Alan Jay Lerner (August 31, 1918 – June 14, 1986) was an American lyricist and librettist. In collaboration with Frederick Loewe, and later Burton Lane, he created some of the world's most popular and enduring works of musical theatre both for the stage and on film. He won three Tony Awards and three Academy Awards, among other honors.
Alan Jay Lerner
Lerner, c. 1975
|Born||August 31, 1918|
New York City, New York
|Died||June 14, 1986 (aged 67)|
New York City, New York
|Genres||Musical theatre, popular|
Born in New York City, he was the son of Jewish parents Edith Adelson Lerner and Joseph Jay Lerner, whose brother, Samuel Alexander Lerner, was founder and owner of the Lerner Stores, a chain of dress shops. One of Lerner's cousins was the radio comedian and television game show panelist Henry Morgan. Lerner was educated at Bedales School in England, The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut, (where he wrote "The Choate Marching Song") and Harvard. He attended both Camp Androscoggin and Camp Greylock. At both Choate and Harvard, Lerner was a classmate of John F. Kennedy's; at Choate they had worked together on the yearbook staff. Like Cole Porter at Yale and Richard Rodgers at Columbia, his career in musical theater began with his collegiate contributions, in Lerner's case to the annual Harvard Hasty Pudding musicals. During the summers of 1936 and 1937, Lerner studied music composition at Juilliard. While attending Harvard, he lost his sight in his left eye due to an accident in the boxing ring. In 1957, Lerner and Leonard Bernstein, another of Lerner's college classmates, collaborated on "Lonely Men of Harvard," a tongue-in-cheek salute to their alma mater.
Due to his eye injury, Lerner could not serve in World War II. Instead he wrote radio scripts, including Your Hit Parade, until he was introduced to Austrian composer Frederick Loewe, who needed a partner, in 1942 at the Lamb's Club. While at the Lamb's, he also met Lorenz Hart, with whom he would also collaborate.
Lerner and Loewe's first collaboration was a musical adaptation of Barry Conners's farce The Patsy called Life of the Party for a Detroit stock company. The lyrics were mostly written by Earle Crooker, but he had left the project, with the score needing vast improvement. It enjoyed a nine-week run and encouraged the duo to join forces with Arthur Pierson for What's Up?, which opened on Broadway in 1943. It ran for 63 performances and was followed two years later by The Day Before Spring.
Their first hit was Brigadoon (1947), a romantic fantasy set in a mystical Scottish village, directed by Robert Lewis. It was followed in 1951 by the Gold Rush story Paint Your Wagon. While the show ran for nearly a year and included songs that later became pop standards, it was less successful than Lerner's previous work. He later said of Paint Your Wagon, it was "a success but not a hit."
Lerner worked with Kurt Weill on the stage musical Love Life (1948) and Burton Lane on the movie musical Royal Wedding (1951). In that same year Lerner also wrote the Oscar-winning original screenplay for An American in Paris, produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Vincente Minnelli. This was the same team who would later join with Lerner and Loewe to create Gigi.
In 1956, Lerner and Loewe unveiled My Fair Lady. By this time, too, Lerner and Burton Lane were already working on a musical about Li'l Abner. Gabriel Pascal owned the rights to Pygmalion, which had been unsuccessful with other composers who tried to adapt it into a musical. Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz first tried, and then Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II attempted, but gave up and Hammerstein told Lerner, "Pygmalion had no subplot". Lerner and Loewe's adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion retained his social commentary and added appropriate songs for the characters of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, played originally by Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. It set box-office records in New York and London. When brought to the screen in 1964, the movie version won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Rex Harrison.
Lerner and Loewe's run of success continued with their next project, a film adaptation of stories from Colette, the Academy Award-winning film musical Gigi, starring Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier. The film won all of its nine Oscar nominations, a record at that time, and a special Oscar for co-star Maurice Chevalier.
The Lerner-Loewe partnership cracked under the stress of producing the Arthurian Camelot in 1960, with Loewe resisting Lerner's desire to direct as well as write when original director Moss Hart suffered a heart attack in the last few months of rehearsals and died shortly after the show's premiere. Lerner was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers while Loewe continued to have heart troubles. Camelot was a hit nonetheless, and immediately following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, his widow told reporter Theodore H. White that JFK's administration reminded her of the "one brief shining moment" of Lerner and Loewe's Camelot. As of the early 21st century, Camelot was still invoked to describe the idealism, romance, and tragedy of the Kennedy years.
