele had "Fascinating Rhythm" as a showstopper while Fred's number was "The Half of It, Dearie, Blues." Aarons and Freedly produced four more Gershwin musicals including the memorable hits "Oh, Kay!" (1926) and "Funny Face" (1927), the latter of which reunited the Astaires and the Gershwins in a delightful frothy confection with songs like "'S Wonderful," "He Loves and She Loves" and the specialty number "The Babbit and the Bromide." In between, Gershwin did not neglect his classical work, offering the "Concerto in F" in 1925, the "Preludes for Piano" (1926-27) and "An American in Paris" in 1928. Parts of the latter were included as ballet music for "Show Girl" (1929).

1930 saw Gershwin produce back-to-back stage successes with the revised "Strike Up the Band" (yielding "I've Got a Crush on You") and later in the year, "Girl Crazy," which made stars of Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers (who introduced "Embraceable You"). Hollywood finally beckoned and the brothers Gershwin signed a contract with Fox to provide the songs for "Delicious" (1931), a run-of-the-mill romance teaming Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. The score proved more memorable than the film, but it inaugurated the brothers' film career. Back East, the brothers returned to the stage with "Of Thee I Sing" (1931), a political satire with a book by George S Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind that became the first musical to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama (although the music was not eligible for the award). A highly-anticipated sequel "Let 'Em Eat Cake" proved disappointing coming on the heels of the flop "Pardon My English" (both 1933). The latter, however, included a more complex score that foreshadowed Gershwin's most ambitious work, the 1935 opera "Porgy and Bess." The composer had approached author DuBose Heyward about the musical rights to "Porgy" as early as 1930. (A dramatic stage adaptation was in the works at that time.) After years of negotiations and persuasion, Heyward relented and the resulting work, further drawing on Afro-Caribbean rhythms, Jewish folk tunes and other sources, has come to be acknowledged as the composer's masterwork.

The failure of "Porgy and Bess" (which it should be noted was treated as a Broadway musical and not an opera) led Gershwin to seek offers from motion pictures. He reportedly sent a telegram that read: "Rumors about highbrow music ridiculous. Stop. Am out to write hits." RKO hired the Gershwins to pen songs for one of its rising stars, Fred Astaire. Drawing on their previous collaborations, the Gershwins crafted the scores for "Shall We Dance" and "A Damsel in Distress" (both 1937). The former marked the seventh screen teaming of Astaire and Ginger Rogers and its flimsy plot was more than compensated for by the superlative score and the sublime dancing of its stars. Their score yielded standards including "They All Laughed" (the film's choreographic high point) and the Oscar-nominated "They Can't Take That Away From Me." Astaire wanted to break from his screen pairing with Rogers and "A Damsel in Distress" was to be the vehicle. Unfortunately, despite the lovely score (which featured "A Foggy Day" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It"), the presence of George Burns and Gracie Allen, audiences were unwilling to accept Astaire without Rogers (he was teamed with non-dancer Joan Fontaine) and the film proved to be a box-office disappointment. Gershwin began suffering from headaches and when the doctors finally diagnosed a brain tumor, it had progressed beyond salvation. Despite an operation, the composer never regained consciousness and died on July 11, 1937. The posthumously released "Goldwyn Follies" (1938) featured his final contributions to American music, including "I Love to Rhyme," "Love Walked In" and "Love Is Here to Stay."

Filmography

 

Music (Feature Film)

