Lorenz Hart (Lorenz Milton Hart)

Lorenz Hart

Lorenz Hart was born in Harlem, the elder of two sons, to Jewish immigrant parents, Max M. and Frieda (Isenberg) Hart, of German background. His father, a business promoter, sent Hart and his brother to private schools. (His brother, Teddy Hart, also went into theatre and became a musical comedy star. Teddy Hart’s wife, Dorothy Hart, wrote a biography of Lorenz Hart.) Lorenz Hart received his early education from Columbia Grammar School and then 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, Lorenz 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. In 1920, six of their songs were used in the musical comedy Poor Little Ritz Girl, which also had music by Sigmund Romberg. They were hired to write the score for the 1925 Theatre Guild production The Garrick Gaieties, the success of which 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, Pal Joey, and On Your Toes. The Rodgers and Hart songs have been described as intimate and destined for long lives outside the theater. Many of their songs are standard repertoire for singers and jazz instrumentalists. Notable singers who have performed and recorded their songs have included Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, and Carly Simon. Hart has been called “the expressive bard of the urban generation which matured during the interwar years.”. But the “encomiums suggest(ing) that Larry Hart was a poet” caused his friend and fellow writer Henry Myers to state otherwise. “Larry in particular was primarily a showman. If you can manage to examine his songs technically, and for the moment elude their spell, you will see that they are all meant to be acted, that they are part of a play. Larry was a playwright.”

Rodgers and Lorenz Hart 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, with whom earlier that year he had created the hit musical Oklahoma!. Hart suffered from depression throughout his life. His erratic behavior was often the cause of friction between him and Rodgers and led to a breakup of their partnership in 1943 before his death. Rodgers then began collaborating with Oscar Hammerstein II. Devastated by the death of his mother seven months earlier, Lorenz 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 County, New York. The circumstances of his life were heavily edited and romanticized for the 1948 MGM biopic Words and Music.

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Born

  • May, 02, 1895
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Died

  • November, 22, 1943
  • USA
  • New York, New York

Cause of Death

  • pneumonia

Cemetery

  • Mount Zion Cemetery
  • Maspeth, New York
  • USA

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