Billy Rose (born William Samuel Rosenberg, September 6, 1899 – February 10, 1966) was an American impresario, theatrical showman and lyricist. For years both before and after World War II, Billy Rose was a major force in entertainment, with shows such as Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt (1931), Jumbo (1935), Billy Rose's Aquacade (1937), and Carmen Jones (1943). As a lyricist, he is credited with many famous songs, notably "Me and My Shadow" (1927), "More Than You Know" (1929), "Without a Song" (1929), "It Happened in Monterrey" (1930) and "It's Only a Paper Moon" (1933).
Despite his accomplishments, Rose may be best known today as the husband of famed comedian and singer Fanny Brice (1891–1951).
Rose in 1948
William Samuel Rosenberg
September 6, 1899
|Died||February 10, 1966 (aged 66)|
|Other names||Billy Rose|
|Spouse(s)||Fanny Brice (1929–1938) |
Eleanor Holm (1939–1954)
Doris Warner Vidor (1964–1966)
Rose was born to a Jewish family in New York City. He attended Public School 44, where he was the 50-yard dash champion. While in high school, Billy studied shorthand under John Robert Gregg, the inventor of the Gregg System for shorthand notation. He won a dictation contest using Gregg notation, taking over 150 words per minute, and writing forward or backward with either hand.
Billy Rose began his career as a stenographic clerk to Bernard Baruch of the War Industries Board during World War I, and became head of the clerical staff. Later he became a lyricist. In this role, he is best known as the credited writer or co-writer of the lyrics to "Me and My Shadow," "Great Day" (with Edward Eliscu), "Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight" (with Marty Bloom), "I Found a Million Dollar Baby" (with Mort Dixon) and "It's Only a Paper Moon" (with E. Y. Harburg).
Most of Rose's lyrical credits were collaborations. Biographer Earl Conrad said, "Nobody clearly knew what he wrote or didn't write.... Publishers tend to credit him with writing the songs known to bear his name as a lyricist.... But tales rumble on ... that Billy could feed and toss in a remark and monkey around, but that others did most of the writing." Lyricists might have been willing to tolerate a Rose credit grab because Rose was very successful at promoting "his" songs.
He went on to become a Broadway producer, and a theatre/nightclub owner. In June 1934, he opened The Billy Rose Music Hall at 52nd and Broadway in New York with the first Benny Goodman Orchestra. He produced Jumbo, starring Jimmy Durante, at the New York Hippodrome Theatre. For the Fort Worth Frontier Days fair (1936–37), he constructed the huge elaborate dinner theatre Casa Mañana which featured stripper Sally Rand and the world's largest revolving stage. He presented a show at the Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland, Ohio in 1937 where he also displayed the "Aquacade".
Rose was diminutive in stature. When he attended a show, his practice was to book four seats: one for himself, one for his date, and the two in front of those so he would have an unobstructed view.
In 1929, he married Fanny Brice, who would star in the 1931 Broadway production of Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt. The marriage would last for nine years, ending in divorce in 1938.
In 1938, he opened Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe, a nightclub in New York City's Times Square in the basement of the Paramount Hotel. It initially opened with a version of his Fort Worth show. The Diamond Horseshoe operated under that name until 1951.
At the 1939 New York World's Fair, Billy Rose's Aquacade starred Olympian Eleanor Holm in what the fair program called "a brilliant girl show of spectacular size and content." Future MGM star Esther Williams and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller were both Aquacade headliners. Rose began an affair with the then-married Holm, who left her husband for Rose. The couple married in 1939.
Following the 1939 World's Fair, Rose asked John Murray Anderson, who had staged the Aquacade, to recommend a choreographer for a new show at the Horseshoe. Anderson recommended Gene Kelly, then performing in William Saroyan's One for the Money. Rose objected that he wanted someone who could choreograph "tits and asses," not "soft-soap from a crazy Armenian" (Yudkoff, 2001). However, after seeing Kelly's performance, he gave Kelly the job, an important step in Kelly's career.
In 1943, he produced Carmen Jones with an all-black cast. An adaptation of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, the story was transplanted to World War II America by lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. It was an instant hit. The New York Telegraph called it "far and away the best show in New York"; The New York Times said it was "beautifully done ... just call it wonderful." The New York Herald Tribune said that Oscar Hammerstein II "must be considered one of the greatest librettists of our day" and that Carmen Jones was "a masterly tour de force." It was made into a motion picture in 1954, for which Dorothy Dandridge received an Academy Award nomination.