Joker (2019)
Song
Acrimony (2018)
Song
The Party (2018)
Song
Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
Song
The Post (2017)
Song
The Rules Don't Apply (2016)
Song
Trainwreck (2015)
Song
Born to Be Blue (2015)
Song
Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014)
Song
Big Eyes (2014)
Song
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Song
Labor Day (2013)
Song
Ginger & Rosa (2012)
Song
Edge of Darkness (2010)
Song
Eat Pray Love (2010)
Song
Me and Orson Welles (2009)
Song
Public Enemies (2009)
Song
Leatherheads (2008)
Song
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Song
Run, Fat Boy, Run (2008)
Song
Take the Lead (2006)
Song
The Wedding Weekend (2006)
Song
Man of the Year (2006)
Song
The Aviator (2004)
Composer
Spanglish (2004)
Song ("They Can'T Take That Away From Me")
The Human Stain (2003)
Composer
American Splendor (2003)
Composer
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Song
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Music
Together (2002)
Song ("It Ain'T Necessarily So")
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Song
Hart's War (2002)
Song
Yi Yi (2000)
Song ("Summertime")
Return to Me (2000)
Song
Love's Labour's Lost (2000)
Song
For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000)
Song
The Bachelor (1999)
Song
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
Song ("Summertime")
At First Sight (1999)
Song
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Song Performer
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Song
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Song
Fantasia 2000 (1999)
Music
My Giant (1998)
Song
There's Something About Mary (1998)
Song
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Song
The Real Howard Spitz (1998)
Song
Celebrity (1998)
Song
The Proposition (1998)
Song ("They Can'T Take That Away From Me")
Living out Loud (1998)
Song
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Song ("But Not For Me")
That Old Feeling (1997)
Song
Mojo (1997)
Song
As Good As it Gets (1997)
Song
Neil Simon's Jake's Women (1996)
Song
The Neon Bible (1995)
Song Composer ("How Long Has This Been Goin' On")
Miami Rhapsody (1995)
Song
It Could Happen to You (1994)
Song
Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994)
Song ("But Not For Me")
That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Music
Poetic Justice (1993)
Song
The Public Eye (1992)
Song
Jennifer Eight (1992)
Song
Hero (1992)
Song
My Girl (1991)
Song
The Indian Runner (1991)
Song
He Said, She Said (1991)
Song
The Fred Astaire Songbook (1991)
Music
Betsy's Wedding (1990)
Song
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Music
See You in the Morning (1989)
Music
Enemies, A Love Story (1989)
Music
Loverboy (1989)
Music
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Music
Beaches (1988)
Music
Los Amores de Kafka (1988)
Music
Beyond Therapy (1987)
Music
Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)
Music
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Music ("Someone To Watch Over Me")
Invocation Maya Deren (1987)
Music ("The Man I Love")
Man On Fire (1987)
Music ("Someone To Watch Over Me")
Off Beat (1986)
Music
Round Midnight (1986)
Music
After Hours (1985)
Song
Kak Molody My Byli (1985)
Music
White Nights (1985)
Music ("There'S A Boat Dat'S Leavin' Soon For New York")
City Heat (1984)
Music
Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
Music
Once Upon a Time in America - Extended Cut (1984)
Music
Hot Dog...The Movie (1984)
Song
Deal Of The Century (1983)
Song ("Someone To Watch Over Me")
Purple Haze (1983)
Music ("Rhapsody In Blue")
Jazz in Exile (1982)
Song
Malaria (1982)
Music
American Pop (1981)
Song
They All Laughed (1981)
Song
Joe Albany... A Jazz Life (1980)
Song
Manhattan (1979)
Song
Killer of Sheep (1979)
Song ("Lullabye")
Manhattan (1979)
Music
New York, New York (1977)
Music
The Choirboys (1977)
Music
A Matter of Time (1976)
Songs
Violer er bla (1975)
Music
Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More (1974)
Song
Ain't Misbehaving (1974)
Music
Janis (1974)
Music
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Composer
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Composer
Star! (1968)
Composer
Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
Composer
Feelin' Good (1966)
Composer
When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965)
Composer
Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
Composer
Porgy and Bess (1959)
Composer
But Not for Me (1959)
Composer
Funny Face (1957)
Composer
Beau James (1957)
Composer
The Helen Morgan Story (1957)
Composer
That Certain Feeling (1956)
Composer
Pete Kelly's Blues (1955)
Composer
Sincerely Yours (1955)
Composer
Three for the Show (1955)
Composer
The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
Composer
Young at Heart (1954)
Composer
A Star Is Born (1954)
Composer
Three Sailors and a Girl (1953)
Composer
Somebody Loves Me (1952)
Composer
Meet Danny Wilson (1952)
Composer
With a Song in My Heart (1952)
Composer
Lullaby of Broadway (1951)
Composer
An American in Paris (1951)
Composer
Starlift (1951)
Composer
Young Man with a Horn (1950)
Composer
Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)
Composer
Tea for Two (1950)
Composer
I'll Get By (1950)
Composer
Always Leave Them Laughing (1949)
Composer
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Composer
John Loves Mary (1949)
Composer
You Were Meant for Me (1948)
Composer
Humoresque (1947)
Composer
The Jolson Story (1947)
Composer
The Man I Love (1947)
Composer
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947)
Composer
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Composer
George White's Scandals (1945)
Composer
Under Western Skies (1945)
Composer
Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
Composer
Broadway Rhythm (1944)
Composer
Girl Crazy (1943)
Composer
Hello Frisco, Hello (1943)
Composer
So's Your Uncle (1943)
Composer
Lady Be Good (1941)
Composer
Strike Up the Band (1940)
Composer
The Goldwyn Follies (1938)
Composer
A Damsel in Distress (1937)
Composer
Shall We Dance (1937)
Composer
Komposition in Blau (1935)
Music
Girl Crazy (1932)
Addl new Music
Girl Crazy (1932)
Composer
Delicious (1931)
Composer
Song of the Flame (1930)
Composer
King of Jazz (1930)
Composer
Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra (1927)
Songs