Loewe retired to Palm Springs, California, while Lerner went through a series of musicals—some successful, some not—with such composers as André Previn (Coco), John Barry (Lolita, My Love), Leonard Bernstein (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), Burton Lane (Carmelina) and Charles Strouse (Dance a Little Closer, based on the film, Idiot's Delight, nicknamed Close A Little Faster by Broadway humorists because it closed on opening night). Most biographers blame Lerner's professional decline on the lack of a strong director with whom Lerner could collaborate, as Neil Simon did with Mike Nichols or Stephen Sondheim with Harold Prince (Moss Hart, who had directed My Fair Lady, died shortly after Camelot opened). In 1965 Lerner collaborated again with Burton Lane on the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which was adapted for film in 1970. At this time, Lerner was hired by film producer Arthur P. Jacobs to write a treatment for an upcoming film project, Doctor Dolittle, but Lerner abrogated his contract after several non-productive months of non-communicative procrastination and was replaced with Leslie Bricusse. Lerner was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.
In 1973, Lerner coaxed Loewe out of retirement to augment the Gigi score for a musical stage adaptation. The following year they collaborated on a musical film version of The Little Prince, based on the classic children's tale by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This film was a critical and box office failure, but it has gained a modern following.
Lerner's autobiography, The Street Where I Live (1978), was an account of three of his and Loewe's successful collaborations, My Fair Lady, Gigi, and Camelot, along with personal information. In the last year of his life he published The Musical Theatre: A Celebration, a well-reviewed history of the theatre, with personal anecdotes and humor. A book of Lerner's lyrics entitled A Hymn To Him, edited by British writer Benny Green, was published in 1987.
At the time of Lerner's death, he had been working with Gerard Kenny and Kristi Kane in London on a musical version of the film My Man Godfrey. He had also received an urgent call from Andrew Lloyd Webber, asking him to write the lyrics to The Phantom of the Opera. He wrote "Masquerade", but he then informed Webber that he wanted to leave the project because he was losing his memory (due to an undiagnosed brain tumor) and Charles Hart replaced him. He had turned down an invitation to write the English-language lyrics for the musical version of Les Misérables.
After Lerner's death, Paul Blake made a musical revue based on Lerner's lyrics and life entitled Almost Like Being In Love, which featured music by Frederick Loewe, Burton Lane, André Previn, Charles Strouse, and Kurt Weill. The show ran for 10 days at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.
Lerner often struggled with writing his lyrics. He was uncharacteristically able to complete "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady in one 24-hour period. He usually spent months on each song and was constantly rewriting them. Lerner was said to have insecurity about his talent. He would sometimes write songs with someone in mind, for instance, "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" from My Fair Lady was written with Rex Harrison in mind to complement his very limited vocal range.
Lerner said of writing:
You have to keep in mind that there is no such thing as realism or naturalism in the theater. That is a myth. If there was realism in the theater, there would never be a third act. Nothing ends that way. A man's life is made up of thousands and thousands of little pieces. In writing fiction, you select 20 or 30 of them. In a musical, you select even fewer than that.
First, we decide where a song is needed in a play. Second, what is it going to be about? Third, we discuss the mood of the song. Fourth, I give (Loewe) a title. Then he writes the music to the title and the general feeling of the song is established. After he's written the melody, then I write the lyrics.
In a 1979 interview on NPR's All Things Considered, Lerner went into some depth about his lyrics for My Fair Lady. Professor Henry Higgins sings, "Look at her, a prisoner of the gutters / Condemned by every syllable she utters / By right she should be taken out and hung / For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue." Lerner said he knew the lyric used incorrect grammar for the sake of a rhyme. He was later approached about it by another lyricist:
I thought, oh well, maybe nobody will notice it, but not at all. Two nights after it opened, I ran into Noël Coward in a restaurant, and he walked over and he said, "Dear boy, it is hanged, not hung." I said, "Oh, Noel, I know it, I know it! You know, shut up!" So, and there's another, "Than to ever let a woman in my life." It should be, "as to ever let a woman in my life," but it just didn't sing well.
Alan Jay Lerner was an advocate for writers' rights in theatre. He was a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. In 1960, he was elected as the twelfth president of the non-profit organization. He continued to serve as the Guild's president until 1964.
For nearly twenty years, Lerner was addicted to amphetamine; during the 1960s he was a patient of Max Jacobson, known as "Dr. Feelgood", who administered injections of "vitamins with enzymes" that were in fact laced with amphetamine. Lerner's addiction is believed to have been the result of Jacobson's practice.