In 1946 Rose's memoir Wine, Women and Words, dedicated to Rose's early patron Bernard M. Baruch, was published in New York by Simon & Schuster. The book was illustrated, including the cover of the numbered and signed first edition of 1500 copies, by Salvador Dalí whom Rose met while producing events at the 1939 World's Fair.
Following the publication of Wine, Women and Words Rose appeared on the cover of Time on June 2, 1947.
Rose and Holm divorced in 1954. On July 2, 1956, he married showgirl Joyce Mathews, and they divorced July 23, 1959. They then remarried on December 29, 1961, only to divorce again on February 10, 1964, exactly two years before he died. (In the 1940s, Mathews had twice married and twice divorced comedian Milton Berle.) Later in 1964, Rose married Doris Vidor, who was the widow of film director Charles Vidor.
Billy Rose founded the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. His legendary pragmatism is illustrated by a seeming minor event at the sculpture garden opening ceremony, which Rose attended personally. When asked by one of the many distinguished guests what, in the event of war, Rose would have Israel do with these artworks, many of which were modern, steel abstracts, Rose unsmilingly replied, "Melt them down for bullets."
From 1949 until 1955, Rose was the owner-operator of the Ziegfeld Theatre. During that time, the theater housed four musicals and five plays. In 1965 he sold the theater to be demolished to make way for a new skyscraper, the Fisher Bros. Building.
Billy Rose was a board member of American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. ASCAP often slandered rock-and-roll songs. In general, Rock and Roll performers wrote the music and lyrics themselves. Consequently, as rock musicians increasingly wrote their own songs, professional songwriters, formerly dominant figures in music industry, encountered less demand for their work. As an ASCAP member, Billy Rose labeled rock-and-roll songs "junk" and was quoted as saying, "in many cases they are obscene junk much on the level with dirty comic magazines."
From 1959 until his death in 1966, he was also the owner-operator of the Billy Rose Theater. During that time the theater housed four plays, one musical, one revue, three ballets, and twenty-nine concert performances. After his death, the theater retained its name, and remained in the ownership of his estate until 1978, when it was renamed. Today it is the Nederlander Theatre.
Rose was a wealthy man when he died of lobar pneumonia at his vacation home in Montego Bay, Jamaica at the age of 66. At the time of his death, his fortune was estimated at about $42 million ($313 million in 2017 dollars), which he left entirely to a foundation named after him, disowning both of his sisters. He is interred at Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
In 1970, Rose was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Rose was a leading character in the 1975 musical film Funny Lady, a sequel to Funny Girl, which continues the story of Fanny Brice, again played by Barbra Streisand. Despite physical dissimilarities, actor James Caan was cast as Rose.
The 1962 film Billy Rose's Jumbo, starring Doris Day, depicted the original Broadway show staged by Rose. Although he was not involved in the making of the film, a contractual stipulation made it mandatory that his name appear in the title.
"Back in Your Own Backyard" is a popular song. Officially the credits show it as written by Al Jolson, Billy Rose, and Dave Dreyer; in fact, Billy Rose was exclusively a lyricist (see Category:Songs with lyrics by Billy Rose), Dreyer a composer, and Al Jolson a performer who was often given credits so he could earn some more money, so the actual apportionment of the credits would be likely to be music by Dreyer, lyrics by Rose, and possibly some small contribution by Jolson.
A popular recording by Ruth Etting made on January 3, 1928 was issued by Columbia Records as catalog number 1288-D, with the flip side "When You're with Somebody Else". Jolson also recorded the song in 1928, on March 8, with Bill Wirges' Orchestra for Brunswick Records (catalog number 3867) with the flip side "Ol' Man River".It was subsequently revived by Patti Page in a recording made on June 16, 1950. The Page recording was issued by Mercury Records as catalog number 5463. It entered the Billboard chart on October 7, 1950, at #23, lasting only that one week.Billy Rose's Jumbo
Billy Rose's Jumbo is a 1962 American musical film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and starring Doris Day, Stephen Boyd, Jimmy Durante, and Martha Raye. An adaptation of the stage musical Jumbo produced by Billy Rose, the film was directed by Charles Walters, written by Sidney Sheldon, and featured Busby Berkeley's choreography. It was nominated for an Academy Award for the adaptation of its Rodgers and Hart score.
