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From the late 1920’s to the late 1940’s, Frank Loesser wrote lyrics to music created by more than 100 different composers.

Then one day, he looked in the mirror and found the perfect partner:


For the next 15 years, his songs were almost exclusively “Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser.”

Loesser was as talented as any of the men and women who are known as the giants of “The Great American Songbook.”  But, for some reason, he isn’t anywhere as well-known as they are. 

As a songwriter, he could, literally, do it all.  Comedy songs.  Ballads.  Character Songs. 
Groups Songs.  Genre songs -- pick any genre and somewhere there you'll find a stellar Loesser song. 

He was a master of writing lyrics that lay as gently on the music as a feather on a tabletop. 

He did not, however, write fast. 

Jule Styne tells how Loesser made him play the same music over and over again, hundreds of times over multiple days, until, finally, Loesser recited a totally-completed lyric, which, "of course," Styne said, "was perfect."

Speaking of perfect, here are the doll-related items from our website that we are featuring today:





Barbie PAK)
Near Mint & Complete



Very Good+ in Very Good Box

Near Mint & Complete





Frank Loesser was born in New York City in 1910.

His father was a piano teacher, and his much-older brother, Arthur, was a concert pianist-turned-music professor. 

Much to his family's eternal chagrin, Frank had no interest in classical music.  He preferred the music of New York’s nightlife.

He started out writing songs for nightclub and vaudeville acts, looking for a way to break into the “Hit Parade.”

Before long, he headed west to Los Angeles, where he got short-term assignments at a variety of film studios before being signed by Paramount Pictures in 1937.   

Almost immediately, he hit the jackpot with three giant hits written with composer Hoagy Carmichael:

The first of the
se hits was “Two Sleepy People,” sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross in the movie "Thanks for the Memory." 

It was a follow-up to Hope and Ross' earlier hit tune that had been written -- by other songwriters -- for the movie "The Big Broadcast of 1938." 

The name of that earlier tune?  Wait for it .... “Thanks For The Memory," written by songwriters Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin.

Ah, Hollywood!  

But Loesser and Carmichael's most famous song was "Heart and Soul." 

The definitive 1938 version is by Bea Wain with the Larry Clinton Orchestra:

Although, for all of us, what could top Tom Hanks, Robert Loggia, and the FAO Schwarz piano in “Big”?

True Story #1:  Frank Loesser's daughter, Susan, took piano lessons for years, practicing "Heart and Soul" over and over again -- and never realizing that her father had co-written the song.

During Loesser’s 12 years at Paramount, he was frequently “loaned out” to other studios. 

In 1939, he went to Universal to write lyrics to a trio of Frederick Hollander melodies for Marlene Dietrich in the movie “Destry Rides Again.”  The best known of these is “The Boys in the Back Room”:

In 1942, prompted by Pearl Harbor and something said by a Navy chaplain, Frank Loesser wrote the words AND the music (only the second time he’d done both) to one of the great anthems of World War II -- “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.” 

The song wasn’t written for a movie and it didn’t belong to Paramount.  It was #1 on the “Hit Parade” for 3 weeks, and sold 2.5 million records and more than a million copies of sheet music.  Here’s the classic rendition from that era

Loesser wrote song lyrics for over 60 movies at Paramount, including many for the explosive Betty Hutton.  One of the best and funniest is “Murder, He Says,” from the 1943 movie “Happy Go Lucky,” with music by Jimmy McHugh:

Now, keep in mind, that was a radio performance.  Nobody but the audience in the radio studio could see all that movement. 

Frank enlisted in the Army during World War II and wrote many songs -- as well as a show -- at the request of the Army.

And in 1943, he wrote an entire score of songs with composer Arthur Schwartz for “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” the profits from which went to subsidize The Hollywood Canteen, an oasis for servicemen that had been founded by Bette Davis, John Garfield and Jules Stein, the president of MCA, who headed up the Finance Committee. 

There were two standout songs performed by actresses not known for their singing:


That second one was nominated for an Oscar as Best Song.

True Story #2:  Bette Davis said to the professional jitterbugger who was hired to fling her around the dance floor:  "Don't hold back."

He didn’t -- injuring her knee in the process.

