- Alan Jay Lerner
name = Alan Jay Lerner
birthdate = birth date|1918|8|31
New York City, New York
deathdate = death date and age|1986|6|14|1918|8|31
New York City, New York
spouse = Ruth Boyd (1940-1947)
Marion Bell (1947-1949)
Micheline Muselli Pozzo diBorgo (1957-1965)
Karen Gunderson (1966-1974)
Nina Bushkin (m.1977)
academyawards = Best Original Screenplay
An American in Paris"
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Original Song
goldenglobeawards = Best Original Song
Best Original Score
The Little Prince"
tonyawards = Bes Book of a Musical
My Fair Lady"
Best Original Score
My Fair Lady"
Alan Jay Lerner (
August 31, 1918– June 14, 1986) was an American Broadway lyricistand librettist. Together with Frederick Loewe, he created some of the world's most popular and enduring works of musical theatre. Lerner wrote the lyrics for some of the theatre's most famous songs. He won three Tony Awards and three Academy Awards, among other honors.
New York City, he was the son of Joseph Jay Lerner, the brother of the owner of the Lerner Stores, a chain of dress shops. The founder and owner of Lerner Stores was Samuel Alexander Lerner. Alan Jay Lerner was educated at Bedales School, Choate Rosemary Hall, and Harvard, where he befriended classmate John F. Kennedy. Like Cole Porterat Yaleand Richard Rodgersat Columbia, his career in musical theater began with his collegiate contributions, in Lerner's case to the annual Harvard Hasty Puddingmusicals.
Following graduation, Lerner wrote scripts for
radio, including " Your Hit Parade", until he was introduced to a down-on-his-heels Austrian composer Frederick Loewe, who needed a lyricist, in 1942. Their first collaboration was a musical adaptation of Barry Connor's farce "The Patsy" called "Life of the Party" for a Detroitstock company. It enjoyed a nine-week run and encouraged the duo to join forces with Arthur Pierson for " What's Up?", which opened on Broadway in 1943. It ran for 63 performances and was followed two years later by " The Day Before Spring". One of Broadway's most successful partnerships had been established.
Their first hit was "
Brigadoon" (1947), a romantic fantasy set in a mystical Scottish village, directed by Robert Lewis. It was followed in 1951 by the less successful Gold Rush story " Paint Your Wagon".
Lerner poured his excess energy into collaborations with
Kurt Weillon the stage musical " Love Life" (1948) and Burton Laneon the movie musical " Royal Wedding" (1951). In that same year Lerner also wrote the Oscar-winning original screenplayfor "An American in Paris", produced by Arthur Freedand directed by Vincente Minnelli. This was the same team who would later join with Lerner and Loewe to create "Gigi".
In 1956 Lerner and Loewe unveiled "
My Fair Lady". Their adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" retained his social commentary and added unusually appropriate songs for the characters of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, played originally by Julie Andrewsand Rex Harrison. It was hugely popular and set box-office records in New Yorkand London. When brought to the screen in 1964, the movie version would win eight Oscars.
Lerner and Loewe's run of success continued with their next project, a film adaptation of stories from
Colette, the Academy Awardwinning film musical "Gigi", starring Leslie Caron. The film won all of its nine Oscar nominations, a record at that point in time, and a special Oscar for co-star Maurice Chevalier.
The Lerner-Loewe partnership cracked under the stress of producing the Arthurian "Camelot" in 1960, with Loewe resisting Lerner's desire to direct as well as write. "Camelot" was a hit nonetheless, with a poignant coda; immediately following the assassination of
John F. Kennedy, his widow told Life Magazinethat JFK's administration reminded her of the "one brief shining moment" of Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot." To this day "Camelot" is invoked to describe the idealism, romance, and tragedyof the Kennedy years.
Loewe retired to
Palm Springs, Californiawhile Lerner went through a series of unsuccessful musicals with such composers as Andre Previn("Coco"), John Barry (" Lolita, My Love"), Leonard Bernstein("1600 Pennsylvania Avenue"), Burton Lane(" Carmelina") and Charles Strouse(" Dance a Little Closer", based on the film, " Idiot's Delight", nicknamed "Close A Little Faster" by Broadway wags because it closed on opening night). Most biographers blame Lerner's professional decline on the lack of not only a strong composer but a strong director whom Lerner could collaborate with (as Neil Simondid with Mike Nicholsor Stephen Sondheimdid with Harold Prince). ( Moss Hart, who had directed " My Fair Lady," died shortly after "Camelot" opened). In 1965 Lerner collaborated again with Burton Lanein the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which was adapted for film in 1970. Lerner was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Famein 1971.
In 1973 Lerner coaxed Fritz Loewe out of retirement to augment the "Gigi" score for a musical stage adaptation. The following year they collaborated on a musical film version of "The Little Prince", based on the classic children's tale by
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. This film was a critical and box office failure, but has become a cult favorite, with the soundtrack recording and the film itself back in print (on CD and DVD) after many years of being unavailable.
In 1978 he penned "The Street Where I Live", his account of three of his and Loewe's successes, "My Fair Lady", "Gigi", and "Camelot" along with autobiographical information. In the last year of his life he published "The Musical Theatre: A Celebration", a well-reviewed history of the theatre replete with personal anecdotes and his trademark wit. A book of Lerner's lyrics entitled "A Hymn To Him", edited by
Benny Green, was published in 1987.
At the time of Lerner's death, he had just begun to write lyrics for "The Phantom of the Opera", and was replaced by Charles Hart. He had turned down an invitation to write the English-language lyrics for the musical version of "Les Miserables". He also had been working with Gerard Kenny in London on a musical version of the classic film "
My Man Godfrey".
Lerner had an addictive personality; for more than twenty years he battled an
amphetamine addiction, and he would marry eight times. The drugs and divorces cost him much of his wealth. When he died, he reportedly owed the IRS over $1,000,000 (USD) in back taxes.
Lerner died from
lung cancerin Manhattanat the age of 67. At the time of his death he was married to actress Liz Robertson, who was thirty-six years his junior.
Royal Wedding", 1951 (lyricist)
*"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", 1960 (lyricist)
*"On a Clear Day You Can See Forever", 1970 (screenwriter/lyricist)
*"Tribute", 1980 ("It's All for the Best," lyricist)
*"Secret Places", 1984 (title song lyricist)
Lerner and Loewe
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=9988255 Alan Jay Lerner's biographic sketch] at
Find A Grave
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