Schwartz, Arthur

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Schwartz, Arthur

Schwartz, Arthur, American composer; b. N.Y, Nov. 25, 1900; d. Kintnersville, Pa., Sept. 4, 1984. Schwartz wrote the music for 22 stage and 11 movie musicals between 1927 and 1963. His most successful shows were small- scale revues; in fact, none of his book musicals on Broadway turned a profit. Collaborating most frequently with lyricist Howard Dietz, he scored numerous song hits and standards, including “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “That’s Entertainment,” and he also worked with some of the top lyricists of his time, among them Otto Harbach, E. Y. Harburg, Ira Gershwin, Dorothy Fields, Oscar Hammerstein II, Johnny Mercer, Frank Loesser, and Sammy Cahn.

Schwartz was the son of a lawyer who encouraged him to take up the legal profession. He learned to play piano and was working as an accompanist to silent films at the age of 14. While attending N.Y.U., 1916–20, he wrote football songs. Graduating with a B.A., he earned a masters degree in English literature at Columbia Univ. in 1921, then attended Columbia Law School.

Schwartz published his first song, “Baltimore, Md., You’re the Only Doctor for Me” (lyrics by Eli Dawson), in 1923. He graduated from law school in the spring of 1924 and took a job as a counselor at a summer camp because lyricist Lorenz Hart was also a counselor there. The two wrote songs for camp shows, and though Hart maintained his partnership with Richard Rodgers, he encouraged Schwartz to pursue a career as a composer.

Schwartz was admitted to the bar and set up a law practice. After Howard Dietz collaborated with Jerome Kern on the unsuccessful Dear Sir (N.Y., Sept. 23, 1924), Schwartz tried to convince Dietz to work with him; Dietz initially demurred.

Schwartz broke into writing theater music by composing three songs for the third edition of the Off-Broadway revue The Grand Street Follies (N.Y., June 15, 1926). He made it to Broadway the following year, writing half the songs for the revue The New Yorkers, which ran 52 performances. After placing songs in two more shows by the end of the year, Schwartz quit his law practice to write music full-time. He also convinced Dietz (who maintained his own full-time job as director of publicity and advertising for MGM) to work with him.

Schwartz and Dietz’s first effort was the appropriately titled revue The Little Show, which played 321 performances in Broadway’s smallest theater, the Music Box. Schwartz did not write the show’s hit song, “Moanin’ Low,” but among his contributions was “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” which had actually been written five years earlier in his summer camp days and given a Lorenz Hart lyric as “I Love to Lie Awake in Bed.” More than three years after The Little Show opened, “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” popularly known as “The Blue Pajama Song” because of a line in the lyric, finally became a hit in August 1932 in a recording by Rudy Vallée.

In 1930, Schwartz contributed to a remarkable six shows—three each in London and N.Y.—and three motion pictures. His most notable success in the West End was Here Comes the Bride, “a musical farcical comedy” with lyrics mostly by Desmond Carter, which ran 175 performances. On Broadway, The Second Little Show and Princess Charming were disappointments, but Three’s a Crowd, a revue that featured the same cast as The Little Show, was a hit, running 271 performances; one of the cast members, Libby Holman, made a hit out of “Something to Remember You By” (lyrics by Dietz) in December. “I’m Afraid of You” (lyrics by Ralph Rainger and Edward Eliscu) marked Schwartz’s entry into films when it was used in Paramount’s Queen High, which was released in August.

Dietz and Schwartz’s fourth revue, The Band Wagon (1931), is considered their best work. Starring Fred and Adele Astaire in their final appearance as a duo, the show ran 260 performances and included four song hits. “Dancing in the Dark,” the most successful song of Schwartz’s career, was recorded by several artists, the most popular versions being issued by Bing Crosby and Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. Leo Reisman and His Orch. employed Fred Astaire as vocalist for a disc featuring “I Love Louisa” and “New Sun in the Sky.” And though “High and Low” (lyrics also by Desmond Carter) had been used previously in Here Comes the Bride and in the 1930 film The Lottery Bride, it took exposure in The Band Wagon (and placement as the B-side of “Dancing in the Dark”) to make it a hit for Fred Waring.

