Ira Gershwin


Lyricist

About

Also Known As
Arthur Francis, Israel Gershvin
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
December 06, 1896
Died
August 17, 1983

Biography

One-half of the most popular American songwriting team of the 20th century, lyricist Ira Gershwin penned dozens of timeless classics alongside his brother, composer George Gershwin, and other giants of the music industry. Though lyrics were not the focus of his early writing aspirations, the shy, retiring Ira eventually teamed with his younger sibling on Broadway, writing music for such ...

Family & Companions

Leonore Gershwin
Wife
Married September 14, 1926; died on August 20, 1991 in Beverly Hills at age the of 90; founded Roxbury Recordings in 1989 to record Gershwin musicals.

Biography

One-half of the most popular American songwriting team of the 20th century, lyricist Ira Gershwin penned dozens of timeless classics alongside his brother, composer George Gershwin, and other giants of the music industry. Though lyrics were not the focus of his early writing aspirations, the shy, retiring Ira eventually teamed with his younger sibling on Broadway, writing music for such early productions as "Ladies First" and "Lady, Be Good!" A string of Broadway successes followed throughout the 1920s and 1930s, among them the Fred and Adele Astaire starrer "Funny Face," the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Of Thee I Sing," and the classic American opera "Porgy and Bess." Seemingly overnight, songs like "Fascinating Rhythm," "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It" became part of the American musical vernacular. As shattering as his brother's sudden death in 1937 was for Gershwin, he eventually returned to work with several other composers on theater and film projects that included the Kurt Weill Broadway musical "Lady in the Dark," the Gene Kelly/Rita Hayworth romance "Cover Girl" (1944), and the heartrending lyrics to the song "The Man that Got Away" for the Judy Garland melodrama "A Star Is Born" (1954). Years after his retirement and eventual passing, Gershwin and his brother's work still managed to generate big box office with Broadway hits like "My One and Only" and "Crazy for You." Without a doubt, Ira Gershwin would be remembered as one of the defining voices of the American musical.

Born Israel Gershovitz on Dec. 6, 1896 in New York City, "Ira" was the eldest of four children born to Russian immigrants Morris and Rose Gershovitz, who later changed their surname to Gershvin and, finally, Gershwin. Somewhat shy in his youth, the bookish Gershwin spent most of his free time reading, although he was described then as an unremarkable student. While attending Townsend Harris High School, from which he graduated in 1914, Gershwin nurtured his early writing aspirations with a column in the school newspaper. After graduation he briefly attended the City College of New York, but soon dropped out to more actively pursue a career as a writer. In 1917, Gershwin published his first magazine article and began writing reviews of vaudeville shows. While working as a cashier for his father at a Turkish bath, Gershwin paired with his younger brother George - who had already begun to attract attention as a gifted composer - to pen the song, "The Real American Folk Song (Is a Rag)" for the Nora Baye Broadway musical, "Ladies First." Despite this early success, Gershwin remained tentative about committing to a songwriting career.

Not wanting to ride the coattails of his younger brother, Gershwin adopted the nom de plume of Arthur Francis for much of his early work, including the 1921 Broadway musical, "Two Little Girls in Blue," on which he collaborated with composer Vincent Youmans. After a string of well-received Broadway productions in collaboration with various composers, Gershwin at last felt confident enough to drop the pen name and begin working on projects with George. They struck gold with their first effort as a full-fledged team with the 1924 Fred and Adele Astaire hit Broadway musical, "Lady, Be Good!" In addition to the title song, the number "Fascinating Rhythm" quickly became one of the most popular and oft-recorded songs of the brothers' brilliant career. Instantly capturing the mood and meter of the American musical, Ira and his brother went on to thrill Broadway audiences throughout the '20s and '30s. Hit productions like "Oh, Kay!" (1926), "Strike Up the Band" (1927), "Funny Face" (1927) and "Girl Crazy" (1930) first introduced the country to such future standards as "Someone to Watch Over Me," "'S Wonderful" and "Embraceable You."

