Anne Caldwell

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Anne Caldwell in 1911

Anne Caldwell (née Anne Payson Caldwell; 30 August 1868 – 22 October 1936), also known as Anne Caldwell O'Dea, was a prolific playwright and lyricist.[1] She wrote both pop songs and Broadway shows, sometimes working with composer Jerome Kern.


Anne Caldwell was born Anne Marsh Caldwell in Boston, Massachusetts.[1]

She began her career at the Juvenile Opera Co. as one of only four female songwriters active in the early 1900s. She was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers where her output between 1907 through 1928 focused mainly on Broadway scores.[2] In 1929, lured by producer William LeBaron, she went to Hollywood where she became a script doctor and write lyrics for RKO Pictures. It was announced that she was engaged by Max Hart to write songs with Harry Tierny.[i] By October she was signed to write the lyrics for the film Dixiana.[ii]

From 1900 to the mid 1920s, she mostly collaborated with composer Jerome Kern.[2] Her first collaboration with Kern was the musical, She’s a Good Fellow, followed by The Night Boat. The Night Boat was one of Caldwell and Kern’s more successful shows but is generally not considered revivable today. The plots and comedy of their shows don’t satisfy contemporary audiences.[3] Her final credited work was a radio adaptation of the 1933 film (on which she had also worked) Flying Down to Rio.[iii]

Until the careers of Caldwell, along with Rida Johnson Young and Dorothy Donnelly, writing American musical comedy was a male profession. They helped established the idea that a female writer could create works for the stage that were equally as satirical, witty, timely, and simply as comical as the work of any man.[3]

Caldwell married William L. Vinal (1855–1897) on August 2, 1885, in Manhattan, New York.[4] They had daughter, Marianna Sarah Vinal, aka Molly (1886–1950). William Vinal was killed on March 4, 1897, in a gas explosion in Boston on the Tremont Street Subway at the Boylston station.[iv]

She remarried lyricist James J. O'Dea (1870–1914)[v][a] on August 15, 1904, in Brooklyn.[5]

She died in Beverly Hills, California after a short illness. Her son Anthony Patrick O'Day (1900–1961) and daughter Molly O'Day (née Marianna Sarah Vinal; 1886–1950) were with her.[iii]


Upon her passing, Variety called her "one of the most prolific librettists known to show business. A quiet, unassuming woman she developed a technique that rarely failed and was both book writer and lyricist."[vi] She was inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.[6]


Scene from Caldwell's "The Nest Egg" with Zelda Sears at the Park Theatre, Boston, ca.1911

Caldwell wrote lyrics and/or dialogue for dozens of Broadway shows:[7]

  • Sergeant Brue (1905)
  • The Top o’ th’ World (1907)
  • The Nest Egg (1910)
  • Uncle Sam (1911)
  • The Lady of the Slipper (1912)
  • When Claudia Smiles (1914)
  • Chin Chin (1914)
  • Pom-pom (1916)
  • Go to It (1916)
  • Jack O’Lantern (1917)
  • The Canary (1918)
  • She’s a Good Fellow (1919)
  • The Lady in Red (1919)
  • The Night Boat (1920)
  • The Sweetheart Shop (1920)
  • Tip Top (1920)
  • Hitchy-Koo (1920)
  • Good Morning Dearie (1921)
  • The Bunch and Judy (1922)
  • Sally (1923)
  • Stepping Stones (1923)
  • Peg-O’-My-Dreams (1924)
  • The Magnolia Lady (1924)
  • The City Chap (1925)
  • Criss Cross (1926)
  • Yours Truly (1927)
  • Lucky (1927)
  • Take the Air (1927)
  • Yours Truly (1928)
  • Three Cheers (1928)


  1. ^ James J. O'Dea (1870 Canada –12 Apr 1914 Rockville Centre, New York) was a vaudeville actor, lyricist, and musical comedy playwright.


  1. ^ a b "Caldwell, Anne (1876–1936)," Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia (Caldwell is in Vol. 3 of 17), Anne Commire (ed.), Deborah Klezmer (assoc. ed.), Gale (2000); OCLC 612101625, 41108563
  2. ^ a b "Anne Caldwell Biography," Songwriters Hall of Fame ( (retrieved May 6, 2015)
  3. ^ a b "Musical of the Month: Night Boat," by Doug Reside, PhD (né Douglas LaRue Reside; born 1978) (NYPL Digital Curator for Performing Arts Billy Rose Theatre Division), January 31, 2013 (retrieved May 6, 2015)
  4. ^ "William Vinal and Anna Caldwell, August 2, 1885" (citing Marriage in Manhattan), New York City Marriage Records, 1829–1940, culled from the New York City Municipal Archives, digitally distributed by FamilySearch ( (retrieved October 29, 2015)
  5. ^ "Anna Caldwell" Certificate No. 6075, Kings County, New York, August 15, 1904, Dix Hills, New York: Italian Genealogical Group, Inc. (; OCLC 43187049, 875172671
  6. ^ Tyler, Don (2007-04-02). Hit Songs, 1900-1955: American Popular Music of the Pre-Rock Era. McFarland. ISBN 9780786429462. Retrieved 2015-05-06. 
  7. ^ "Anne Caldwell". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved April 28, 2014. 


  1. ^ "Radio-Music: Caldwell-Tierney Talker," Variety, June 5, 1929, p. 56.
  2. ^ "Anne Caldwell Signed," Billboard, October 12, 1929, p. 22.
  3. ^ a b "Obituaries: Anne Caldwell," Variety, October 28, 1936, p. 63.
  4. ^ "Nine Persons Killed and Twelve Injured; Terrific Explosion In The New Boston Subway," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 4, 1897, pg. 1, col. 1
  5. ^ "Obituary: James O'Dea," Variety, April 17, 1914, pg. 14
  6. ^ "Inside Stuff-Legit," Variety, October 28, 1936, p. 54.

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