Lorenz Hart

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Lorenz Hart
Rodgers and Hart NYWTS.jpg
Lorenz Hart (right) with Richard Rodgers in 1936.
Background information
Birth name Lorenz Milton Hart
Born (1895-05-02)May 2, 1895
New York City, New York, USA
Died November 22, 1943(1943-11-22) (aged 48)
New York City, New York, USA
Genres Musical theatre
Occupation(s) Composer, songwriter, playwright
Years active 1919–1943

Lorenz Milton Hart (May 2, 1895 – November 22, 1943) was the lyricist half of the Broadway songwriting team Rodgers and Hart. Some of his more famous lyrics include "Blue Moon," "Mountain Greenery," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Manhattan," "Where or When," "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," "Falling in Love with Love," "My Funny Valentine," "I Could Write a Book", "This Can't Be Love", "With a Song in My Heart", "It Never Entered My Mind", and "Isn't It Romantic?".

Life and career[edit]

Hart was born in Harlem, the elder of two sons, to Jewish immigrant parents, Max M. and Frieda (Isenberg) Hart, of German background. His father, a business promoter, sent Hart and his brother to private schools. (His brother, Teddy Hart, also went into theatre and became a musical comedy star. Teddy Hart's wife, Dorothy Hart, wrote a biography of Lorenz Hart.)[1]

Hart received his early education from Columbia Grammar School and then attended Columbia University School of Journalism for two years.[1][2] A friend introduced him to Richard Rodgers, and the two joined forces to write songs for a series of amateur and student productions.[1]

By 1918, Hart was working for the Shubert brothers, partners in theatre, translating German plays into English.[1] In 1919, his and Rodgers' song "Any Old Place With You" was included in the Broadway musical comedy A Lonely Romeo. In 1920, six of their songs were used in the musical comedy Poor Little Ritz Girl. They were hired to write the score for the 1925 Theatre Guild production The Garrick Gaieties, the success of which brought them acclaim.

Rodgers and Hart subsequently wrote the music and lyrics for 26 Broadway musicals during a more-than-20-year partnership that ended only with Hart's early death. Their "big four" were Babes in Arms, The Boys From Syracuse, Pal Joey, and On Your Toes. The Rodgers and Hart songs have been described as intimate and destined for long lives outside the theater.[3] Many of their songs are standard repertoire for singers and jazz instrumentalists. Notable singers who have performed and recorded their songs have included Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, and Carly Simon.[3] Hart has been called "the expressive bard of the urban generation which matured during the interwar years."[1]

They wrote music and lyrics for several films, including Love Me Tonight (1932), The Phantom President (1932), Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933), and Mississippi (1935).[2] With their successes, during the Great Depression Hart was earning $60,000 annually, and he became a magnet for many people. He gave numerous large parties. Beginning in 1938, he traveled more often and suffered from his drinking.[4] He was much affected by his mother's death in late April 1943.

Rodgers and Hart teamed a final time in the fall of 1943 for a revival of A Connecticut Yankee. Hart had taken off the night of the opening and was gone for two days. He was found ill in a hotel room and taken to the hospital but died in a few days.[1] After Hart's death, Rodgers collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein, with whom earlier that year he had created the hit musical Oklahoma!.

Musical style[edit]

According to Thomas Hischak, Hart "had a remarkable talent for polysyllabic and internal rhymes",[5] and his lyrics have often been praised for their wit and technical sophistication.

According to Stephen Holden, a writer in The New York Times, "Many of Hart's ballad lyrics conveyed a heart-stopping sadness that reflected his conviction that he was physically too unattractive to be lovable."[6] The New York Times writer also noted that "In his lyrics, as in his life, Hart stands as a compellingly lonely figure. Although he wrote dozens of songs that are playful, funny and filled with clever wordplay, it is the rueful vulnerability beneath their surface that lends them a singular poignancy."[3]

Personal life[edit]

For years Hart was a bachelor and lived with his widowed mother. He suffered from alcoholism, and would sometimes disappear for weeks at a time on alcoholic binges.[1]

Holden writes:

Hart suffered from depression throughout his life. His erratic behavior was often the cause of friction between him and Rodgers and led to a breakup of their partnership in 1943 before his death. Rodgers then began collaborating with Oscar Hammerstein II.

Devastated by the death of his mother seven months earlier, Hart died in New York City of pneumonia from exposure on November 22, 1943, after drinking heavily.[7] He is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens County, New York. The circumstances of his life were heavily edited and romanticized for the 1948 MGM biopic Words and Music.

Selected stage works[edit]

Notable songs[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Hughson Mooney, "Lorenz Hart", PBS. Excerpted from the Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 3: 1941-1945. American Council of Learned Societies, 1973. Reprinted by permission of the American Council of Learned Societies; retrieved November 12, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Biography" songwritershalloffame.org, retrieved November 12, 2010
  3. ^ a b c d Holden, Stephen, "Pop View: Just a Sap For Sugar, Love And Sorrow", The New York Times, April 30, 1995.
  4. ^ Nolan, Frederick, Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway, New York: Oxford University Press (1995), pp. 237-239; accessed December 2, 2010.
  5. ^ Hischak, Thomas. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia (2007). Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 109. ISBN 0-313-34140-0.
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen."Television Review: Thou Rodgers, Thou Hart, So Fizzy, So Smart", The New York Times, January 6, 1999.
  7. ^ Nolan, p. 2.

Further reading[edit]

  • Friends of the USC Libraries. The Hart of the Matter: A Celebration of Lorenz Hart, September 30, 1973. [Los Angeles]: Friends of the USC Libraries, University of Southern California, 1973.
  • Hart, Dorothy. Thou Swell, Thou Witty: The Life and Lyrics of Lorenz Hart, New York: Harper & Row, 1976.
  • Marmorstein, Gary. "A Ship Without A Sail", New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012.
  • Marx, Samuel, and Jan Clayton. Rodgers & Hart: Bewitched, Bothered, and Bedeviled: An Anecdotal Account, New York: Putnam, 1976.
  • Nolan, Frederick W. Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

External links[edit]