Arthur Freed

Arthur Freed (September 9, 1894 – April 12, 1973) was an American lyricist and Hollywood film producer.

Arthur Freed
Birth nameArthur Grossman
BornSeptember 9, 1894
Charleston, South Carolina, United States
DiedApril 12, 1973 (aged 78)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation(s)Lyricist, film producer

Early life

Freed was born Arthur Grossman,[1] to a Jewish family in Charleston, South Carolina,[2][3] and began his career as a song-plugger and pianist in Chicago. After meeting Minnie Marx, he sang as part of the act of her sons, the Marx Brothers, on the vaudeville circuit, and also wrote material for the brothers.[4] He soon began to write songs, and was eventually hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. For years, he wrote lyrics for numerous films, many set to music by Nacio Herb Brown.

Career

In 1939, after working (uncredited) in the role of associate producer[5] on The Wizard of Oz, he was promoted to being the head of his own unit within MGM, and helped elevate the studio to the leading creator of film musicals. His first solo credit as producer was the film version of Rodgers and Hart's smash Broadway musical Babes in Arms (also 1939), released only a few months after The Wizard of Oz. It starred Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and it was so successful that it ushered in a long series of "let's put on a show" "backyard" musicals, all starring Rooney and Garland. One child star, Shirley Temple, wrote in her 1988 autobiography[6] that when aged twelve she was interviewed by Freed with a view to transferring her career to MGM. During the interview he unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her. "Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded by giggling, and he threw her out of his office", said the actress's obituary.[7]

Freed brought an outstanding amount of talent from the Broadway theaters to the MGM soundstages including Vincente Minnelli, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Roger Edens, Kay Thompson, Zero Mostel, June Allyson, Nancy Walker, Charles Walters, orchestrators Conrad Salinger, Johnny Green, Lennie Hayton, and many others.

He also helped shape the careers of stars including Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Lena Horne, Jane Powell, Esther Williams, Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, and many others. He brought Fred Astaire to MGM after Astaire's tenure at RKO and coaxed him out of semi-retirement to star with Garland in Easter Parade. His team of writers, directors, composers and stars produced a steady stream of popular, critically acclaimed musicals until the late 1950s.

He allowed his directors and choreographers free rein, something unheard of in those days of committee-produced film musicals, and is credited for furthering the boundaries of film musicals by allowing such moments in films as the fifteen-minute ballet at the end of An American in Paris (1951), after which the film concludes moments later with no further dialogue or singing, and he allowed the musical team of Lerner and Loewe complete control in their writing of Gigi (1958).

According to Hugh Fordin's book The World of Entertainment, however, Freed did have a hand in the stage-to-screen adaptation of at least one of MGM's musicals, the 1951 Technicolor remake of Kern and Hammerstein's stage classic, Show Boat. It was Freed who disagreed with the original structure of the show's second act, in which more than twenty years pass between most of the act and the final three scenes of the musical. He felt that it made for a lack of drama in the story, and so, together with screenwriter John Lee Mahin, Freed hit upon the idea of having the gambler Gaylord Ravenal leave his wife Magnolia while both are still young and Magnolia is expecting a baby, and then having Julie, the half-black actress who is forced to leave the boat because of her mixed race background, be the person who brings Ravenal and Magnolia back together again after a separation of only a few years rather than twenty. And it was Freed who cast Ava Gardner in the role of Julie.[8]

Two of his films won the Academy Award for Best Picture: An American in Paris and Gigi. On the night that An American in Paris won Best Picture, Freed received an Honorary Oscar, and his version of Show Boat was also up for two Oscars that year, though it lost both to An American in Paris. Singin' in the Rain (1952), now his most highly regarded film, won no Oscars. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.

Retirement and later years

Freed left MGM in 1970 after failing for almost a decade to bring his dream project, a biographical film of Irving Berlin, Say It With Music, to the screen. He died three years later surrounded by his family. His wife died in 1978.

Hit songs

With Nacio Herb Brown

With others

Producing credits

References

  1. ^ Joseph F. Clarke (1977). Pseudonyms. BCA. p. 67.
  2. ^ Cones, John. Motion Picture Biographies: The Hollywood Spin on Historical Figures. p. 32. ISBN 9781628941166.
  3. ^ "Oz Memorial". Wendyswizardofoz.com. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  4. ^ "Find a Grave" memorial site.
  5. ^ Imdb gives this job title to Freed's uncredited work on the film, so does the documentary on the Freed unit in the 50th Anniversary edition of Singin' in the Rain, but Thomas Hischak in The Oxford Companion to the American Musical (NYC: OUP, 2008, p264) suggests "co-producer".
  6. ^ "The Art Of The Creep: When Good Movies Happen To Bad People". Vanity Fair. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  7. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (February 11, 2014). "Shirley Temple Black, Screen Darling, Dies at 85". New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2014.
  8. ^ Fordin, Hugh (January 1, 1975). The world of entertainment!: Hollywood's greatest musicals (1st ed.). Doubleday. ISBN 9780385039659.

