Robert Wells (songwriter)
October 15, 1922
Raymond, Washington, U.S.
|Died||September 23, 1998 (aged 75)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Known for||Co-wrote The Christmas Song with Mel Tormé|
Co-wrote the theme song to The Patty Duke Show with Sid Ramin
(m. 1949; died 1990)
Robert Wells (born Robert Levinson, October 15, 1922 – September 23, 1998) was an American songwriter, composer, script writer and television producer. During his early career, he collaborated with singer and songwriter Mel Tormé, writing several hit songs, most notably "The Christmas Song" in 1945. Later, he became a prolific writer and producer for television, for such shows as The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, as well as for numerous variety specials, such as If They Could See Me Now, starring Shirley MacLaine. He was nominated for several Academy Awards and won six Emmys and a Peabody Award.
Early life and career
Robert Wells was born to a Jewish family in 1922 in Raymond, Washington, the son of Edna Irene (Bradford) and Nathan Levinson. He attended a local business college and later the University of Southern California, where he majored in speech and drama. He served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Both before and after the war, he worked as a scriptwriter and lyricist for both radio and film.
Work with Mel Tormé
From 1945–1949, Wells collaborated extensively with Mel Tormé. Among their many hits were "Born to be Blue" and "A Stranger Called the Blues", as well as numerous film songs. They received an Oscar nomination for the song "Country Fair" from the film So Dear to My Heart.
Their most famous work together is "The Christmas Song". Wells had written what would become the first four lines of the song on a hot day in July, 1945. Tormé had come over to visit, and saw the lines written out on a notepad. Wells thought the idea of writing a Christmas song was a good means of cooling off in the hot California summer, and Tormé agreed. The song was completed in 40 minutes, and went on to become one of the most performed Christmas songs of all time.
Tormé and Wells parted ways in 1949, and Wells went on to write extensively for film and television, as well as to continue to collaborate on popular songs with numerous other musicians and writers. Among his collaborators were Duke Ellington, Cy Coleman (with whom he was nominated for an Emmy), and Henry Mancini (with whom he was nominated for an Oscar).
Robert Wells was a frequent collaborator with filmmaker Blake Edwards, composing songs for such films as A Shot in the Dark and 10, as well as a 1975 British Television special for Edward's wife, Julie Andrews, Julie – My Favourite Things. Other films to feature his work include the 1953 film From Here to Eternity, 1954's The French Line, the 1956 western Tension at Table Rock.
On television, he served as a writer, songwriter and producer for The Dinah Shore Chevy Show, as well as a songwriter for numerous one-off variety specials, starring such acts as Gene Kelly, Peggy Fleming, Andy Williams, Victor Borge, Jane Powell, and Harry Belafonte. In 1963, he collaborated with fellow composer and song writer Sid Ramin to write the theme to The Patty Duke Show. He also won two Emmy awards for his work on the 1975 special Shirley MacLaine: If They Could See Me Now|If They Could See Me Now, as well as four consecutive Emmy awards for his work on The Dinah Shore Chevy Show.
In 1949, Wells married Broadway stage actress and singer Lisa Kirk (of Allegro and Kiss Me, Kate fame). They remained married until her death in 1990. His second wife was Marilyn Wells.
Robert Wells has written or co-written over 400 published songs. Among the more notable ones:
- "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" with Mel Tormé (1945)
- "Re-Enlistment Blues" and "From Here to Eternity", both with Fred Karger, from the film From Here to Eternity (1953)
- "What Every Girl Should Know" with David Holt (1954)
- "Here's to the Losers" with Jack Segal (1963)
- "When Joanna Loved Me" with Jack Segal (1963)
- "It's Easy to Say" with Henry Mancini from the film 10 (1979)
Among the awards won by Robert Wells:
- Six Emmys
- 1957 Sylvania Award
- 1957 Peabody Award
- 1998 Towering Song award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame for "The Christmas Song" (with Mel Tormé)
- The Patty Duke Show
- Vosburgh, Dick (1998-10-27). "Obituary: Robert Wells". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- "Towering Song of 1998". 1998 Award and Induction Ceremony. Songwriters Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Bloom, Nate (December 22, 2014). "All those Holiday/Christmas Songs: So Many Jewish Songwriters!". Jewish World Review.
- Tormé, Mel. 1988. It Wasn't All Velvet: An Autobiography. New York: Viking.