Lorenz Hart

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Lorenz Hart
Lorenz Hart in 1936
Lorenz Hart in 1936
Background information
Birth nameLorenz Milton Hart
Born(1895-05-02)May 2, 1895
New York City, U.S.
DiedNovember 22, 1943(1943-11-22) (aged 48)
New York City, U.S.
GenresMusical theatre
Years active1919–1943

Lorenz Milton Hart (May 2, 1895 – November 22, 1943) was an American lyricist and half of the Broadway songwriting team Rodgers and Hart. Some of his more famous lyrics include "Blue Moon"; "The Lady Is a Tramp"; "Manhattan"; "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered"; and "My Funny Valentine".

Life and career[edit]

Hart was born in Harlem, New York City, the elder of two sons, to Jewish immigrant parents, Max M. and Frieda (Isenberg) Hart, of German background. Through his mother, he was a great-grandnephew of the German poet Heinrich Heine.[1] 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.)[2]

Hart received his early education from Columbia Grammar School and entered Columbia College in 1913, before switching to Columbia University School of Journalism, where he attended for two years.[2][3][4][5] In 1919 a friend introduced him to Richard Rodgers, and the two joined forces to write songs for a series of amateur and student productions.[2]

By 1918, Hart was working for the Shubert brothers, partners in theatre, translating German plays songs into English.[2] 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, which also had music by Sigmund Romberg. 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 partnership of more than 20 years that ended shortly before 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.[6] Many of their songs are standard repertoire for singers and jazz instrumentalists. Hart has been called "the expressive bard of the urban generation which matured during the interwar years".[2] But the "encomiums suggest[ing] that Larry Hart was a poet"[7] caused his friend and fellow writer Henry Myers to state otherwise. "Larry in particular was primarily a showman. If you can manage to examine his songs technically, and for the moment elude their spell, you will see that they are all meant to be acted, that they are part of a play. Larry was a playwright."[7]

Rodgers and Hart 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).[3] 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 ongoing drinking.[8] Nevertheless, Rodgers and Hart continued working together through mid-1942, with their final new musical being 1942's By Jupiter.

The New York Times reported on July 23, 1942: "The Theatre Guild announced yesterday that Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II will soon begin work on a musical version of Lynn Riggs's folk-play, Green Grow the Lilacs, which the Guild produced for sixty-four performances at the Guild Theatre in 1931." Rodgers had brought Hammerstein onto the project due to Hart's worsening mental state;[9] Hart would admit he had difficulty writing a musical for such a rural setting as Oklahoma and departed,[10] leaving an eager Hammerstein (whose own songwriting partner Jerome Kern had no interest in the project) to complete what would eventually become Oklahoma![11] Rodgers and Hammerstein would continue collaborating for 16 years (ending in Hammerstein's death in 1960), a partnership that made the duo one of the most successful composing teams of the 20th century.

Hart, meanwhile, was much affected by his mother's death in late April 1943. Regrouping somewhat, Rodgers and Hart teamed a final time in the fall of 1943 for a revival of A Connecticut Yankee. Six new numbers, including "To Keep My Love Alive", were written for this reworked version of the play; it would prove to be Hart's last lyric. Hart had taken off the night of the mid-November opening and was gone for two days. He was found ill in a hotel room from drink and taken to Doctors Hospital, Upper East Side, but died within a few days.[2]

Lyrical style[edit]

According to Thomas Hischak, Hart "had a remarkable talent for polysyllabic and internal rhymes",[12] and his lyrics have often been praised for their wit and technical sophistication.

According to The New York Times music critic Stephen Holden, "Many of Hart's ballad lyrics conveyed a heart-stopping sadness that reflected his conviction that he was physically too unattractive to be lovable."[13] Holden 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."[6]

Personal life and death[edit]

Hart lived with his widowed mother. He was an alcoholic, and would sometimes disappear and be gone for weeks at a time on drinking binges.[2] Many of his contemporaries who knew him socially have stated he was a discreet homosexual, but with a reputation as a voyeur.[14]

Hart experienced depression and sadness 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.[15] His remains are buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens County, New York.[16][17]

In popular culture[edit]

The circumstances of Lorenz Hart's life were heavily altered and romanticized in the 1948 MGM biopic Words and Music, with fictitious personal details such as changing his sexual orientation and attributing his erratic behavior and depression to an obsession with a woman (played in the film by Betty Garrett) who turns down his marriage proposal.[18]

Selected stage works[edit]

Notable songs[edit]


  1. ^ Politico.com. Retrieved November 19, 2017
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Hughson Mooney, "Lorenz Hart" Archived September 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, 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.
  3. ^ a b Biography" Archived April 21, 2017, at the Wayback Machine songwritershalloffame.org, retrieved November 12, 2010
  4. ^ Beck, Andy; Fisher, Brian (June 2006). Another Op'nin', Another Show: 15 Broadway Favorites for Solo Singers. Alfred Music Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7390-4087-4.
  5. ^ "Varsity Show's 107th Production: A Modern Spectacle That Evokes Rich Tradition". www.columbia.edu. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Holden, Stephen, "Pop View: Just a Sap For Sugar, Love And Sorrow", The New York Times, April 30, 1995.
  7. ^ a b Marmorstein, Gary A Ship Without a Sail: the life of Lorenz Hart Simon & Schuster 2012. p. 14.
  8. ^ Nolan, Frederick, Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway, New York: Oxford University Press (1995), pp. 237–239; accessed December 2, 2010.
  9. ^ Layne, Joslyn. Lorenz Hart Biography, Allmusic, accessed December 22, 2010
  10. ^ Kantor, Michael and Maslon, Laurence. Broadway: The American Musical. New York: Bullfinch Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8212-2905-2 pages 196–202
  11. ^ Nolan, Frederick. The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers and Hammerstein. New York: Applause Books, 2002, ISBN 1-55783-473-3 pages 1–25
  12. ^ Hischak, Thomas. The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia (2007). Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 109. ISBN 0-313-34140-0.
  13. ^ Holden, Stephen."Television Review: Thou Rodgers, Thou Hart, So Fizzy, So Smart", The New York Times, January 6, 1999. Retrieved October 12, 2020/
  14. ^ Gottlieb, Robert (April 1, 2013). "Rodgers and Hart's Dysfunctional Partnership". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  15. ^ Nolan, p. 2.
  16. ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Location 20158). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
  17. ^ "Larry Hart Honored by 300 at Rites Here — Cast of 'A Connecticut Yankee' at Song Writer's Funeral". The New York Times. November 25, 1943. p. 25. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  18. ^ https://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/510/words-and-music#articles-reviews?articleId=99341

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: The Life of Lorenz Hart, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. ISBN 9781416594260
  • Marx, Samuel; Clayton, Jan. 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.
  • Furia, Philip. The Poets of Tin Pan Alley: A History of America's Great Lyricists. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

External links[edit]