Who's Who in Musicals: Hale-Harris
by John Kenrick
(b. Beatrice Hale-Monro)
Actress, singer, dancer
b. May 22, 1899 (Liverpool, UK) - d. Jan. 10, 1984 (London)
This enchanting blond beauty was one of the West End's top stars in the 1920s and 30s. Daughter of actor Robert Hale and sister of musical comedy star Sonnie Hale, she starred in more than 25 London musicals. Her most memorable performances include the title roles in the London productions of No, No, Nanette (1925) and Sunny (1926), as well as "Jill" in the long-running Mr. Cinders (1929), where she introduced "Spread a Little Happiness." Ms. Hale continued to appear in musicals and pantomimes through the 1950s, co-starring with her brother Sonnie in One, Two, Three (1947). After appearing as "The Queen of Hearts" in a version of Alice in Wonderland (1958), she retired from the stage.
(b. John Robert Hale-Monro)
Actor, singer, dancer, director
b. May 1, 1902 (London, UK) - d. June 9, 1959 (London)
Binnie Hale's younger brother made his West End debut in the chorus of Fun of the Fayre (1921). After his divorce from operetta star Evelyn Laye, he married musical comedy star Jessie Matthews, who he co-starred with in six London productions. Together, the popular duo introduced Noel Coward's "A Room With a View" in This Year of Grace (1928) and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's "Dancing on the Ceiling" in Ever Green (1930). Hale directed several productions in the 1940s, and appeared in and directed a number of British musical films. He continued working in regional theater until his death at age 58.
b. Aug 10, 1899 (Boston, MA) - d. June 6, 1979 (Los Angeles)
This ingratiating comic toured in vaudeville as part of the song and dance team Crofts & Haley before making his Broadway debut in Round the Town (1924). He introduced "Button Up Your Overcoat" in Follow Thru (1929), and sang "You're an Old Smoothie" with Ethel Merman in Take a Chance (1932). Haley's displayed his knack for playing wide-eyed, innocent victims in a series of 20th Century Fox screen musicals, including Poor Little Rich Girl (1936) with Shirley Temple. When an allergic reaction to metallic make-up forced Buddy Ebsen out of The Wizard of Oz (1939), MGM brought in Haley to play the Tin Woodman the most memorable role of his career. He introduced "If I Only Had a Heart," and shared "We're Off to See the Wizard" with fellow vaudeville veterans Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr.
He starred in both the stage (1940) and screen (1943) versions of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart's Higher and Higher, and joined Bea Lillie in the raucous Broadway revue Inside USA (1948). Although Haley eased out of performing in his later years, annual television broadcasts of The Wizard of Oz made him a favorite with generations that never saw him on stage. His son Jack Jr. revitalized MGM's musical legacy by creating That's Entertainment, and was married for several years to Judy Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli. Haley Sr. remained active in his 70's, making a brief cameo with Minnelli in New York, New York (1977). After a brief illness, he died of a heart attack at age 79.
b. Nov. 6, 1901 (Keysport, NJ) - d. Feb. 28, 1968 (Bay Shore, NY)
This charismatic, rotund African American actress studied at Juilliard before reaching Broadway in a revival of the play Sailor Beware! (1935). She appeared in the ensembles of Sing Out Sweet Land (1944) and the 1946 revival of Show Boat. Small roles in St. Louis Woman and Street Scene led to her being cast as the original Bloody Mary in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's South Pacific (1949), where she stopped the show with "Bali Hai" and "Happy Talk." When this noted blues and folk singer repeated her role in the film version, Hollywood inexplicably insisted on having another singer dub her vocals. Hall was featured as whorehouse Madam Tango in House of Flowers (1954) and as the righteous Chinese-American mother Madame Liang in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (1958). After appearing in the 1961 film version of Flower Drum Song, Hall retired from public life. Seven years later, she died due to complications from diabetes at age 66.
