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Harold Arlen

Born Feb. 15, 1905, Buffalo, NY.
Died April 27, 1986, New York, NY

Born Hyman Arluck, Arlen was the son of a cantor. As a teenager Arlen played piano in movie houses and formed his own jazz group. He started writing songs for New York revues with lyricist Ted Koehler, to whom he was introduced by Harry Warren. Their first hit was Get Happy in 1931, followed by Stormy Weather for a Cotton Club revue in 1933. Also in those early years he teamed with lyricist Yip Harburg to produce It's Only a Paper Moon, and in 1934 he wrote several great songs for the revue Life Begins at 8:40, with lyrics provided by both Harburg and Ira Gershwin. These included You're a Builder-Upper, Fun to be Fooled, and Let's take a Walk Around the Block. Harburg said of Arlen's style of working : Harold was the most fastidious and demanding-of-himself that you could find anywhere. He threw everything out. He was frightened of everything sounding like something else….He will labor on one phrase, sometimes for weeks, exploring every musical possibility with the patience of a chess champion.

Over the next 20 years Arlen worked with Harburg to produce scores for another hit revue Hooray for What, and two Broadway shows : Bloomer Girl and Jamaica. They also wrote the score for the movie phenomenon The Wizard of Oz.

Arlen wrote other Broadway shows, including the spectacular score for St. Louis Woman, with Johnny Mercer, Saratoga, also with Mercer, and House of Flowers with Truman Capote. He wrote a suite of spirituals called the Americanegro suite, and worked with Ira Gershwin on the 1954 film A Star is Born which featured the song The Man That Got Away.

Arlen worked with Dorothy Fields on two now-forgotten musical films : Mr Imperium (1951) starring Lana Turner, and The Farmer Takes A Wife (1953) with Betty Grable.

For more information on Harold Arlen, visit the splendid official Harold Arlen site. Also see the Tunesmiths Database : Harold Arlen

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