External links

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Wendell Corey
President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
1963–1967
Succeeded by
Gregory Peck
Any Number Can Play

Any Number Can Play is a 1949 drama film based on Edward Harris Heth's novel of the same name. It stars Clark Gable and Alexis Smith.

Babes on Broadway

Babes on Broadway is a 1941 American musical film starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and directed by Busby Berkeley, with Vincente Minnelli directing Garland's big solo numbers. The film, which features Fay Bainter and Virginia Weidler, was the third in the "Backyard Musical" series about kids who put on their own show, following Babes in Arms (1939) and Strike Up the Band (1940). Songs in the film include "Babes on Broadway" by Burton Lane (music) and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg (lyrics), and "How About You?" by Lane with lyrics by Ralph Freed, the brother of producer Arthur Freed. The movie ends with a minstrel show performed by the main cast in blackface.

For Me and My Gal (film)

For Me and My Gal is a 1942 American musical film directed by Busby Berkeley and starring Judy Garland, Gene Kelly – in his film debut – and George Murphy, and featuring Martha Eggerth and Ben Blue. The film was written by Richard Sherman, Fred F. Finklehoffe and Sid Silvers, based on a story by Howard Emmett Rogers inspired by a true story about vaudeville actors Harry Palmer and Jo Hayden, when Palmer was drafted into World War I. The film was a production of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM.

Gigi (1958 film)

Gigi (French pronunciation: ​[ʒiʒi]) is a 1958 American musical-romance film directed by Vincente Minnelli and processed using Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's color film process Metrocolor. The screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner is based on the 1944 novella of the same name by Colette. The film features songs with lyrics by Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, arranged and conducted by André Previn.

In 1991, Gigi was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The American Film Institute ranked it #35 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions. The film is considered the last great Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical and the final great achievement of the Freed Unit, headed by producer Arthur Freed, although he would go on to produce several more films, including the musical Bells Are Ringing in 1960.

Kismet (1955 film)

Kismet is a 1955 American musical-comedy film directed by Vincente Minnelli and produced by Arthur Freed. It was filmed in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

It is the fourth movie version of Kismet. The first Kismet was released in 1920, the second in 1930 by Warner Brothers, and the third, starring Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich, was released by MGM in 1944. The 1955 film is based on the successful 1953 musical Kismet, while the three earlier versions are based on the original 1911 play by Edward Knoblock.

Lady Be Good (1941 film)

Lady Be Good is an MGM musical film released in 1941.

The film stars dancer Eleanor Powell, along with Ann Sothern, Robert Young, Lionel Barrymore, and Red Skelton. It was directed by Norman Z. McLeod and produced by Arthur Freed. This was the first of several films Powell made with Skelton. Powell received top billing, but Sothern and Young are the main stars. They play, respectively, Dixie Donegan, a would-be lyric writer and Eddie Crane, a struggling composer.

The film takes its title and theme song ("Oh, Lady be Good!") from the 1924 George and Ira Gershwin Broadway musical, Lady Be Good, but otherwise has no connection to the play. According to film historian Robert Osborne in his introduction to a broadcast of the film on Turner Classic Movies in August 2006, MGM devised the film as a vehicle to launch Sothern as a musical star. However, since she and Young were known primarily as light comic stars, the studio brought in Powell for a supporting role, but gave her top billing to attract audiences.

This film's most notable sequence involves an epic tap dance routine by Powell, to the melody of Gershwin's "Fascinating Rhythm" (another song taken from the play). This musical number later featured in two films in the That's Entertainment! documentary series. In one of the films (That's Entertainment! III), behind-the-scenes footage reveals how this scene was accomplished. So Powell could dance between a series of pianos without interruption, stage hands quietly removed pieces of the set off-camera as she worked her way across the stage. This musical sequence was directed by Busby Berkeley. Another sequence features Powell doing a dance routine with a dog that she trained for the number. There are also phenomenal dance routines by the Berry Brothers. The film won an Academy Award for Best Song for "The Last Time I Saw Paris," composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Light in the Piazza (film)

Light in the Piazza is a 1962 American romantic drama film directed by Guy Green and starring Olivia de Havilland, Rossano Brazzi, Yvette Mimieux, George Hamilton, and Barry Sullivan. Based on the 1960 novel The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer, the film is about a beautiful but mentally disabled young American woman traveling in Italy with her mother and the Italian man they meet during one leg of their trip.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Light in the Piazza is notable for its extensive location shooting in 1960s Florence and Rome by the award-winning cinematographer Otto Heller.