Flying Colors could not match its predecessor, but it ran a profitable 188 performances and featured three hits: Leo Reisman scored with “Alone Together” in November 1932, following it with “Louisiana Hayride,” which featured Schwartz himself on vocals; the orchestra of Roger Wolfe Kahn had a hit with “A Shine on Your Shoes.”

Apart from Dietz in 1933, Schwartz wrote an independent hit, “Trouble in Paradise,” which scored for Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orch. in July, and he wrote the music for a London musical, Nice Goings On, which had a run of 221 performances. His only effort for Broadway was a couple of songs used in the straight play She Loves Me Not (N.Y, Nov. 20, 1933).

In 1934, Schwartz and Dietz reunited to write songs for the radio serial The Gibson Family, which ran for a full 39-week season. They also found time to pen “Born to Be Kissed” for the Jean Harlow film Girl from Missouri, which became a hit for Freddy Martin and His Orch. in July. Schwartz also collaborated with E. Y. Harburg on the independent song “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” a hit for Fats Waller in September. The first book musical by Schwartz and Dietz was Revenge with Music, which ran 158 performances. Both of the songs to emerge as hits from the show had been written for The Gibson Family: “You and the Night and the Music,” recorded by Libby Holman, star of Revenge with Music, and “If There Is Someone Lovelier than You,” recorded by Enric Madriguera and His Orch.

Schwartz married musical comedy star Katherine Carrington, who had appeared in Irving Berlin’s Face the Music and Jerome Kern’s Music in the Air, in 1934. Carrington went on to star in Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road in 1937; she died on April 2, 1953.

Schwartz and Dietz returned to the revue format for At Home Abroad (1935), which ran 198 performances. The London success Follow the Sun (1936) drew songs from earlier American shows and added Desmond Carter on lyrics; it ran 204 performances. Before the year was out Schwartz had written songs for two motion pictures, Under Your Spell with Dietz, and That Girl from Paris with Edward Heyman.

Schwartz suffered two flops with book musicals in 1937, though Virginia, which he wrote with Al Stillman, contained “You and I Know,” a hit parade entry for the Glenn Miller Orch. in November, and Beat the Devil, written with Dietz, contained “I See Your Face Before Me,” a hit for Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians in March 1938. The failure of Beat the Devil led to the temporary suspension of the team of Schwartz and Dietz, and Schwartz teamed up with Dorothy Fields for his next show, 1939’s Stars in Your Eyes, which starred Ethel Merman and ran 127 performances. Tommy Dorsey and His Orch. made a hit out of “This Is It” from the score.

Schwartz collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein II on songs for the patriotic show American Jubilee that was part of the N.Y. World’s Fair in the summer of 1940. He then left for Hollywood to write songs for the movies. In March 1941, Artie Shaw and His Orch. scored a Top Ten revival with an instrumental treatment of “Dancing in the Dark.”

Schwartz made his most substantial mark as a Hollywood composer with the all-star feature Thank Your Lucky Stars, released in the fall of 1943. Among the 12 songs he and Frank Loesser wrote for the film were three hits: “The Dreamer” and “How Sweet You Are,” both given Top Ten recordings by Kay Armen and the Baladiers, and the war-themed novelty tune “They’re Either Too Young or Too Old” by Jimmy Dorsey and His Orch. with a vocal by Kitty Kallen, which was nominated for an Academy Award.

Schwartz turned to movie producing in 1944 with Cover Girl, for which he hired Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin to write the songs. He also produced the Cole Porter film biography Night and Day, released in July 1946. His final Hollywood effort before returning to Broadway was The Time, the Place and the Girl, released in December 1946, for which he wrote the songs with Leo Robin. Three of them became hits: “A Gal in Calico” for Johnny Mercer (with three competing Top Ten renditions); “Oh, But I Do” by Margaret Whiting; and “Rainy Night in Rio” by Sam Donohue. “A Gal in Calico” earned Schwartz his second Oscar nomination.

