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Composer Jule Styne recounts that [in 1941] he was working at Republic Pictures, not one of the more glamorous Hollywood studios, where he was supposed to to write songs, but wound up doing just about everything else. When he finally did get the chance to compose, the Republic people asked him who he wanted to write the lyrics. He said, "'Frank Loesser.' 'Where's he?' "Paramount.' So they made a trade. They swapped John Wayne [who was at that time under contract to Republic] for a picture to get Frank Loesser; that was the deal." When Loesser got there, Styne recalls, "He hated me because I'd degraded him" ( Wilk, pp. 182-183).
Loesser's first published song was "In Love with a Memory of You" music by William Schuman (Wilk 320) and first professionally performed lyric was for "A Waltz Was Born in Vienna" music by Frederick Loewe from 1936 (Wilk 317).
Ed's. note: As it turned out the two of them didn't really score big together until Styne got traded to Paramount and the two collaborated to write songs for the 1942 movie Sweater Girl, which included what became an American standard song, "I Don't Want To Walk without You, Baby."
Where's Charley, Loesser's first Broadway show, for which he wrote both words and music, opened on October 11, 1948. Max Wilk quotes Ernie Martin, a Hollywood music director who encouraged Loesser to go to New York to write the show:
It [Where's Charley] didn't make much of a splash at the beginning, we didn't get great notices at all. But there were telegrams from all the other composers -- Rodgers, Hammerstein, Cole Porter -- congratulating him on his brilliant work. Cole was always so starry-eyed about other people's work. With Loesser, he used to sit there and say, "How can he have thought of a thing like that?" . . . . Arthur Schwartz wrote a piece in The New York Times Sunday section saying that Frank was the greatest undiscovered composer in America . . . . Then people started to pay attention (Wilk, p. 325).
Loesser reversed the bicoastal trajectory of most songwriters who started on Broadway and then made their way to Hollywoood to write for the movies. Loesser had become an established lyricist in California when the opportunity to do the words for the songs in a Broadway show, Where's Charley, the music for which was to be written by Harold, came his way. When Arlen's wife became ill and he remained on the West Coast, Loesser came to New York and wrote both words and music for the show. The rest of which, as they say, is history, or in other words, Guys and Dolls, A Most Happy Fella, etc.
An Evening with
( An Evening with Frank Loesser "contains performances associated with three Frank Loesser shows [with Loesser himself doing much of the performing] — Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, and How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" --from the iTunes review. Click album cover for the remainder.)
Don Ameche and Mary Martin sing "I Never Let a Day Pass By" (music by Victor Schertzinger, words by Frank Loesser) from the 1941 movie, Kiss the Boys Goodbye -- the film for which it was written. This song is not included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog but is certainly worth hearing. Another Schertzinger/Loesser song written for the film,
"Sand in My Shoes," is in the catalog.
Frank Loesser research resources in print (listed chronologically):
ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, New York: American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, Cattell/Bowker, Fourth edition, 1980 (dates, collaborators, shows/movies, songs, etc., entry p. 307-308).
David Ewen. American Songwriters, An H. W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary. New York: The H. W. Wilson Co., 1987 (includes 146 bios of composers and lyricists). -- a wide selection of used copies is available at abebooks.com (entry, pp. 260-265, hard cover ed.).
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Master List of Great American Songbook Songwriters
Names of songwriters who have written at least one song included in the Cafe Songbook Catalog of The Great American Songbook are listed below.
Names of songwriters with two or more song credits in the catalog (with rare exceptions) are linked to their own Cafe Songbook pages, e.g. Fields, Dorothy.
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