Who was Lorenz Hart?

Biography of  Lorenz Hart from wikipedia.com

Lorenz “Larry” Milton Hart (May 2, 1895 – November 22, 1943) was the lyricist half of the famed Broadway songwriting team Rodgers and Hart. Some of his more famous lyrics include, “Blue Moon“, “Isn’t It Romantic?“, “Mountain Greenery“, “The Lady Is a Tramp“, “Manhattan“, “Where or When“, “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered“, “Falling in Love with Love“, “I’ll Tell The Man In The Street” and “My Funny Valentine“.

Life and career

Hart was born in Harlem, the older of two sons, to Jewish immigrant parents, Max M. and Frieda (Isenberg) Hart, of eastern Europe and German descent. A business promoter, his father sent Hart and his brother Teddy to private schools. (His brother Teddy Hart also went into theatre and became a musical comedy star. His wife Dorothy Hart wrote a biography of Lorenz Hart.)

Hart attended Columbia University School of Journalism for two years. A friend introduced him to Richard Rodgers, and the two joined forces to write songs for a series of amateur and student productions.

By 1918, Larry Hart was working for the Shubert brothers, partners in theatre, translating German plays into English. In 1919, his and Rodgers’ song “Any Old Place With You” was included in the Broadway musical comedy A Lonely Romeo. They were hired to write the score for the 1925 Theatre Guild production, The Garrick Gaieties, which success brought them acclaim.

Rodgers and Hart subsequently wrote the music and lyrics for 26 Broadway musicals during a more than 20-year partnership that ended only with Hart’s early death. Their “big four” were Babes in Arms, The Boys From Syracuse (the first adaptation of a Shakespeare play for musical theatre), Pal Joey and On Your Toes. The Rodgers and Hart songs have been described as intimate and destined for long lives outside the theater. They created scores for a series of hit shows and made a substantial contribution to the Great American Songbook. Notable singers who have performed and recorded their songs have included Frank SinatraBillie Holiday, and Carly Simon.[2] Hart has been called “the expressive bard of the urban generation which matured during the interwar years”.

They wrote music and lyrics for several films, including Love Me Tonight (1932), The Phantom President (1932), Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933), and Mississippi (1935). With their successes, during the Great Depression Hart was earning $60,000 annually, and he became a magnet for many people. He gave numerous large parties. Beginning in 1938, he traveled more often and suffered from his drinking.He was much affected by his mother’s death in late April 1943.

Rodgers and Hart teamed a final time in the fall of 1943 for a revival of A Connecticut Yankee. Hart had taken off the night of the opening and was gone for two days. He was found ill in a hotel room and taken to the hospital, but died in a few days. After Hart’s death, Rodgers collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein.

Musical style

According to Thomas Hischak, Hart “had a remarkable talent for polysyllabic and internal rhymes“,and his lyrics have often been praised for their wit and technical sophistication. According to Stephen Holder, a writer in The New York Times, “Many of Hart’s ballad lyrics conveyed a heart-stopping sadness that reflected his conviction that he was physically too unattractive to be lovable.” The New York Times writer also noted that “In his lyrics, as in his life, Hart stands as a compellingly lonely figure. Although he wrote dozens of songs that are playful, funny and filled with clever wordplay, it is the rueful vulnerability beneath their surface that lends them a singular poignancy.

Personal life

For years Hart was a bachelor and lived with his widowed mother. Homosexual, he struggled in a society that discriminated against people of his orientation. Five feet tall, he felt physically unattractive. Such issues likely contributed to his developing alcoholism, as may have a genetic and emotional vulnerability. He would sometimes disappear for weeks at a time on alcoholic binges. Hart died in New York City of pneumonia from exposure on November 22, 1943 after drinking heavily. He is buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens CountyNew York.

Hart suffered great emotional turmoil and depression throughout his life. His personal problems were often the cause of friction between him and Rodgers; in fact this led to a brief breakup of their partnership in 1943 before his death. Rodgers then started working with Oscar Hammerstein II. Hart’s life was heavily edited and romanticized for the 1948 MGM biopic Words and Music.

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