After failing with the book musical Park Avenue, written with Ira Gershwin, Schwartz returned to the revue format and to Howard Dietz for Inside U.S.A., which he also produced. It was his last major success on Broadway, running 399 performances and featuring “Haunted Heart,” a chart record for Perry Corno in June 1948. The musical A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for which Schwartz wrote songs with Dorothy Fields, had a run of 270 performances, but that was not enough to turn a profit. Though no individual songs emerged from the score as hits, such songs as “He Had Refinement” and “Make the Man Love Me” remain memorable, and the cast album reached the Top Ten in the spring of 1951.

MGM mounted a lavish film treatment of The Band Wagon in 1953. The movie shared only its title, some of its songs, and Fred Astaire with the original Broadway revue; with many songs interpolated from other Schwartz-Dietz shows and with the addition of the newly written “That’s Entertainment,” it was virtually an Arthur Schwartz anthology film, and it is remembered as one of the best movie musicals of the 1950s. Like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Schwartz’s next Broadway musical, By the Beautiful Sea (1954), featured lyrics by Dorothy Fields and a part for comic actress Shirley Booth. And like its predecessor, the show ran a respectable but not-quite-profitable 270 performances.

Schwartz wrote songs with Sammy Cahn for a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis film, You’re Never Too Young, in 1955, and in 1956 he scored two television musicals, High Tor, which had a book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson and featured Bing Crosby and Julie Andrews, and A Bell for Adano, with lyrics by Howard Dietz.

In the early 1960s, Schwartz and Dietz returned to Broadway with two musicals, The Gay Life, featuring Barbara Cook, and Jennie, starring Mary Martin, neither of which was a success. These were Schwartz’s last Broadway productions, though he continued to work on shows and try to get them mounted, notably Nickleby and Me, based on the Charles Dickens novel Nicholas Niakleby, for which he wrote both music and lyrics. Schwartz died of a stroke at the age of 83, survived by his wife Mary, two sons—one of whom was disc jockey, singer, and fiction writer Jonathan Schwartz—and one grandchild.


(only works for which Schwartz was a primary, credited composer are listed): musicals/revues (all dates refer to N.Y. openings unless otherwise noted): The New Yorkers (March 10, 1927); The Little Show (April 30, 1929); Here Comes the Bride (London, Feb. 20, 1930); The Co-Optimists of 1930 (London, April 4, 1930); The Second Little Show (Sept. 2, 1930); Princess Charming (Oct. 13, 1930); Three’s a Crowd (Oct. 15, 1930); The Band Wagon (June 3, 1931); Flying Colors (Sept. 15, 1932); Nice Goings On (London, Sept. 13, 1933); Revenge with Music (Nov. 28, 1934); At Home Abroad (Sept. 19, 1935); Follow the Sun (London, Feb. 4, 1936); Virginia (Sept. 2, 1937); Between the Devil (Dec. 22, 1937); Stars in Your Eyes (Feb. 9, 1939); Park Avenue (Nov. 4, 1946); Inside U.S.A. (April 30, 1948); A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (April 19, 1951); By the Beautiful Sea (April 8, 1954); The Gay Life (Nov. 18, 1961); Jennie (Oct. 17, 1963). films : Under Your Spell (1936); That Girl from Paris (1936); Navy Blues (1941); All Through the Night (1942); Cairo (1942); Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943); The Time, the Place and the Girl (1946); Excuse My Dust (1951); Dangerous When Wet (1953); The Band Wagon (MGM 1953); You’re Never Too Young (1955). television: High Tor (CBS, March 10, 1956); A Bell for Adano (CBS, June 2, 1956).

—William Ruhlmann

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Schwartz, Arthur

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