Lerner married eight times: Ruth Boyd (1940–1947), singer Marion Bell (1947–1949), actress Nancy Olson (1950–1957), lawyer Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo (1957–1965), editor Karen Gundersen (1966–1974), Sandra Payne (1974–1976), Nina Bushkin (1977–1981) and Liz Robertson (1981–1986 [his death]). Four of his eight wives – Olson, Payne, Bushkin, and Robertson – were actresses. His seventh wife, Nina Bushkin, whom he married on May 30, 1977, was the director of development at Mannes College of Music and the daughter of composer and musician Joey Bushkin. After their divorce in 1981, Lerner was ordered to pay her a settlement of $50,000. Lerner wrote in his autobiography (as quoted by The New York Times): "All I can say is that if I had no flair for marriage, I also had no flair for bachelorhood." One of his ex-wives reportedly said, "Marriage is Alan's way of saying goodbye."
Lerner had four children: three daughters, Susan (by Boyd), Liza and Jennifer (by Olson); and one son, screenwriter and journalist Michael Alan Lerner (by di Borgo).
Lerner's multiple divorces cost him much of his wealth, but he was primarily responsible for his own financial ups and downs and was apparently less than truthful about his financial fecklessness. One persistent fiction, widely publicized, was that his divorce settlement from Micheline Muselli Pozzo di Borgo (his fourth wife) cost him an estimated $1 million in 1965. This was a gross distortion of the truth. Lerner's pattern of financial mismanagement continued until his death from cancer in 1986, when he reportedly owed the US Internal Revenue Service over US$1,000,000 in back taxes and was unable to pay for his final medical expenses.
On June 14, 1986, Lerner died of lung cancer in Manhattan at the age of 67. At the time of his death he was married to actress Liz Robertson, who was 36 years his junior. He lived in Center Island, New York. He has a memorial plaque in St Paul's Church, the Actor's Church in Covent Garden in London.
"Almost Like Being in Love" is a popular song published and first performed in 1947. The music was written by Frederick Loewe, and the lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner as part of the score for the musical Brigadoon. The song was sung by David Brooks in the 1947 Broadway production. It was later performed in the 1954 film version by Gene Kelly.There were three hit versions of the song in the United States in 1947. Frank Sinatra's version was the highest charting at no. 20. Mildred Bailey and Mary Martin both charted with the song at no. 21 that year.Nat King Cole recorded more than one version of the song, including a later version that was used as the closing song in the 1993 movie Groundhog Day which starred Bill Murray. Cole's version, in the key of G major like the original, features a ii–V–I turnaround (2-5-1) in G, a pair of similar 2-5-1 sequences in E major and D major for the bridge, after which it raises the refrain a half-step with a 2-5-1 in A flat major.
Frank Sinatra rerecorded the song for his 1961 album Come Swing with Me!; this is the version generally heard today. The song was also made popular by Shirley Bassey. Like Judy Garland, Bassey performed this song as a medley with the song, "This Can't Be Love".Frederick Loewe
Frederick Loewe (, originally German Friedrich (Fritz) Löwe German pronunciation: [ˈløːvə]; June 10, 1901 – February 14, 1988), was an Austrian-American composer. He collaborated with lyricist Alan Jay Lerner on a series of Broadway musicals, including My Fair Lady and Camelot, both of which were made into films.Get Me to the Church on Time
"Get Me to the Church on Time" is a song composed by Frederick Loewe, with lyrics written by Alan Jay Lerner for the 1956 musical My Fair Lady, where it was introduced by Stanley Holloway.