While he enjoyed his creative partnership with his brother immensely, Gershwin also found time to collaborate with a host of other lyricists and composers, like Harry Warren and Billy Rose on such Broadway productions as "Sweet and Low" (1930). The success of the Gershwin brothers soon attracted Hollywood. Before long, they found themselves traveling westward to pen their first film score for the musical romance, "Delicious" (1931). Working from a story by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, the Gershwin brothers also crafted the music to "Of Thee I Sing" (1931), another Broadway smash that one year later became the first musical ever to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Additionally, Ira worked separately with Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg on "Life Begins at 8:40" (1934) prior to the premiere of the groundbreaking and, at times, controversial American opera, "Porgy and Bess" (1935), regarded by many as the pinnacle of Ira and George's artistic achievements.

The Gershwin brothers returned to Hollywood many times over the following years, composing original scores for such movies as "Shall We Dance" (1937) - featuring the classics "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me" - and "A Damsel in Distress" (1937), which delivered the timeless standard, "Nice Work If You Can Get It." After George's sudden death from a brain tumor in 1937, Ira soldiered on to complete the final film project they had begun together, "The Goldwyn Follies" (1938), featuring the song "Love Is Here to Stay," with composer Vernon Duke as George's replacement. Upon finishing the score, a deeply saddened Ira entered a period of semi-retirement that lasted four years. When Gershwin eventually did return to write for Broadway, he teamed up with such luminaries as Kurt Weill for the musical comedies "Lady in the Dark" (1941) and "The Firebrand of Florence" (1945). He collaborated on more film projects, as well with composers like Jerome Kern on the Gene Kelly/Rita Hayworth musical romance "Cover Girl" (1944) and with the legendary Aaron Copland for the World War II musical "The North Star" (1945). Gershwin later paired with Arthur Schwartz on the Broadway musical comedy "Park Avenue" (1946). Unfortunately, the show did not fare well and the disappointment ultimately marked Gershwin's swan song as a lyricist on the Great White Way.

Film, however, still harbored future triumphs for the venerated songsmith. Teaming with Arlen once again, Gershwin wrote the lyrics for the Academy Award-nominated "The Man that Got Away," sung hauntingly by Judy Garland in the drama "A Star Is Born" (1954). Although it was his third Oscar nomination, shockingly, Gershwin would never take home the coveted statuette. In 1959, just prior to finally committing to a permanent retirement, Gershwin published his wry and informative memoir Lyrics on Several Occasions. In failing health since the mid-1970s, the aging lyricist spent much of his twilight years archiving his vast stores of unpublished manuscripts, recordings and sheet music. A few months after "My One and Only" - a romantic comedy starring Twiggy and Tommy Tune and featuring songs by the Gershwins - opened to rave reviews on Broadway at the recently renamed Gershwin Theater, Ira Gershwin died quietly at his home in Beverly Hills on August 17, 1983 at the age of 86.

While the music of the Gershwin brothers would live on forever, the legacy left behind by the men themselves was also recognized many times over in the years that followed. In 1985, the U.S. Congress bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal upon Ira Gershwin and his brother, marking only the third time songwriters had received the honor. Additionally, the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Musical Achievement Award was established in 1988 by the University of California, Los Angeles as a way to thank the brothers for writing the school's fight song, "Strike Up the Band for UCLA," decades earlier. Proving that the songs of the Gershwin brothers could still bring in the crowds, the Broadway tribute to their work, "Crazy For You," went on to win the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1992. In 2007, the Library of Congress established the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, named in honor of the brothers and given to a composer or performer for their lifetime contributions to popular music.