The Broadway show Jumbo opened on November 16, 1935, and was the last musical produced at the New York Hippodrome before it was torn down in 1939. Original producer Billy Rose stipulated that if a film version was ever made, he must be credited in the title, even if he were not personally involved. Both play and film feature songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, although the film borrows two songs from Rodgers and Hart shows other than Jumbo (including "This Can't Be Love", from "The Boys from Syracuse"). Despite featuring such Rodgers and Hart standards as "My Romance" and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World", neither the original play nor the film was especially successful. The film was Doris Day's last screen musical.
Stephen Boyd's singing voice was dubbed by James Joyce. On April 2, 2007, Robert Osborne of TCM, introducing the MGM film Fearless Fagan (1952) directed by Stanley Donen, said that Donen was due to direct Jumbo right after Singin' in the Rain in 1952. However, MGM decided the script was not ready, so Jumbo was not filmed until 1962 with a different director and stars. Both play and film feature Durante leading a live elephant and being stopped by a police officer, who asks him, "What are you doing with that elephant?" Durante's reply, "What elephant?", was a show-stopper in 1935. This comedy bit was reprised in his role in Billy Rose's Jumbo and is likely to have contributed to the popularity of the idiom, the "elephant in the room".Earl Carroll Theatre
The Earl Carroll Theatre, built by Broadway impresario and showman Earl Carroll, was located in the Broadway Theater District in New York City at 753 Seventh Avenue & West 50th Street. Designed by architect George Keister, it opened on February 25, 1922, and was highly successful for a number of years until it was demolished and rebuilt on a lavish scale. It reopened in August 1931 with Carroll's billing that it was "the largest legitimate theater in the world." However, the facility's operating costs proved astronomical and it went into foreclosure in early 1932 after which it was acquired by producer Florenz Ziegfeld who renamed it the Casino Theatre. The Casino was the site of a very successful revival of Ziegfeld's production of Show Boat in 1932. However, Ziegfeld too went bankrupt only a short time later. After being acquired by Billy Rose and operating for a time as a night club, the theater closed in 1939. The building was converted to retail space in 1940 and eventually became a Woolworth's Department Store. It was demolished in 1990.Funny Lady
Funny Lady is a 1975 American biographical musical comedy-drama film directed by Herbert Ross and starring Barbra Streisand, James Caan, Omar Sharif, Roddy McDowall and Ben Vereen.
A sequel to the 1968 film Funny Girl, it is a highly fictionalized account of the later life and career of comedian Fanny Brice and her marriage to songwriter and impresario Billy Rose. The screenplay was by Jay Presson Allen and Arnold Schulman, based on a story by Schulman. The primary score was by John Kander and Fred Ebb.Happy Days and Lonely Nights
"Happy Days and Lonely Nights" is a torch song written by Billy Rose and Fred Fisher, which Ruth Etting introduced in 1928. The song was successfully revived in the 1950s in the US by the Fontane Sisters and in the UK most successfully by Ruby Murray.
Ruth Etting made her recording of the song in New York City on 24 May 1928 for release on Columbia Records. This version was ranked as high as #9 on the hit parade.
1928 also saw a version of "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" credited to the Knickerbockers actually by Columbia a&r director Ben Selvin.
In 1929 recordings of "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" were made by Vaughn De Leath and Eva Taylor.The song was revived in 1954 by the Fontane Sisters whose version - made with the Billy Vaughn Orchestra - reached #18 on the US charts.Although the UK release of the Fontane Sisters' version was overlooked it did result in three British-based acts covering "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" for the UK market: both Suzi Miller & the Johnston Brothers and Frankie Vaughan took "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" into the UK Top 20 with respective peaks of #14 and #11 in January 1955.
However it was the version by Ruby Murray - produced by Norrie Paramor - which debuted that 5 February which became the major hit reaching #6 on the chart dated that 26 February.Connie Francis recorded "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" at Metropolitan Studios (NYC) on 2 September 1958 in a session conducted by its producer Morton "Morty" Kraft. Although relegated to the B-side of the upbeat "Fallin'", "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" received enough attention to appear on the Cash Box Best Selling Singles chart at #88."Happy Days and Lonely Nights" has also been recorded by Ken Dodd, Anneke Grönloh, Dick James, Ginger Rogers, Kathy Kirby, Duke Special and Kay Starr with instrumental versions by UK pianist Billy Thorburn (recorded 2 November 1954), Max Bygraves, Russ Conway, Ted Heath and Phil Tate.