Little Nellie Kelly

Little Nellie Kelly is a 1940 American musical comedy film based on the stage musical of the same title by George M. Cohan which was a hit on Broadway in 1922 and 1923. The film was written by Jack McGowan and directed by Norman Taurog. Its cast included Judy Garland, George Murphy, Charles Winninger and Douglas McPhail.

The film is notable for containing Judy Garland's only on-screen death scene, although she re-appears in the film as the daughter of the character who died.

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me in St. Louis is a 1944 American Technicolor musical film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Divided into a series of seasonal vignettes, starting with Summer 1903, it relates the story of a year in the life of the Smith family in St. Louis, leading up to the opening of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (more commonly referred to as the World's Fair) in the spring of 1904. The picture stars Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor, Lucille Bremer, Tom Drake, Leon Ames, Marjorie Main, June Lockhart, and Joan Carroll.

The film was adapted by Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoffe from a series of short stories by Sally Benson, originally published in The New Yorker magazine under the title "5135 Kensington", and later in novel form as Meet Me in St. Louis. The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli, who met Garland on the set and later married her. It was the second-highest grossing picture of the year, only behind Going My Way. In 1994, the film was deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Garland debuted the standards "The Trolley Song", "The Boy Next Door", and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", all of which became hits after the film was released. Arthur Freed, the producer of the film, also wrote and performed one of the songs.

On the Town (film)

On the Town is a 1949 Technicolor musical film with music by Leonard Bernstein and Roger Edens and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It is an adaptation of the Broadway stage musical of the same name produced in 1944 (which itself is an adaptation of the Jerome Robbins ballet entitled Fancy Free which was also produced in 1944), although many changes in script and score were made from the original stage version; for instance, most of Bernstein's music was dropped in favor of new songs by Edens, who disliked the majority of the Bernstein score for being too complex and too operatic. This caused Bernstein to boycott the film.

The film was directed by Gene Kelly, who also choreographed, and Stanley Donen in their directorial debut, and stars Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, and Ann Miller, and features Jules Munshin and Vera-Ellen. It was a product of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM, and is notable for its combination of studio and location filming, as a result of Gene Kelly's insistence that some scenes be shot in New York City, including at the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Rockefeller Center.

The film was an immediate success and won the Oscar for Best Music—Scoring of a Musical Picture, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Cinematography (Color). Screenwriters Comden and Green won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.

In 2006, the film ranked No. 19 on the American Film Institute's list of Best Musicals. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Silk Stockings (1957 film)

Silk Stockings is a 1957 Metrocolor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer CinemaScope musical film adaptation of the 1955 stage musical of the same name, which itself was an adaptation of the film Ninotchka (1939). Silk Stockings was directed by Rouben Mamoulian, produced by Arthur Freed, and starred Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. The supporting cast includes Janis Paige, Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, and George Tobias repeating his Broadway role. It was choreographed by Eugene Loring and Hermes Pan.

It received Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Film and Best Actress (Charisse) in the Comedy/Musical category.The score was embellished with the new song "The Ritz Roll and Rock", a parody of the then-emerging rock and roll genre. The number ends with Astaire symbolically smashing his top hat, considered one of his trademarks, signaling his retirement from movie musicals, which he announced following the film's release.

Singin' in the Rain (song)

"Singin' in the Rain" is a song with lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown, published in 1929. It is unclear exactly when the song was written; it has been claimed that the song was performed as early as 1927.

The song is a centerpiece of the musical film of the same name, Singin' in the Rain (1952), which was "suggested by" the song, according to the film's title credits.

The song is listed as No. 3 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Songs.

Strike Up the Band (film)

Strike Up the Band is a 1940 American musical film produced by the Arthur Freed unit at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film was directed by Busby Berkeley and stars Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, in the second of a series of musicals they co-starred in, after Babes in Arms, all directed by Berkeley.