It is sung by the cockney character Alfred P. Doolittle, the father of the show's main character Eliza Doolittle. He has received a surprise bequest of four thousand pounds a year from an American millionaire, raising him to middle class respectability. Consequently, he feels he must marry Eliza's "stepmother", the woman with whom he has been living for many years. Doolittle and his friends have one last spree before the wedding and the song is a plea to his friends not to let his drunken merriment forget his good intentions and make sure he gets to his wedding.Gigi (Hank Jones album)
Gigi (full title Hank Jones Swings Songs from Lerner and Loewe's Gigi ) is an album by American jazz pianist Hank Jones featuring jazz adaptations of tunes from Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical romantic comedy film Gigi recorded in 1958 and released on the Golden Crest label.Gigi (song)
"Gigi" is the title song from the 1958 Academy Award-winning film, directed by Vincente Minnelli. It was written by Frederick Loewe (music) and Alan Jay Lerner (words), sung by Louis Jourdan in the film. It then went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1958.Gigi in Jazz
Gigi in Jazz is an album by American jazz trumpeter and arranger Shorty Rogers performing jazz adaptations of songs composed by Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner for the film Gigi which was released by RCA Victor in 1958.I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" is a song from the 1956 musical My Fair Lady, with music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. It was originally performed by Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins who also performed it in the 1964 film version.The song expresses Professor Henry Higgins's rage at the fact that his pupil Eliza Doolittle has chosen to walk out of his life, and his growing realization of how much he will miss her.I Could Have Danced All Night
"I Could Have Danced All Night" is a song from the musical My Fair Lady, with music written by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, published in 1956. The song is sung by the musical's heroine, Eliza Doolittle, expressing her exhilaration and excitement after an impromptu dance with her tutor, Henry Higgins - in the small hours of the morning. In a counterpoint during the second of 3 rounds, two maids and the housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, urge Eliza to go to bed, but she ignores them.
It was first performed by Julie Andrews in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady. In the 1964 film adaptation of the musical, the song was sung by Marni Nixon, dubbing the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn, who played Eliza Doolittle. In 2004, Nixon's version finished at #17 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
Hit versions of the song were recorded by Sylvia Syms, Dinah Shore, Angélica María, Ben E. King as an ATCO single, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, and Jamie Cullum. It was featured in The Birdcage sung by Nathan Lane, Hank Azaria, Gene Hackman, Robin Williams and Dianne Wiest. Many actresses have also sung the song in the stage version of the musical including Martine McCutcheon, Laura Michelle Kelly, Amy Nuttall, Lisa O'Hare, and Lauren Ambrose.
Peggy Lee did a Cha-cha-cha version on her 1960 album Latin ala Lee!.
Andy Williams covered the song on his 1964 album The Great Songs from My Fair Lady and Other Broadway Hits. Shirley Bassey recorded and released this song on two 1965 albums, including "Shirley Stops The Shows" released in the UK, and 'Shirley Bassey Belts The Best' released in the USA. Petula Clark recorded a version for her 1968 album The Other Man's Grass Is Always Greener.The song was performed by Jane Powell in the 1959 NBC television special Sunday Showcase "Give My Regards to Broadway", for which a kinescope recording still exists.
In 1976, Florence Henderson performed the song on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
The song was performed by Jayma Mays as her character Emma Pillsbury on the FOX television show Glee in the episode "Mash-Up".I Could Have Danced All Night was performed by young British soprano Hollie Steel during her audition on Britain's Got Talent. She later recorded the song on her debut album.Noted Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson recorded the song for the 1960 gala performance recording of Johann Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus on the Decca/London label. Herbert von Karajan conducted the recording of the operetta, but the conductor of this excerpt, as well as that of most of the other gala excerpts included, is not identified.Lerner and Loewe
Lerner and Loewe were the team of lyricist and librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, known primarily for the music and lyrics of some of Broadway's most successful musicals, including My Fair Lady, Camelot, and Brigadoon. Among the songs from the couple are "Wand'rin' Star", "Almost Like Being in Love", "Get Me to the Church on Time", "The Rain in Spain" and "I Could Have Danced All Night".Liz Robertson
Liz Robertson (born 4 May 1954) is an English actress and singer and the widow of playwright and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner. She is especially well known for her performances as Madame Giry, having played the role in the original cast of Love Never Dies at the Adelphi Theatre, in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre and in The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall.My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady is a musical based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady. The original Broadway and London shows starred Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews.
The musical's 1956 Broadway production was a notable critical and popular success. It set a record for the longest run of any show on Broadway up to that time. It was followed by a hit London production, a popular film version, and many revivals. My Fair Lady has been called "the perfect musical".My Fair Lady with the Un-original Cast
My Fair Lady with the Un-original Cast is an album by drummer Shelly Manne with Jack Sheldon and Irene Kral and musical direction by Johnny Williams, recorded in 1964 and released on the Capitol label. The album, featuring Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's music from the Broadway musical My Fair Lady, sought to capitalize on Manne's previously successful My Fair Lady album and on the contemporaneous film adaptation.On the Street Where You Live
"On the Street Where You Live" is a song with music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, from the 1956 Broadway musical, My Fair Lady. It is sung in the musical by the character Freddy Eynsford-Hill, who was portrayed by John Michael King in the original production. In the 1964 film version, it was sung by Bill Shirley, dubbing for actor Jeremy Brett.Selections from Lerner and Loewe's...