b. June 2, 1944 (New York City)
A gifted child prodigy, Hamlisch was only seven when he became the youngest student ever enrolled at the esteemed Julliard School. He wrote numerous pop songs, and became one Hollywood's top composer-arrangers, winning national fame when his work on The Way We Were and The Sting brought him three Oscars in 1974. The following year, Hamlisch worked on his first stage musical, collaborating with lyricist Ed Kleban and director Michael Bennett on A Chorus Line. This landmark hit brought Hamlisch the Tony for Best Score and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Carol Bayer Sager provided the lyrics for They're Playing Our Song (1979), which became a long-running smash in both New York and London. Hamlisch had less luck with the London production of Jean Seaberg (1983) and the Broadway musical Smile (1986). While contributing the scores for numerous films during the late 1980s and 1990s, he collaborated with David Zippel on The Goodbye Girl (1993) and with Craig Carnelia on Sweet Smell of Success (2001) both of which had brief runs in New York. At age 68, after a kidney transplant, he died unexpectedly due to an unrelated infection that caused lung failure. Hamlisch is one of only two composers who have been awarded Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize -- the other is Richard Rodgers.
Hammerstein, Oscar, II
Lyricist, librettist, producer, director
b. July 12, 1895 (New York City) - d. Aug. 23, 1960 (Doylestown, Pa.)
Grandson of opera and vaudeville impresario Oscar Hammerstein I, young Oscar studied law to please his parents while preparing for a theatrical career. While at Columbia University, he wrote several varsity musicals, working briefly with underclassmen Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. In the 1920s, Hammerstein worked as co-lyricist/librettist with Otto Harbach on a series of shows, including Vincent Youmans and Herbert Stothart's Wildflower (1923), Rudolph Friml's Rose Marie (1924), Jerome Kern's Sunny (1925) and Sigmund Romberg's The Desert Song (1926). Hammerstein was sole lyricist, librettist and director for Kern's landmark Show Boat (1927) and Romberg's The New Moon (1928). After scoring a hit with Kern's charming operetta Music in the Air (1932), Hammerstein faced a long spell of failures on both stage and screen.
Then Richard Rodgers, frustrated by Hart's increasing unreliability, offered Hammerstein a new project, initiating one of the most profitable partnerships in theatrical history. Beginning with Oklahoma! (1943), Hammerstein and Rodgers made the integrated musical play into the world's most popular form of commercial theater. They used songs as dramatic tools, enhancing the action and character development as never before. Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951) and The Sound of Music (1959) remain among the finest and most beloved musicals ever written. The team also composed State Fair (1945) for film and Cinderella (1957) for television. (After their deaths, both of these works were adapted for stage performance.) Hammerstein completed Sound of Music just months before stomach cancer ended his life at age 65.
At their best, Hammerstein's lyrics were painstakingly crafted, speaking in plain and simple terms that seemed to come straight from the heart. "Ol' Man River," "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Hello Young Lovers" and "Climb Every Mountain" remain standards. Hammerstein's musicals are still revived successfully, and new stage works based on his writings (State Fair, Grand Night For Singing) continued to appear decades after his death.
Dancer, actress, choreographer
b. Dec. 24, 1924 (New Bedford, MA) - May 10, 1964 (Saddle Brook, NJ)
Getting her start as student and assistant to choreographer Jack Cole, this elfish performer made brief appearances in several films and served as off-screen assistant to Gene Kelly. The highlight of her MGM career was a brief but sizzling dance duet with Bob Fosse in the screen version of Kiss Me Kate (1953). When Fosse choreographed the Broadway musical The Pajama Game (1954), he selected Haney to play the dance-heavy role of Gladys. Her electrifying renditions of "Hernando's Hideaway" and the show-stopping "Steam Heat" brought Haney immediate fame and a Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.