Music (Special)

New York City Opera: The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (2002)
Music
Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra in Concert (1999)
Music
Colorado Symphony: Jazz For Orchestra (1999)
Music
Cincinnati Pops Holiday: A Family Thanksgiving (1999)
Music
Kitty Carlisle Hart: My Broadway Memories (1999)
Music
The Gershwins' "Crazy For You" (1999)
Music
Sarah Brightman in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall (1998)
Music
Itzhak Perlman: Behind the Music -- A Video Companion to His "Personal Picks" (1998)
Music
Carnegie Hall Opening Night 1998 (1998)
Music
Red Hot + Rhapsody (1998)
Songs
Porgy and Bess: An American Voice (1998)
Music
Einstein: Light to the Power of 2 (1997)
Music ("They All Laughed (At Christopher Columbus)")
Gershwin on Ice (1997)
Music ("I Got Rhythm" "Embraceable You" "Let'S Call The Whole Thing Off" "A Foggy Day In London Town" "Rhapsody In Blue")
Ira Gershwin at 100: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall (1997)
Music
Great Performers at Lincoln Center: A Celebration of the American Musical (1997)
Music
The Three Sopranos (1996)
Music
Bobby McFerrin: Loosely Mozart -- The New Innovators of Classical Music (1996)
Music
A Grand Night For Singing - Public Television's Gift to You (1996)
Music
The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters (1996)
Music
Al Jarreau: Tenderness (1996)
Song
The Kennedy Center 25th Anniversary Celebration (1996)
Music
Cincinnati Pops Holiday: Erich Kunzel's Halloween Spooktacular (1996)
Music
A CAPITOL FOURTH -- 1996 (1996)
Music
The Sound of Julie Andrews (1995)
Music
Marsalis on Music (1995)
Music
Berlin Philharmonic Concert at Waldbuhne: American Night (1995)
Music
Gershwin (1994)
Music
Pavarotti: My Heart's Delight (1994)
Music
A CAPITOL FOURTH -- 1993 (1993)
Music
For Better Or For Worse (1993)
Music
Ballanchine Celebration (1993)
Music
The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (1993)
Music
Disney's Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra (1992)
Music
Richard Tucker Gala: A Salute to American Music (1992)
Music
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1992)
Song
Kathleen Battle at the Metropolitan Museum (1992)
Music ("Summertime")
The 1991 Miss America Pageant (1991)
Music
Michael Feinstein & Friends (1991)
Song
A Capitol Fourth 1989 (1989)
Music
Jacksonville Jazz IX (1989)
Song
Ask Me Again (1989)
Music
Baryshnikov Dances Balanchine With American Ballet Theatre (1989)
Music ("Who Cares?")
A Grand Night: The Performing Arts Salute Public Television (1988)
Music
Maureen McGovern on Stage at Wolf Trap (1988)
Song ("Strike Up The Band" "S'Wonderful" "They Can'T Take That Away From Me" "Summertime")
The American Film Institute Salute to Jack Lemmon (1988)
Song
New York Philharmonic New Year's Gala Concert (1987)
Music
Celebrating Gershwin (1987)
Song
Happy New Year, U.S.A.! (1987)
Music
The National Symphony Orchestra Plays Gershwin (1987)
Music
Celebrating Gershwin (1987)
Music
A Capitol Fourth -- 1986 (1986)
Music
A Tribute to American Music: George Gershwin (1986)
Songs ("Of Thee I Sing" "Embraceable You" "Our Love Is Here To Stay" "S'Wonderful" "Swanee" "Strike Up The Band" "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" "Summertime")
The Naked Gershwin (1985)
Music
Sylvia Fine Kaye's Musical Comedy Tonight III (The Spark and the Glue) (1985)
Music
Rhapsody & Song: A Tribute to George Gershwin (1980)
Music
Music From America: Rhapsody in Blue (1976)
Music
Of Thee I Sing (1972)
Music

