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He was the second born of four children. His older brother William Revel was a dancer, his younger sister Rene was a singer, and his youngest brother Sam was a concierge in London who later became a travel agent in the United States. They were of Jewish heritage and took the last name "Revel" to honor the French soldier of that name who helped them to flee Europe.
One of Harry Revel's earliest jobs in the US was playing the piano in an "all Hawaiian" band. He wore dark make-up on his hands and face to appear Hawaiian. His mother, Queenie Revel, often sang with the band.
Once in the US, he worked on Broadway, writing the scores for Ziegfeld Follies of 1931, Meet My Sister and Are You With It? He later moved to Hollywood. He wrote scores for the films Sitting Pretty, Broadway Through a Keyhole, We're Not Dressing, She Loves Me Not, Shoot the Works, College Rhythm, Love in Bloom, Paris in the Spring, Stolen Harmony, Two for Tonight, Collegiate, Stowaway, Poor Little Rich Girl, Ali Baba Goes to Town, Wake Up and Live, You Can't Have Everything, Head Over Heels, Love and Kisses, Four Jacks and a Jill and Love Finds Andy Hardy.
Harry Revel collaborated with lyricists Mack Gordon, Mort Greene, Paul Francis Webster, Buddy Feyne and Arnold Horwitt. In 1934 he appeared in Hollywood Rhythm, a short film purporting to show the songwriting team of Mack Gordon and Harry Revel brainstorming the score for College Rhythm.
Revel co-produced and co-wrote the score (with Webster) for the 1944 Benny Fields musical Minstrel Man. The score was nominated for an Academy Award, a first for low-budget studio Producers Releasing Corporation. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for best original song in 1943, but lost to Irving Berlin's "White Christmas".
- Blues in the Night [Musical, Revue] Featuring songs by Harry Revel June 2, 1982 – July 18, 1982
- Music Out of the Moon Themes by Harry Revel 1947
- Are You With It? [Musical] Music by Harry Revel November 10, 1945 – June 29, 1946
- Smiling Faces [Original, Musical, Comedy] Music by Harry Revel August 30, 1932 – September 24, 1932
- Marching By [Musical] Music by Harry Revel March 3, 1932 – [unknown]
- Fast and Furious [Musical, Revue] Music mostly by Harry Revel September 15, 1931 – [unknown]
- Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 [Musical, Revue] Music by Harry Revel July 1, 1931 – November 21, 1931
- Harry Revel at the Songwriters Hall of Fame