Haney married musical comedy star Larry Blyden in 1955. While filming the big-screen version of The Pajama Game in 1956, Haney suffered from severe exhaustion. Surprised to learn that she was diabetic, she decided to withdraw from performing and become a choreographer. Her exciting dances won acclaim in five Broadway musicals Flower Drum Song (1958), Bravo Giovanni (1962), the charming She Loves Me (1963), Jennie (1963) and the long-running Funny Girl (1964). Haney's later years were plagued by heavy drinking, divorce and a series of health problems. Soon after Funny Girl's triumphant opening, Haney died due to a combination of diabetes, alcohol abuse and bronchial pneumonia at age 39, with ex-husband Blyden at her side.
(b. Otto Hauerbach)
b. Aug. 18, 1873 (Salt Lake City, UT) - d. Jan. 24. 1963 (New York City)
A former columnist and advertising copywriter, Harbach wrote his first lyrics for composer Karl Hoschna's The Three Twins ("Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine") and Madame Sherry ("Ev'ry Little Movement") in the early 1900s. Harbach eventually worked on more than forty Broadway scores, collaborating with many of the best composers in the business, including Jerome Kern (Sunny, Roberta), Rudolph Friml (Rose Marie) Sigmund Romberg (The Desert Song), Vincent Youmans (No, No Nannette) and George Gershwin (Song of the Flame). Harbach shared book and lyric writing duties with Oscar Hammerstein II on ten shows, and was often credited as Hammerstein's creative mentor. The versatile Harbach was equally adept at operetta and sophisticated musical comedy, a rare quality. Perhaps his most timeless solo lyric was for the Jerome Kern classic "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."
Harburg, E.Y. "Yip"
(b. Isidore Hochburgh)
b. April 8, 1896 (New York, NY) - Mar. 5, 1981 (Los Angeles, CA)
With a gift for nimble rhymes and expressing sentiments with a witty twist, Harburg contributed some of the most refreshing and original lyrics of the musical's golden age on both stage and screen. He got the nickname "Yipsel" (Yiddish for "squirrel") during his boyhood on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where his Russian-Jewish immigrant parents toiled in sweatshops. When the Great Depression ruined his electrical supply business, Harburg began working with Vernon Duke and other composers, contributing songs to Earl Carroll's Broadway revues and the Shubert-produced Ziegfeld Follies (1934).
With composer Harold Arlen, he contributed songs to Life Begins at 8:40 (1934) and Hooray For What! (1937). The team turned out scores for several Hollywood musicals, including The Singing Kid (1936) and Gold Diggers of 1937. Their most memorable collaboration was the classic score for MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939), including the Academy Award winning Judy Garland "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Harburg worked with Jerome Kern on the score for Deanna Durbin's Can't Help Singing (1944).
Harburg and Arlen returned to Broadway with the popular Civil War musical Bloomer Girl (1946). By this time, Harburg was also collaborating with composer Burton Lane on the satirical hit Finian's Rainbow (1947), which included "Old Devil Moon" and "Look to the Rainbow." Harburg took political satire to new levels with Flahooley (1951), a daring failure with music by Sammy Fain. He and Arlen were on safer ground with the score for Lena Horne's popular Jamaica (1957), and he wrote new lyrics to the melodies of Jacques Offenbach for the short-lived Happiest Girl in the World (1961). The following year, Harburg collaborated once again with Arlen for the animated charmer Gay Pur-ee (1962), featuring the singing voice of Judy Garland. Harburg's last Broadway lyrics were heard in the vastly underrated Darling of the Day (1967), with music by Jule Styne. He was killed in an auto accident on Sunset Boulevard at age 84.
b. Dec. 27, 1924 (Chicago, IL)
Harnick got his start writing "Boston Beguine" with composer David Baker for New Faces of 1952. Harnick and composer Jerry Bock followed the unsuccessful boxing musical The Body Beautiful (1958) with a series of shows that captured the sound and spirit of lost times and places. Fiorello (1959) won a Pulitzer Prize and Tony for Best Musical with the story of New York mayor LaGuardia's early political career. Tenderloin (1960) recalled the barrooms, bordellos and police corruption of 1890s Manhattan, while She Loves Me (1963) told of shopkeepers falling in love in 1930s Budapest. Bock and Harnick achieved phenomenal success with Fiddler on the Roof (1964), the story of a dairyman's family struggling to survive in a Jewish shtetle in Tsarist Russia. With a score featuring "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "If I Were a Rich Man" and "Sunrise, Sunset," Fiddler won Tonys for Best Musical and Best Score, and set a new long-run record for Broadway musicals.