Music (Short)

The Flame Song (1934)
Music

Life Events

1910

Family purchased a piano; began to take lessons

1913

Worked for the summer playing piano at a resort in the Catskills

1914

Professional debut as a pianist, performed at the Finlay Club; arranged by Ira

1915

Began making piano rolls; also played piano at nightclubs

1916

First published song "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want 'Em" (lyric by Murray Roth), earned five dollars for the song

1916

First song on Broadway "The Runaway Girl" in "The Passing Show of 1916"

1917

Served as rehearsal pianist for the show "Miss 1917"

1918

Toured with Louise Dresser as her accompanist

1918

Signed to a contract as staff composer with Harms Publishing Co.

1919

First complete score for a Broadway musical "La La Lucille"

1920

Provided songs for editions of "George White's Scandals"

1920

Al Jolson interpolated the Gershwin song "Swanee" into "Sinbad"; first hit song

1921

First stage musical written with brother Ira (who used the pen name Arthur Francis), "A Dangerous Maid"

1922

Initial stage collaboration with Fred and Adele Astaire, contributed songs to "For Goodness Sake"

1922

Wrote first opera, "Blue Monday"; a failure it was dropped from the "Scandals"

1923

First film score, "The Sunshine Trail"

1924

Paul Whiteman and his orchestra introduced "Rhapsody in Blue" as part of "An Experiment in Modern Music at Aeolian Hall" in NYC

1925

Commissioned by the Symphonic Society of New York to write "The Concerto in F"

1925

Made the cover of TIME magazine (July)

1926

Had stage hit with "Oh, Kay!"

1927

Had failure with first version of "Strike Up the Band" (written with Ira)

1927

Bounced back with a reteaming with the Astaires, "Funny Face"

1928

"An American in Paris" debuted at Carnegie Hall in December

1929

Debut as symphony conductor

1930

Had Broadway hit with "Girl Crazy", starring Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers

1930

With brother Ira, signed contract to write songs for the Fox feature "Delicious"

1931

Premiered the political satire "Of Thee I Sing"

1932

Composed "Cuban Overture"

1932

Debuted "Second Rhapsody" at the Boston Symphony; played piano

1932

"Of Thee I Sing" became first musical to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama

1933

Had flops with "Pardon My English" and "Let 'Em Eat Cake", the sequel to "Of Thee I Sing"

1934

Hosted the NYC-based radio program "Music By Gershwin"

1935

"Porgy and Bess" debuted at the Alvin Theater

1935

Signed to a contract by RKO

1935

Formed Gershwin Publishing Co.