By Bryce Coleman

Filmography

 

Music (Feature Film)

Joker (2019)
Song
Acrimony (2018)
Song
The Party (2018)
Song
The Post (2017)
Song
Fifty Shades Darker (2017)
Song
Phantom Thread (2017)
Song
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Song
Born to Be Blue (2015)
Song
Big Eyes (2014)
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
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Song
Leatherheads (2008)
Song
Run, Fat Boy, Run (2008)
Song
P.S. I Love You (2007)
Song
Take the Lead (2006)
Song
Man of the Year (2006)
Song
The Wedding Weekend (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
Anything Else (2003)
Song
Normal (2003)
Song
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Song
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Music
Hart's War (2002)
Song
Together (2002)
Song ("It Ain'T Necessarily So")
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Song
Love's Labour's Lost (2000)
Song
Return to Me (2000)
Song
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Song
The Cider House Rules (1999)
Song
At First Sight (1999)
Song
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
Song ("Summertime")
The Bachelor (1999)
Song
My Giant (1998)
Song
There's Something About Mary (1998)
Song
The Real Howard Spitz (1998)
Song
The Proposition (1998)
Song ("They Can'T Take That Away From Me")
Meet Joe Black (1998)
Song
Celebrity (1998)
Song
Living out Loud (1998)
Song
That Old Feeling (1997)
Song
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Song ("But Not For Me")
Mojo (1997)
Song
Neil Simon's Jake's Women (1996)
Song
The Grass Harp (1995)
Song
Miami Rhapsody (1995)
Song
The Neon Bible (1995)
Song Composer ("How Long Has This Been Goin' On")
Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994)
Song ("But Not For Me")
That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Theme Lyrics
It Could Happen to You (1994)
Song
Jennifer Eight (1992)
Song
The Public Eye (1992)
Song
Hero (1992)
Song
Bugsy (1991)
Song
The Fred Astaire Songbook (1991)
Theme Lyrics
He Said, She Said (1991)
Song
My Girl (1991)
Song
When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
Theme Lyrics
Enemies, A Love Story (1989)
Theme Lyrics
See You in the Morning (1989)
Theme Lyrics
Loverboy (1989)
Theme Lyrics
Working Girl (1988)
Theme Lyrics
Beaches (1988)
Theme Lyrics
Aloha Summer (1988)
Theme Lyrics
Man On Fire (1987)
Lyrics ("Someone To Watch Over Me")
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Lyrics ("Someone To Watch Over Me")
Invocation Maya Deren (1987)
Lyrics ("The Man I Love")
Beyond Therapy (1987)
Theme Lyrics
Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)
Theme Lyrics
Round Midnight (1986)
Theme Lyrics
Off Beat (1986)
Theme Lyrics
White Nights (1985)
Lyrics ("There'S A Boat Dat'S Leavin' Soon For New York")
After Hours (1985)
Song
Once Upon a Time in America - Extended Cut (1984)
Theme Lyrics
Love Streams (1984)
Song ("I Can'T Get Started")
Once Upon A Time In America (1984)
Theme Lyrics
City Heat (1984)
Theme Lyrics
Deal Of The Century (1983)
Song ("Someone To Watch Over Me")
They All Laughed (1981)
Song
American Pop (1981)
Song
Valentine (1979)
Theme Lyrics
The Choirboys (1977)
Theme Lyrics
New York, New York (1977)
Theme Lyrics
Violer er bla (1975)
Lyrics
Ain't Misbehaving (1974)
Lyrics
Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More (1974)
Song
Chinatown (1974)
Song
Janis (1974)
Lyrics
Save the Tiger (1973)
Lyrics
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Composer
Star! (1968)
Composer
When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965)
Composer
Sylvia (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
The Country Girl (1955)
Composer
Three for the Show (1955)
Composer
Give a Girl a Break (1954)
Composer
The Glenn Miller Story (1954)
Composer
Young at Heart (1954)
Composer
A Star Is Born (1954)
Composer
So This Is Love (1953)
Composer
Three Sailors and a Girl (1953)
Composer
Meet Danny Wilson (1952)
Composer
With a Song in My Heart (1952)
Composer
An American in Paris (1951)
Composer
Footlight Varieties (1951)
Composer
Starlift (1951)
Composer
Tea for Two (1950)
Composer
Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)
Composer
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Composer
Humoresque (1947)
Composer
The Man I Love (1947)
Composer
The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (1947)
Composer
Till the Clouds Roll By (1947)
Composer
The Jolson Story (1947)
Composer
Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
Composer
Rhapsody in Blue (1945)
Composer
Where Do We Go from Here? (1945)
Composer
Broadway Rhythm (1944)
Composer
Cover Girl (1944)
Composer
Lady in the Dark (1944)
Composer
The North Star (1943)
Composer
Princess O'Rourke (1943)
Composer
Hello Frisco, Hello (1943)
Composer
So's Your Uncle (1943)
Composer
Girl Crazy (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
That's a Good Girl (1933)
Lyrics
Girl Crazy (1932)
Composer
Delicious (1931)
Composer
Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra (1927)
Lyrics