Ruby Murray set a UK chart record the week of 26 March 1955 when she had five releases in that week's Top 20 including "Happy Days and Lonely Nights" then at #16. Her precedent releases "Heartbeat" and "Softly, Softly" were respectively at #15 and #2 while the first follow-up to "Happy Days and Lonely Nights": "Let Me Go Lover" was at #5. That week Murray's single "If Anyone Finds, This I Love You" (with Ann Warren) debuted at #17. Murray's feat has yet to be beaten but was equaled the first week of July 2009 by Michael Jackson.I Wanna Be Loved
"I Wanna Be Loved" (from the 1933 version of the 1931 revue Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt) is a popular song with music by Johnny Green and lyrics by Edward Heyman and Billy Rose, published in 1933.
The song is a standard, with many recorded versions.
Billy Eckstine - Passing Strangers
The song was included in the 1934 Vitaphone short "Mirrors" featuring Fred Rich and his Orchestra. It was sung by Vera Van in a scene where she dresses in an evening gown.
The song was recorded by The Andrews Sisters in 1950.
The song was recorded by Russell Garcia (on his 1958 album The Johnny Ever Greens), starring Sue Allen on vocal.
I Wanna Be Loved was the title track of an album by Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones and His Orchestra in 1962.
Grant Green plays on the song on his 1963 album Am I Blue.
George Maharis covered the song on his 1963 album Just Turn Me Loose!.
Mina covered the song on her 1969 album Mina for You.
Jex Saarelaht and Kate Ceberano recorded it on their album Open the Door - Live at Mietta's (1992).
Maria Muldaur performs the song on her 1999 album Meet Me Where They Play the Blues.
In 2009 Mark Isham & Kate Ceberano recorded a version for their Bittersweet album.
Kirby Lauryen performs a cover in the background of the club scene in Season 2, Episode 2 "A View in the Dark" of Marvel's Agent Carter.It's Only a Paper Moon
"It's Only a Paper Moon" is a popular song published in 1933 with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose. It was originally titled "If You Believed in Me," but later went by the more popular title "It's Only a Paper Moon." The song was written for an unsuccessful 1932 Broadway play called The Great Magoo that was set in Coney Island. Claire Carleton first performed this song on December 2, 1932. It was used in the movie Take a Chance in 1933 when it was sung by June Knight and Charles "Buddy" Rogers. Paul Whiteman recorded a hit version which was released in 1933 featuring Bunny Berigan on trumpet. Another popular recording in 1933 was by Cliff Edwards.Its lasting fame stems from recordings by popular artists during the last years of World War II, when versions by Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman (vocal by Dottie Reid)Jumbo (musical)
Jumbo is a musical produced by Billy Rose, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and book by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.List of caricatures at Sardi's restaurant
The following is an incomplete alphabetized list of celebrities who have posed for caricatures at Sardi's restaurant in New York City. The single common denominator is that they have all eaten at Sardi's.
The date or year each caricature was added to Sardi's is often mentioned in brackets after the celebrities' name. Also mentioned is either the production the actor was in at the time of the unveiling or the play that included their definitive role; producers' companies are listed instead. Finally, some of the caricatures listed also include the cartoonist's name: Alex Gard, John Mackey, Donald Bevan and Richard Baratz are the four artists to date who have created all the caricatures in the restaurant.
In 1979, Vincent Sardi, Jr. donated a collection of 227 caricatures from the restaurant to the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The contributed caricatures date from the late 1920s through 1952.Me and My Shadow
"Me and My Shadow" is a 1927 popular song. Officially the credits show it as written by Al Jolson, Billy Rose, and Dave Dreyer; in fact, Billy Rose was exclusively a lyricist, Dreyer a composer, and Al Jolson a performer who was often given credits so he could earn more money. The actual apportionment of the credits would be likely to be music by Dreyer, lyrics by Rose, and possibly some small contribution by Jolson.The song has become a standard, with many artists performing it. In the movie Funny Lady, Billy Rose admits to wife Fanny Brice that the shadow in the song was Nicky Arnstein, Fanny's criminal husband before Rose.More Than You Know (Youmans, Rose and Eliscu song)
"More Than You Know" is a popular song, composed by Vincent Youmans with lyrics by Billy Rose and Edward Eliscu. The song was published in 1929.