1936

Moved to L.A.

1937

Posthumous exhibition of paintings

1937

Underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor; died on July 11

1937

Provided the songs to "Shall We Dance" and "A Damsel in Distress", both starring Fred Astaire; earned Oscar nomination for the song "They Can't Take That Away From Me" from the former

1938

Last songs "Love Walked In" and "Love Is Here to Stay", included in "The Goldwyn Follies"

1945

Portrayed by Robert Alda in the studio biopic "Rhapsody in Blue"

1951

Vincente Minnelli's "An American in Paris" used his musical suite as the basis of an original film musical teaming Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron

1957

"Funny Face" filmed with a revised story, teaming Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn

1959

Feature adaptation of "Porgy and Bess" released, directed by Otto Preminger

Photo Collections

Shall We Dance - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Shall We Dance (1937), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and directed by Mark Sandrich.

Videos

Movie Clip

Girl Crazy (1943) - But Not For Me Feeling a fairly complex disappointment for having become vested in the college beauty pageant, post-mistress Ginger (Judy Garland) finds another George & Ira Gershwin tune from the original Broadway hit, good guy Rags (Ragland) attempting consolation, in MGM's Girl Crazy, 1943, also starring Mickey Rooney.
Girl Crazy (1943) - Could You Use Me? One of only a couple numbers they perform together in their last MGM co-starring vehicle, it’s fallen to pretty college post-mistress Ginger (Judy Garland) to take departing playboy-heir student to the train to go home, his only regret in leaving her behind, with a George & Ira Gershwin tune, in Girl Crazy, 1943.
Girl Crazy (1943) - Embraceable You The boys at Cody College throw a birthday for their beloved post-mistress Ginger (Judy Garland) who offers George and Ira Gershwin's Embraceable You, including an extended performance with dance director Charles "Chuck" Walters, in return, in Girl Crazy, 1943, also starring Mickey Rooney.
Girl Crazy (1943) - Treat Me Rough With Tommy Dorsey and orchestra, George and Ira Gershwin's Treat Me Rough, first by June Allyson as a specialty, then by youthful playboy Danny (Mickey Rooney), about to be sent to college out west, in the lavish MGM Freed Unit musical Girl Crazy, 1943, also starring Judy Garland.
American In Paris, An (1951) - Our Love Is Here To Stay On the banks of the (MGM soundstage) Seine, painter Jerry (Gene Kelly) and ingenue Lise (Leslie Caron) do their romantic number set to Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here To Stay," in An American In Paris, 1951, from producer Arthur Freed.
American In Paris, An (1951) - I Got Rhythm Gene Kelly (as "Jerry") with his own choreography and the neighborhood kids, does some language instruction with George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," in An American In Paris, 1951.
Shocking Miss Pilgrim, The (1947) - Changing My Tune Brunette and without visible legs throughout this feature, Betty Grable as fictional Cynthia Pilgrim, edgy professional typist, pleased at having found lodging with fellow “social outcasts” in 1874 Boston, offers her first solo from the eleven (!) George and Ira Gershwin originals composed for The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, 1947.
Lady Sings The Blues (1972) - The Man I Love Supported in her performance of the George and Ira Gershwin tune by "Piano Man" (Richard Pryor) but unwilling to take part in a crude tipping ritual, young Billie Holiday (Diana Ross) is rescued by Louis McKay (Billy Dee Williams) in Lady Sings The Blues, 1972.
Funny Face (1957) - Let's Kiss And Make Up After a minor dispute, in Paris, between Fred Astaire as photographer Dick and Audrey Hepburn as reluctant model Jo, director Stanley Donen finishes the song by George & Ira Gershwin and Fred solos, in Paramount’s Funny Face, 1957.
Only Game In Town, The (1970) - But Not For Me After the credit sequence establishing Elizabeth Taylor as a weary Las Vegas showgirl, she enters a piano bar where co-star Warren Beatty is the act, George Stevens directing his last feature, from Frank Gilroy’s play and screenplay, in The Only Game In Town, 1970.
Crime Wave (1954) - That's Gershwin Opening at what probably really is (as later reported on police radio) Maple Ave. in downtown LA, goons Morgan (Ned Young) and Hastings (Charles Buchinsky-later-Bronson) then Penny (Ted de Corsia) show up, making trouble for gas jockey Dub Taylor, in Crime Wave, 1954, starring Sterling Hayden.
Funny Face (1957) - Title Song Fred Astaire (as fashion photographer Dick Avery, based on Richard Avedon) is in the dark room explaining to bookish Jo (Audrey Hepburn, title character) why he wants to take her to Paris to be photographed, song from the original George & Ira Gershwin 1927 musical, in Funny Face. 1957.