Music (Special)

New York City Opera: The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (2002)
Theme Lyrics
The Gershwins' "Crazy For You" (1999)
Theme Lyrics
Kitty Carlisle Hart: My Broadway Memories (1999)
Song ("My Ship")
Red Hot + Rhapsody (1998)
Songs
Porgy and Bess: An American Voice (1998)
Theme Lyrics
Carnegie Hall Opening Night 1998 (1998)
Theme Lyrics
Sarah Brightman in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall (1998)
Theme Lyrics
Einstein: Light to the Power of 2 (1997)
Lyrics ("They All Laughed (At Christopher Columbus)")
Ira Gershwin at 100: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall (1997)
Theme Lyrics
Gershwin on Ice (1997)
Lyrics ("I Got Rhythm" "Embraceable You" "Let'S Call The Whole Thing Off" "A Foggy Day In London Town")
The Three Sopranos (1996)
Theme Lyrics
A CAPITOL FOURTH -- 1996 (1996)
Theme Lyrics
The Sound of Julie Andrews (1995)
Theme Lyrics
For Better Or For Worse (1993)
Theme Lyrics
The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess (1993)
Theme Lyrics
Michael Feinstein & Friends (1991)
Song
Ask Me Again (1989)
Theme Lyrics
A Grand Night: The Performing Arts Salute Public Television (1988)
Theme Lyrics
Maureen McGovern on Stage at Wolf Trap (1988)
Lyrics ("Strike Up The Band" "S'Wonderful" "They Can'T Take That Away From Me" "Long Ago And Far Away")
A Tribute to American Music: George Gershwin (1986)
Lyrics ("Embraceable You" "Our Love Is Here To Stay" "Of Thee I Sing" "Strike Up The Band" "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" "Summertime")
Rhapsody & Song: A Tribute to George Gershwin (1980)
Theme Lyrics
Of Thee I Sing (1972)
Lyrics

Life Events

1919

First lyrics for brother George with "The Real American Folk Song"

1920

First published lyrics with "Waiting for the Sun to Come Out"

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.
Give A Girl A Break (1954) - Applause, Applause Finally on-stage for the big show that gives the movie its name, Bob (Bob Fosse) and Suzy (Debbie Reynolds) perform Applause, Applause, by Burton Land and Ira Gershwin, in Give A Girl A Break, 1954, directed by Stanley Donen.
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.
Cover Girl (1944) -- Put Me To The Test People forget Margarita Cansino (a.k.a Rita Hayworth, here as "Rusty) was a dancer first, with Gene Kelly (as "Danny"), to Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin's "Put Me To The Test," in Cover Girl, 1944.

Trailer

Family

Morris Gershovitz
Father
Changed family name first to Gershvin and later Gershwin; married in 1895; held a variety occupations.
Rose Gershovitz
Mother
Married in 1895.
George Gershwin
Brother
Composer. Born in 1898; died in 1937; frequently collaborator with Ira.
Arthur Gershwin
Brother
Composer. Born on March 14, 1900; died in 1981.
Frances Gershwin
Sister
Singer. Born on December 6, 1906; died on January 18, 1999 at age 92.

Companions

Leonore Gershwin
Wife
Married September 14, 1926; died on August 20, 1991 in Beverly Hills at age the of 90; founded Roxbury Recordings in 1989 to record Gershwin musicals.

Bibliography