Summer Holiday (1948 film)

Summer Holiday is a 1948 American musical comedy film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Mickey Rooney and Gloria DeHaven. The picture is based on the play Ah, Wilderness! (1933) by Eugene O'Neill, which had been filmed as under that name by MGM in 1935 with Rooney in a much smaller role. Though completed in October 1946, the film sat on the shelf until 1948.In addition to Walter Huston, the supporting cast features Frank Morgan as the drunken Uncle Sid, portrayed earlier by Wallace Beery on screen and later by Jackie Gleason on Broadway, as well as Marilyn Maxwell, Agnes Moorehead, Selena Royle and Anne Francis. It is unusual in that most of the dialogue is sung. It is one of the famous Arthur Freed production musicals of MGM. It has beautiful costumes and colorful cinematography.

Temptation (Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed song)

"Temptation" is a popular song published in 1933, with music written by Nacio Herb Brown and lyrics by Arthur Freed.

The song was introduced by Bing Crosby in the 1933 film Going Hollywood. Crosby recorded the song with Lennie Hayton's orchestra on October 22, 1933 and it reached the No. 3 spot in the charts of the day during a 12-week stay. He recorded it again with John Scott Trotter's Orchestra on March 3, 1945 and also for his 1954 album Bing: A Musical Autobiography.

The song was used in the film Singin' in the Rain (1952) and later in the 1983 musical based on the film, and is prominently featured in Valerio Zurlini's Violent Summer (1959).

The Barkleys of Broadway

The Barkleys of Broadway is a 1949 Technicolor musical film from the Arthur Freed unit at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that reunited Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers after ten years apart. Directed by Charles Walters, the screenplay is by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Sidney Sheldon, the songs are by Harry Warren (music) and Ira Gershwin (lyrics) with the addition of "They Can't Take That Away from Me" by George and Ira Gershwin, and the choreography was created by Robert Alton and Hermes Pan. Also featured in the cast were Oscar Levant, Billie Burke, Jacques François and Gale Robbins.

Rogers came in as a last minute replacement for Judy Garland, whose frequent absences due to a dependency on prescription medication cost her the role. This turned out to be the last film that Astaire and Rogers made together, and their only film together in color.

The Harvey Girls

The Harvey Girls is a 1946 American musical film produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer based on the 1942 novel of the same name by Samuel Hopkins Adams, about Fred Harvey's famous Harvey House waitresses. Directed by George Sidney, the film stars Judy Garland and features John Hodiak, Ray Bolger, and Angela Lansbury, as well as Preston Foster, Virginia O'Brien, Kenny Baker, Marjorie Main and Chill Wills. Future star Cyd Charisse appears in her first film speaking role on film.

The Harvey Girls won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe", written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer. The film was a production of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM.

Yolanda and the Thief

Yolanda and the Thief is a 1945 American Technicolor MGM musical-comedy film set in a fictional Latin American country. It stars Fred Astaire, Lucille Bremer, Frank Morgan, and Mildred Natwick, with music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Arthur Freed. The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli and produced by Arthur Freed.

The film was a long-time pet project of Freed's to promote his lover Bremer's career, but fared disastrously at the box office. An attempt to create a whimsical fantasy, it ended up, in the words of critic John Mueller, as "egg-nog instead of the usual champagne". Despite admirable production values, it ruined Bremer's career and discouraged Astaire, who decided to retire after his next film, Blue Skies.

Perhaps it also vindicated Astaire's own horror of "inventing up to the arty"—his phrase for the approach of those who would set out to create art, whereas he believed artistic value could only emerge as an accidental and unpremeditated by-product of a tireless search for perfection. In his autobiography, Astaire approvingly quotes Los Angeles Times critic Edwin Schallert: "'Not for realists' is a label that may be appropriately affixed to Yolanda and the Thief. It is a question, too, whether this picture has the basic material to satisfy the general audience, although in texture and trimmings it might be termed an event." Astaire himself concluded, "This verified my feeling that doing fantasy on the screen is an extra risk."

Ziegfeld Follies (film)

Ziegfeld Follies is a 1945 American musical comedy film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and directed by Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, Vincente Minnelli, Merrill Pye, George Sidney, and Charles Walters. It stars many of MGM leading talents, including Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Lucille Bremer, Fanny Brice (the only member of the ensemble who was a star of the original Follies), Judy Garland, Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, Gene Kelly, James Melton, Victor Moore, William Powell, Red Skelton, and Esther Williams.

Producer Arthur Freed wanted to create a film along the lines of the Ziegfeld Follies Broadway shows, and so, the film is composed of a sequence of unrelated lavish musical numbers and comedy sketches. Filmed in 1944 and 1945, it was released in 1945 to considerable critical and box-office success.

The film was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.

Arthur Freed musical productions
As producer
Uncredited
as producer
Non-musicals
1928–1950
1951–1975
1976–2000
2001–present

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