Jerome Kern


Jerome Kern : biography

January 27, 1885 – November 11, 1945

Music in the Air (1932) was another Kern-Hammerstein collaboration and another show-biz plot, best remembered today for "The Song Is You" and "I’ve Told Ev’ry Little Star". It was "undoubtedly an operetta", set in the German countryside, but without the Ruritanian trimmings of the operettas of Kern’s youth.Banfield, p. 221 Roberta (1933) by Kern and Harbach included the songs "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "Let’s Begin and "Yesterdays" and featured, among others, Bob Hope, Fred MacMurray, George Murphy and Sydney Greenstreet all in the early stages of their careers. Kern’s Three Sisters (1934), was his last West End show, with a libretto by Hammerstein. The musical, depicting horse-racing, the circus, and class distinctions, was a failure, running for only two months, despite what seems to have been an excellent Kern score (it was never published and much of the original material is lost).Banfield p. 219The Observer, April 15, 1934, p. 17 Some British critics objected to American writers essaying a British story;Harvey, Dennis. . Variety, Nov. 27, 1995, accessed May 14, 2010 James Agate, doyen of London theatre critics of the day, dismissed it as "American inanity,"Banfield, p. 224 though both Kern and Hammerstein were strong and knowledgeable Anglophiles.Banfield comments in this context, "Hammerstein had, after all, spent far more time in and around London than he ever did in Oklahoma": Banfield, p. 224 Kern’s last Broadway show (other than revivals) was Very Warm for May (1939), another show-biz story and another disappointment, although the score included the Kern and Hammerstein classic "All The Things You Are".

Kern in Hollywood

In 1935, when musical films had become popular once again, thanks to Busby Berkeley,Kenrick, John. ., 2004, accessed May 17, 2010 Kern returned to Hollywood, where he composed the scores to a dozen more films, although he also continued working on Broadway productions. He settled permanently in Hollywood in 1937. After suffering a heart attack in 1939, he was told by his doctors to concentrate on film scores, a less stressful task, as Hollywood songwriters were not as deeply involved with the production of their works as Broadway songwriters. This second phase of Kern’s Hollywood career had considerably greater artistic and commercial success than the first. With Hammerstein, he wrote songs for the film versions of his recent Broadway shows Music in the Air (1934), which starred Gloria Swanson in a rare singing role, and Sweet Adeline (1935). With Dorothy Fields, he composed the new music for I Dream Too Much (1935), a musical melodrama about the opera world, starring the Metropolitan Opera diva Lily Pons. Kern and Fields interspersed the opera numbers with their songs, including "the swinging ‘I Got Love,’ the lullaby ‘The Jockey on the Carousel,’ and the entrancing title song."Hischak, Thomas. . The Oxford Companion to the American Musical, Oxford University Press 2009. Oxford Reference Online, accessed May 15, 2010 (requires subscription) Also with Fields, he wrote two new songs, "I Won’t Dance" and "Lovely to Look At", for the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film version of Roberta (1935), which was a hit. The show also included the song "I’ll Be Hard to Handle". This was given a 1952 remake called Lovely to Look At.Hischak, Thomas. . The Oxford Companion to the American Musical, Oxford University Press 2009, Oxford Reference Online, accessed May 15, 2010 (requires subscription)

Their next film, Swing Time (1936) included the song "The Way You Look Tonight", which won the Academy Award in 1936 for the best song. Other songs in Swing Time include "A Fine Romance", "Pick Yourself Up" and "Never Gonna Dance". The Oxford Companion to the American Musical calls Swing Time "a strong candidate for the best of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals" and says that, although the screenplay is contrived, it "left plenty of room for dance and all of it was superb. … Although the movie is remembered as one of the great dance musicals, it also boasts one of the best film scores of the 1930s."Hischak, Thomas. . The Oxford Companion to the American Musical, Oxford University Press 2009. Oxford Reference Online, accessed May 15, 2010 (requires subscription) For the 1936 film version of Show Boat, Kern and Hammerstein wrote three new songs, including "I Have The Room Above Her" and "Ah Still Suits Me". High, Wide, and Handsome (1937) was intentionally similar in plot and style to Show Boat", but it was a box-office failure. Kern songs were also used in the Cary Grant film, When You’re in Love (1937), and the first Abbott and Costello feature, One Night in the Tropics (1940). In 1940, Hammerstein wrote the lyric "The Last Time I Saw Paris", in homage to the French capital, recently occupied by the Germans. Kern set it, the only time he set a pre-written lyric, and his only hit song not written as part of a musical. Originally a hit for Tony Martin and later for Noël Coward, the song was used in the film Lady Be Good (1941) and won Kern another Oscar for best song. Kern’s second and last symphonic work was his ‘Mark Twain Suite (1942).