In 1947, Loesser wrote the music and lyrics to "What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?

It wasn’t for a movie, and it didn’t land on the “Hit Parade,” but it has since become a Christmas season perennial -- which seriously ticked Loesser off. 

The way he imagined it in his head, the song was sung by a would-be Romeo in March or April (“Maybe it’s much too early in the game…“), not November or December. 

Sorry, Frank, the public has spoken.  It’s a holiday song. 

Here’s a current rendition of the song by Postmodern Jukebox, featuring Rayvon Owen & Olivia Kuper Harris: 

Wanting more artistic control over his songs than he could get at the studios, Loesser set his sights on Broadway.  He said “yes” to an offer to musicalize the classic comedy “Charley’s Aunt.” 

He would do the lyrics, and Harold Arlen would do the music for the show, which was renamed “Where’s Charley.”

Arlen dropped out of the project, and Loesser persuaded the producers to let him write the score all by his lonesome. 

(We'll have more about the incomparable Harold Arlen on an upcoming day of the Holiday Advent Calendar.)

Once in Love With Amy” was written to be a showstopper for the show’s star Ray Bolger (who, as we all know, played the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz.")

Unfortunately, the song was only getting tepid applause. (Reviews of the entire show had been mild at best, and hopes for much of a run were bleak.) 

At a matinee very early in the run, while singing “Once in Love With Amy,” Bolger went blank on the lyric and asked the conductor for the next line. 

Suddenly, from the audience, a juvenile voice called out the next line, and, as the song went along, the kid sang along with Ray until Bolger finally gave in and invited the entire audience to sing along as well. 

The audience gave the number thunderous applause! 

The juvenile voice turned out to belong to the 7-year old son of Cy Feuer, one of the show's producers. 

The boy had played his father’s demo of the song (which he loved) so much (about 100 times) that he had memorized it -- beat for beat and breath for breath.   

This gave Ray the idea of making a sing-along with the audience a permanent part of the song.  It took him about 10 performances to perfect the gimmick, and turned what had been a 3-minute song into a 6-plus minute routine. 

The sing-along created tremendous buzz and word-of-mouth.  The show became a hit and ran for two years!

If you’ve spent any time on YouTube (and, if you are a devoted follower of our online Advent Calendar, that would be you), then you know that everyone posts songs from their engagement proposals, their weddings, their bar mitzvahs, their kids' graduations, their sisters' bridal showers, their little angels' confirmations, etc. 

Every so often, there’s a really good one:

In 1948, Loesser was hired to write the score for an Esther Williams M-G-M musical -- “Neptune’s Daughter.”

For the title of one song, he thought of what poker playing buddies of his would say about a guy who always loses but keeps coming back for more. 

The song -- “(I’d Like to Get You) On a Slow Boat to China” -- was supposed to be sung by Williams, but that was nixed by the movie censors, who thought the song promoted an “immoral liaison.”  


Radio didn’t have that same problem.  There were seven hit versions of the song in 1948 alone! 

Here’s Barry Manilow and Bette Midler’s version, so you judge for yourselves:

For another song in the score, Frank reached into his trunk of unpublished songs. 

One was a number he'd written for him and his wife Lynn to perform at parties (show biz people LOVE to perform for one another at parties).


This particular song was such a huge crowd-pleaser that it got them invites to all the best parties for years. 

The song? 

Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  

Here it is performed by Ricardo Montalban, Esther Williams, Red Skelton, and Betty Garrett: 

The song became a huge hit and has been performed steadily for the last 70+ years.  Here’s Idina Menzel and Michael Buble’s version:

And here it is with the roles reversed, with Lady Gaga pursuing Joseph Gordon-Levitt:

After three previous nominations, Frank Loesser finally won a Best Song Oscar for “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”  Here he is at the Academy Awards, being presented with the Oscar by Cole Porter:

Geesh!  Back then, they didn’t even let you say thank you!

By far, the crown jewel in Frank Loesser’s oueuvre is “Guys and Dolls.”

It's all about the gamblers (the guys) and their "ladies" (the dolls) who hung around the Broadway theatre district of Manhattan.  The show was based on a variety of short stories written by the famous Broadway chronicler Damon Runyon.