Trailer

Family

Morris Gershovitz
Father
Changed family name first to Gershvin and later Gershwin; married in 1895; held a variety of jobs.
Rose Gershovitz
Mother
Married in 1895.
Ira Gershwin
Brother
Lyricist, composer. Born on December 6, 1896; collaborated on numerous songs with his brother George; died on August 17, 1983.
Arthur Gershwin
Brother
Composer. Born on March 14, 1900; died in 1981.
Frances Gershwin Godowsky
Sister
Singer. Born on December 6, 1906; died on January 18, 1999 at age 92.

Companions

Mollie Charleston
Companion
Marguerite Eriksen
Companion
Margaret Manners
Companion
Chorus girl. Was married at time of her liaison with Gershwin; allegedly had a son with Gershwin who was born on May 18, 1926 as Albert Schneider; later adopted the name Alan Gershwin; his paternity claims have never been conclusively proven.
Kay Swift
Companion
Pianist, composer.
Paulette Goddard
Companion
Actor. Reportedly courted her while she was still married to Charlie Chaplin.

Bibliography

"An American Rhapsody: The Story of George Gershwin"
Paul Kresh, Universe Publishing (1987)
"The Gershwin Years"
Edward Jablonski and Lawrence Stewart, Doubleday (1973)
"The Memory of All That: The Life of George Gershwin"
Joan Peyser

Notes

In addition to his compositional skill, Gershwin was an amateur painter and art collector.

Oscar Levant tells of an overnight train trip taken with George Gershwin. When it came time to go to bed, George settled into the more comfortable lower berth leaving Levant to climb to the upper. He later recounted, "I adjusted myself to the inconveniences of the upper berth, reflecting on the artistic economic progression by which Paderewski has a private car, Gershwin a drawing room and Levant a sleepless night. At this moment my light must have disturbed George's doze, for he opened his eyes, looked up at me and said drowsily, 'Upper berth - lower berth. That's the difference between talent and genius'."

"This is the Gershwin miracle. These songs never age. Their ability to project unalloyed joy never diminishes. If performers occasionally need to speak to convey their wonder at this miracle, it's forgivable. Nothing they say speaks as directly or as magnificently as the songs themselves." --From "Fascinatin' Rhythms" by Howard Kissel, Daily News, February 8, 1998.

An incident described by George's friend, the publisher Bennett Cerf, "One day, I happened to remark that the score of one of his infrequent failures, Pardon My English, was below par. George demurred. All of us were sunbathing in the nude; George insisted that we all go inside while he proved his point by going through the score from opening chorus to finale. I can still see him sitting at the piano, stark naked, playing the songs and singing them too at the top of his voice."

"I'd like my music to keep people - all kinds of people - awake when they should be sleeping. I'd like my compositions to be so vital that I'd be required by law to dispense sedatives with each score sold." --George Gershwin.

"There is only one important thing in music and that is ideas and feelings. The various tonalities and sounds mean nothing unless they grow out of ideas. Not many composers have ideas. Far more of them know how to use strange instruments which do not require ideas. Whoever has inspired ideas will write the great music of our period." --George Gershwin.