Bock and Harnick succeeded with The Apple Tree (1966), an unconventional set of three one-act musical allegories. Their collaboration ended with The Rothschilds (1970), a moving look at the rise of the powerful European banking family. Harnick later worked with Richard Rodgers on the score to Rex (1976), and provided the deft (but critically underestimated) Broadway translation for the Dutch musical Cyrano (1993). His version of The Merry Widow, done for the Beverly Sills production, is arguably the best English translation of this classic operetta.
Harrigan, Edward (Ned)
Actor, singer, librettist, lyricist, producer
b. Oct. 26, 1844 (New York City) - d. June 6, 1911 (New York City)
Tony Hart a young comic with a flair for female impersonation. After their "Mulligan Guards" sketch made them variety stars, the team developed a series of songs and sketches featuring lower class characters drawn from the streets of New York. In time, these sketches evolved into seventeen full length farcical musical comedies that delighted Broadway audiences from 1878 to 1885.
Harrigan ultimately wrote the the book and lyrics for more than twenty five Broadway musicals, including The Mulligan Guards' Ball (1879) and Cordelia's Aspirations (1883), all with melodies composed by father in law David Braham. Harrigan's nepotistic habit of hiring relatives eventually drove Hart to discontinue the partnership. Harrigan continued writing and performing until 1893. Heart disease led to his death at age 65. Beloved by his theatrical colleagues, he was the inspiration for George M. Cohan's hit song "Harrigan" ("H, A, Double-R, I, G-A-N spells Harrigan!")
b. 1937 (Evanston, Ill.)
Wacky charm and a gift for eccentric characterization made Harris a Broadway favorite in the 1960s. She made her New York debut in the revue From the Second City (1961), earning a Tony nomination. She appeared in a production of Mother Courage (1963) and starred in the big screen adaptation of A Thousand Clowns (1965). Harris originated the role of clairvoyant "Daisy Gamble" in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965), and won a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical playing three roles in The Apple Tree (1966). She directed the short-lived Broadway comedy The Penny Wars (1969), and appeared in an ill-fated production of Weill's Mahagonny (1970). Harris appeared in numerous films, including Plaza Suite (1971), Nashville (1975), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988).
Producer, theater owner
b. Feb. 3, 1872 (New York City) - d. July 3, 1941 (NYC)
A former newsboy, cough drop salesman and boxing manager, Harris was the longtime producing partner of the mercurial George M. Cohan, providing that creative genius with solid business-minded support. From Little Johnny Jones (1904) to The Royal Vagabond (1919), they produced eighteen Broadway musicals fifteen of which were authored by Cohan.
Considered one of the great gentlemen of the theater, Harris was famous for his fairness (and outright kindness) to actors, writers and others normally treated as commodities in a harsh business. After the actor's strike of 1919 led an embittered Cohan to leave the firm, Harris produced some of the most distinguished stage comedies and musicals of the next two decades, including Irving Berlin's Music Box Revues (1921-1924), the Marx Brothers in Animal Crackers (1928), the Gershwins' Pulitzer Prize winning satire Of Thee I Sing (1931), Cole Porter and Moss Hart's Jubilee (1935) and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart's I'd Rather Be Right (1937) in which Cohan starred as President Franklin Roosevelt.
Harris also produced the memorable hits Rain, Dinner at Eight, Stage Door, You Can't Take It With You, and The Man Who Came to Dinner. He never lost his gambler's instinct, and was always ready to take a chance on new, promising talent. Harris died of stomach cancer shortly after the opening of his last hit, the innovative Kurt Weill- Ira Gershwin musical Lady In the Dark (1941). He had more than 130 Broadway shows to his credit.