L to R: Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar
February 10, 1884|
New York City
September 18, 1947 (aged 63)|
Kalmar, a native of New York City, left school at an early age and began working in vaudeville. He appeared on stage as a magician, comedian and dancer before switching to songwriting after a knee injury ended his performing career. By this time he had earned enough to start a music publishing company, Kalmar and Puck, where he collaborated with a number of songwriters, including Harry Puck (1891–1964) and Harry Ruby. The publishing firm also operated under the name Kalmar, Puck, Abrahams, Consolidated, Inc., the other named partner being Maurice Abrahams (1883–1931)
By 1918 Kalmar and Ruby had formed a permanent songwriting team. Together, they wrote the musical score for the Marx Brothers' stage production of Animal Crackers (1928) and subsequent film version. Their songs were also featured in the Marx Brothers' films Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933). Kalmar's partnership with Ruby was portrayed in the 1950 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical Three Little Words, starring Fred Astaire and Red Skelton. Kalmar did, however, occasionally work with Oscar Hammerstein II, Ted Snyder and other songwriters.
Bert Kalmar was married to Jessie Brown, with whom he had two children. The couple were later divorced.
- Ziegfeld Follies of 1920 (1920) - revue - featured co-songwriter for "I'm a Vamp from East Broadway"
- Helen of Troy, New York (1923) - co-composer and co-lyricist with Harry Ruby
- Ziegfeld Follies of 1923 (1923) - revue - featured lyricist for "Society Bud"
- No Other Girl (1924) - co-composer and co-lyricist with Harry Ruby
- Holka Polka (1925) - book-editor
- The Ramblers (1926) - co-composer, co-lyricist, and co-bookwriter with Harry Ruby
- Lucky (1927) - co-writer with Otto Harbach, Harry Ruby and Jerome Kern
- The Five O'Clock Girl (1927) and (1981 revival) - lyricist with composer Harry Ruby
- She's My Baby (1928) - co-bookwriter with Harry Ruby
- Top Speed (1929) - co-writer and co-producer with Harry Ruby and Guy Bolton
- High Kickers (1941) - co-composer, co-lyricist with Harry Ruby and co-bookwriter with Ruby and George Jessel
- The Corn is Green (1943) - actor in the role of "Will Hughes"
- Fosse (1999) - revue - featured lyricist for "Who's Sorry Now?"
- Notable songs
- Who's Sorry Now? 1923: Kalmar and Ruby's first big hit.
- I Wanna Be Loved by You 1928: a hit for Helen Kane, known as the "Boop-boop-a-doop girl", and sung by Marilyn Monroe in the film "Some Like It Hot".
- I Love You So Much 1928
- Three Little Words 1930: their biggest hit.
- Nevertheless 1931: a hit for both Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallee, later done by The Mills Brothers and Frank Sinatra.
- I'm Against It, I Always Get My Man and Everyone Says I Love You from "Horsefeathers" 1932.
- Hail, Hail Fredonia from Duck Soup, 1933.
- What A Perfect Combination 1932: lyrics by Kalmar and Irving Caesar, music by Ruby and Harry Akst, written for the Broadway show "The Kid" starring Eddie Cantor.
- A Kiss to Build a Dream On 1935: their last hit.
- Works by or about Bert Kalmar at Internet Archive
- Works by Bert Kalmar at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Bert Kalmar at the Sheet Music Consortium
- Bert Kalmar on IMDb
- Bert Kalmar at the Internet Broadway Database