The song was introduced in the Broadway musical Great Day where it was sung by Mayo Methot. It was also popularized on the stage and radio by Jane Froman. The most popular contemporary recordings were by Helen Morgan (Victor catalog number 22149), and by Libby Holman (Brunswick catalog number 4613).The song was subsequently featured in three musical films: Hit the Deck (1955), sung by Tony Martin; Funny Lady (1975), sung by Barbra Streisand (who first recorded it for her 1967 studio album, Simply Streisand); and The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) sung by Michelle Pfeiffer. It has been recorded by many artists.Nederlander Theatre
The David T. Nederlander Theatre (formerly the Billy Rose Theatre and National Theatre, commonly shortened to the Nederlander Theatre) is a 1,232-seat Broadway theater located at 208 West 41st Street, in New York City. One of the Nederlander Organization's nine Broadway theaters, its legacy began with David Tobias Nederlander, for whom it is named. It is the southernmost theater in the theater district.New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, is located in Manhattan, New York City, at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on the Upper West Side, between the Metropolitan Opera House and the Vivian Beaumont Theater. It houses one of the world's largest collections of materials relating to the performing arts. It is one of the four research centers of the New York Public Library's Research library system, and it is also one of the branch libraries.Scènes de ballet (Stravinsky)
Scènes de Ballet is a suite of dance movements composed in 1944 by Igor Stravinsky. It was commissioned by Broadway producer Billy Rose for inclusion in the revue The Seven Lively Arts that opened at the Ziegfeld Theater on December 7, 1944.The Seven Lively Arts brought together a number of notable performers: Beatrice Lillie, Bert Lahr, Benny Goodman, and "Doc" Rockwell as well as showgirls - "the prettiest around at the moment," according to The New York Times review.The solo dancers for the Scènes de Ballet were Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin (who was also the choreographer). Although Rose had requested a 15-minute work, "the music was cut to a fraction of its original length when The Seven Lively Arts ... opened in New York."Sweet and Low (musical)
Sweet and Low is a musical revue produced by Billy Rose and starring James Barton, Fanny Brice, George Jessel, and Arthur Treacher. It features sketches by David Freedman and songs by various composers and lyricists.
The 1930 Broadway production was directed by Alexander Leftwich and choreographed by Danny Dare, with additional dances staged by Busby Berkeley. Scenic design was by Jo Mielziner. It ran for a week at the Majestic Theatre in Brooklyn before opening on November 17, 1930 at Chanin's 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 184 performances. Although it rarely sold out, Rose transferred it to the 44th Street Theatre, where it was more successful at the box office.There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder
"There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder" is a 1928 song sung by Al Jolson in the early Warner Bros. talking picture The Singing Fool the same year. The song, along with "Sonny Boy" and "I'm Sitting on Top of the World", which were also in The Singing Fool, were big hits for Jolson. The song was written by Al Jolson, Billy Rose and Dave Dreyer.
According to John A. Lomax in his "American Ballads and Folk Songs" published in 1934, from the song "Goin' Home". The line "Got a rainbow tied all 'round my shoulder" refers to the "Rainbow" as "the arc of a swinging pick, probably going so fast it becomes red hot." This song is in the section entitled "Songs from Southern Chain Gangs".Tiny Alice
Tiny Alice is a three-act play written by Edward Albee that premiered on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre in 1964.Tonight You Belong to Me
"Tonight You Belong to Me" is a popular American song, written in 1926 by lyricist Billy Rose and composer Lee David. The first ever recording was made by Irving Kaufman in 1926 on Banner Records. In 1927 Gene Austin recorded it and the song became a major hit. Another popular recording during this time was by Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra.
The song was revived by Frankie Laine in 1952, and subsequently recorded again in 1956 by Patience and Prudence, who reached #4 on the Billboard charts with their 1956 version and then re-recorded it in 1964, and also by Lawrence Welk with The Lennon Sisters and the duo of Karen Chandler and Jimmy Wakely, and Ann Shelton. In 1964 "Tonight You Belong to Me" was recorded by George Maharis in a sweet swing style on the Epic label.Without a Song
"Without a Song" is a popular song with music by Vincent Youmans and lyrics by Billy Rose and Edward Eliscu, published in 1929. It was included in the musical play, Great Day. The play only ran for 36 performances but contained two songs which became famous, "Without a Song" and "Great Day".