Selections from Lerner and Loewe's... is an album by drummer Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers recorded in 1957 and released on the RCA Victor subsidiary label Vik. The album features jazz interpretations of show tunes from Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musicals My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, and Paint Your Wagon.Thank Heaven for Little Girls
"Thank Heaven for Little Girls" is a 1957 song written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe and associated with its original performer, Maurice Chevalier. It opened and closed the 1958 film Gigi. Alfred Drake performed the song in the 1973 Broadway stage production of Gigi, though in the 2015 revival, it was sung as a duet between Victoria Clark and Dee Hoty.
The Chevalier version is often regarded as the definitive version of the song; he recorded it in 1958. In 2004, it finished at #56 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
In the mid-1990s, a contemporary take on the song was recorded by the Seattle-based alternative band Ruby for a Mountain Dew commercial in the United States. This recording was later repurposed by PepsiCo for their Pepsi Max brand in the UK.
Bing Crosby recorded the song for his radio show in 1960 and it was subsequently released on the CD Songs I Wish I Had Sung the First Time Around... (2014). It has also been performed by Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Gérard Depardieu, Merle Haggard, Hugh Hefner, The King Brothers, Ed McMahon, and in his faux French accent, Peter Sellers. In the Happy Days Season 5 episode "Be My Valentine" (February 14, 1978), a then-18-year-old Scott Baio sang it as part of a series of musical numbers commemorating Valentine's Day. In the 1997 film Wag the Dog, the song performed by Chevalier is used as backdrop for an election campaign ad.The Morning (song)
"The Morning" is a song by recording artists Raekwon, Pusha T, Common, 2 Chainz, Cyhi the Prynce, Kid Cudi and D'banj from the 2012 GOOD Music album Cruel Summer, which features uncredited vocals from Kanye West. The song was produced by West, !llmind, Jeff Bhasker and Travis Scott. A remix was released by 2 Chainz titled "G.O.O.D. Morning".The Rain in Spain
"The Rain in Spain" is a song from the musical My Fair Lady, with music by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. The song was published in 1956, sounding similar to piano trio in C minor 3rd movement by Josep Suk.
The song is a turning point in the plotline of the musical. Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering have been drilling Eliza Doolittle incessantly with speech exercises, trying to break her Cockney accent speech pattern. The key lyric in the song is "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain", which contains five words that a Cockney would pronounce with [æɪ] or [aɪ] – more like "eye" [aɪ] than the Received Pronunciation diphthong [eɪ]. With the three of them nearly exhausted, Eliza finally "gets it", and recites the sentence with all long-As. The trio breaks into song, repeating this key phrase as well as singing other exercises correctly, such as "In Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen", and "How kind of you to let me come", in which Eliza had failed before by dropping the leading 'H'.Tony Award for Best Revival
The Tony Award for Best Revival was given to the best play, musical or non-musical, which had already appeared on Broadway in a previous production. It was presented from 1977, where it was called Most Innovative Production of a Revival and later Reproduction (Play or Musical) in 1980, until 1994, when it was split into the Best Revival of a Musical and the Best Revival of a Play.
If there are not enough revivals, it is possible under the current Tony rules for this category to return. Any time there are three play revivals and three musical revivals, the categories are automatically separated; if there are fewer, the Tony Awards Administration Committee may still choose to split up the categories.Wouldn't It Be Loverly
"Wouldn't It Be Loverly" is a popular song by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, written for the 1956 Broadway play My Fair Lady.The song is sung by flower girl Eliza Doolittle and her street friends. It expresses Eliza's wish for a better life.
In addition to pronouncing "lovely" as "loverly", the song lyrics highlight other facets of the Cockney accent that Professor Henry Higgins wants to refine away as part of his social experiment.
In the stage version it was sung by Julie Andrews. In the 1964 film version, Marni Nixon dubbed the song for Audrey Hepburn. Both Andrews' and Nixon's versions are available on the original cast and soundtrack albums, respectively, and Hepburn's original version is available in the specials for the DVD of the film.
Andy Williams released a version of the song on his 1964 album, The Great Songs from "My Fair Lady" and Other Broadway Hits.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s the song was used in television advertisements for Commonwealth Bank of Australia home mortgages.
Musicals by Lerner and Loewe
Awards for Alan Jay Lerner