"Guys and Dolls" ran for three years, won a fistful of Tony Awards, and is arguably one of the five best musical comedies ever created.

(We’ll suggest that “My Fair Lady” and “Gypsy" are two of the other four.) 

"Guys and Dolls" has everything:  great comic songs, sweet ballads, showstoppers, four dynamite lead roles, a compelling and winning story line, tons o' laughs, and a happy ending that sends the audience out of the theatre giddy with delight. 

“Guys and Dolls” is -- in a word -- perfect.

The big hit from the show -- "A Bushel and a Peck" -- was meant to satirize crummy nightclub songs.  Ironically, it became a mainstay of variety TV show performers for a decade.  Here are the McGuire Sisters, accompanied by an amazing slideshow of their fashions, hairdos, and makeup choices spanning a period of 40 years:

Frank Loesser l-o-v-e-d singers (both of his wives were professional singers), but what he l-o-v-e-d most was to hear his songs sung the way he wrote them.

In the theatre, he wanted “Loud” and he wanted “Clear.”  He didn't want cute curlique notes, or golden tones, or “improvements” of any kind. 

During the stage rehearsals of "Guys and Dolls," he famously -- or, more to the point, infamously -- slapped a singer who simply would not sing a song as instructed. 

Then, during the pre-recording of songs for the movie version, he and the "other" Frank connected to the movie - Frank Sinatra - fought ferociously over Sinatra’s renditions. 

Loesser wanted Sinatra to sing the songs as the character, Nathan Detroit.  Sinatra wanted to croon the tunes as "Sinatra."

It all came to a head on an empty sound stage at the Goldwyn Studios with "F.U.’s" being flung about at full volume. 

In the end, Sinatra sang the songs his way, and the two men never spoke again.

So, once again, you guys be the judge. 

The first video link is of the original Nathan and Adelaide (Sam Levene and Vivian Blaine) performing “Sue Me”:

This second link is of Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine doing the same song in the movie: 

Character vs. Crooning.  Which Frank do you agree with?

In 1952, Sam Goldwyn lured Loesser back to Hollywood for what turned out to be his final original song score for a movie - “Hans Christian Andersen.”

It was a Danny Kaye songfest!

Two songs immediately became children's favorites:
Thumbellina," which got Loesser his final Oscar nomination:


and "The Ugly Duckling":


In 1956, Loesser wrote the songs (and there were more than 40 of them) and the book for “The Most Happy Fella.” ("It wasn’t an opera," he said, "it was just a show with a lot of music.")

The show took him three years to write, but it was a hit, and it ran on Broadway for 1-1/2 years. 

Among the show’s investors were Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, which would explain why “The Most Happy Fella” is the show featured on the “I Love Lucy” episode where the Ricardos and the Mertzes have to share one pair of tickets to a Broadway matinee.

The big hit from the show was “Standing on the Corner,” sung here by The Four Lads:

Frank Loesser’s last produced Broadway show was 1961’s “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying."

It was his biggest hit by the numbers - a 3-1/2 year run, an armful of Tony Awards, the cover of Newsweek, AND the Pulitzer Prize for Drama awarded to him and to the show’s book writer, Abe Burrows.  Very heady stuff.
The show’s Tony Award-winning lead was Robert Morse, who was part cherub, part leprechaun, part kewpie doll. 

He had enough charm for 10 gold bracelets.  (Many years later, he showed up on television as Bert, the ad agency owner in “Mad Men.”) 

Morse's big number -- and the one song that became a hit -- was “I Believe in You”:

The show has had two major Broadway revivals - once with Matthew Broderick (who also won a Tony for the role) and, 10 years ago, with Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter Sings!  Harry Potter Dances!). 

Here’s the show’s finale -- “Brotherhood of Man” -- performed by Radcliffe at that year’s Tony Awards.

If you want to see Frank Loesser in person, here’s a rare TV appearance

Frank Loesser in Person

And now, for all you “sinners” out there who are convinced Santa is gonna put coal in your stocking instead of a brand new Poppy or a vintage Barbie or Ken, here is your chance to get on Santa's "Nice List." 

Join with Walter Bobbie and the cast of the 1992 Broadway revival of "Guys and Dolls" at the Save-A-Soul Mission in singing:

Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat