Hart was the perfect lyricist for his era
(his era being between the two World
His lyrics were sophisticated, witty,
clever, and urbane.
When they needed to be, he could make his
lyrics hilarious, or heartfelt, or
But, as is sometimes the case with outsized
talent, there was a catch.
The catch is that Hart was a tormented man.
He was gay, but didn’t want to be.
He was short (about 4’10”) and didn’t want
When he looked in the mirror, he saw “ugly.”
The tragedy of this is that
a.) he wasn't ugly
and b.) many who knew him or worked with him
Rodgers and Hart’s “overnight” success came
in 1925 with a two-night benefit for The
Theatre Guild, called “The Garrick
They'd written a song called "Manhattan."
It brought the house down at both
Those two nights turned into 211.
Rodgers and Hart went from "invisible" to
"the toast of the town."
Filmed in 1929, this clip of “Manhattan”
is probably just the way it was performed 4
There was a second edition of “The Garrick
Gaieties,” in 1926, from whence comes “Mountain
The song was performed in a 1967 TV Special
about Rodgers & Hart -- by Bobby
Darin! Petula Clark!! The
Supremes!!! and Count Basie!!!!
God, we miss TV variety specials.
For 1927’s “A Connecticut Yankee,” based on
Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King
the gimmick is that the script and lyrics
mash-up medieval language with modern
One of the standout songs is “Thou
Swell,” swung here by Natalie Cole.
A lot of the earlier Rodgers and Hart shows
were hits, but the silly plot lines have
mercifully been long forgotten. Not so
Here, from 1928’s “Present Arms,”
is The Crush’s barbershop quartet version of
Advantage of Me”
Another forgettable show was 1930’s “Simple
from which came the tough-talking “Ten
Cents a Dance,” sung here by Doris
Day in the movie “Love Me or Leave Me”:
The Depression hit Broadway hard.
It sent Hart and Rodgers to London to write
a hit musical, “Ever Green,” for Jessie
Matthews, who was a huge theater and film
star in England.
It later became a hit movie as well.
Here’s the timeless song from that show, “Dancing
on the Ceiling”:
Hart was able to channel the sadness in his
life into brilliantly-sad songs about love.
Here are two.
From 1935’s “Jumbo,”
here is Karen Carpenter’s interpretation of
And, from 1936’s “On Your Toes,”
Sammy Davis Jr. tells us why he’s “Glad
to be Unhappy”:
In the introduction to this year’s Holiday
Advent Calendar, we express thanks to Frank
Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald for making it
cool to sing oldies.
Here are the two of them in the mid-1960’s,
teaming up on “The
Lady Is A Tramp” from 1937’s “Babes
Also from “Babes in Arms” is “Johnny
One Note,” sung by Eydie Gorme --
who is wearing a truly amazing gown (judging
by the bodice and cinched waist).
And dig that sustained note.
Wait! -- One more from “Babes in Arms,”
recreated here in the 1948 movie "Words
"Words and Music" is a mostly-fictionalized
biopic about Hart and Rodgers -- and
features the last screen duet between Mickey
The song (with some of Hart’s most devilish
rhymes) is “I
Wish I Were in Love Again”
Rodgers & Hart songs turn up in
Here, from the coda to the movie “Bridget
(and depicting the initial childhood
attraction between Renee Zellweger's and
Colin Firth's characters) is:
In 1938, Hugh Martin (who later wrote “Have
Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Trolley Song”) was hired to do a
vocal arrangement for “Sing
For Your Supper” from “The Boys
The number stopped the show, and the trio
performing it had to sing it again…and then
again a third time.
Here’s the original arrangement and
orchestration, with singers Christine
Ebersole, Rebecca Luker, Debbie Shapiro
From 1940’s "Higher and Higher,"
this is a recording of Julie London singing
“It Never Entered My Mind”
Can we just recap one line from that
song: “uneasy in my easy chair.”
Honestly, can a lyric ever be better than
One of the catastrophic through-lines of
Hart’s life was his long-term -- and
worsening -- alcoholism.
He would go off on benders for days -- even
weeks -- stretching the limits of the
partnership with Rodgers to the breaking
In 1942, the team was offered the chance to
musicalize the stage play “Green Grow the
Hart had no interest in a rural musical and
was finding it harder and harder to summon
the energy to write.
But Rodgers was intrigued.
As was Oscar Hammerstein, who offered to
write the book.
Hart and Hammerstein were exactly the same
age; they had been in school together at
Columbia; and they were life-long friends.
Hart told Rodgers he should write the show
Hence a new songwriting team was born,
and the show, retitled “Oklahoma,”
became a legendary hit.
But Hart had one more show to write with
Actually, it was a partial rewrite of “A
Connecticut Yankee” (they were adding a half
The last song they wrote together was “To
Keep My Love Alive,” a hilarious
“list” song that is full of vintage Hart
rhymes, sung here by the very hilarious
In November 1943, on the opening night of "A
Connecticut Yankee," Hart showed up to the
Sitting in the audience, he started to sing
along with the cast.
His sister walked him out of the theatre and
took him to her apartment.
The next morning, she awoke to find that he
had left the apartment.
Several days went by before he was found --
passed out on the street, drunk, without an
overcoat. He died of pneumonia 3 days
But we don’t want to leave you depressed.
Let’s remember Larry Hart as the brilliant
lyricist he was.
Here's Lady Gaga, singing a beautiful song
from 1940’s “Pal Joey”: