Words and Music (1948)

119 mins | Musical | December 1948

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Lives of Rodgers and Hart. The film opens with a voice-over introduction spoken by Tom Drake as "Richard Rodgers" and closes with a eulogy of Lorenz Milton Hart delivered by Gene Kelly. The first fifteen cast credits listed above reflect the order in which the credits appear at the end of the film. Kelly, Allyson, Garland, Drake and the other actors who appear as themselves are billed only in the credits at the beginning of the film and are all listed before Mickey Rooney, who played Hart.
       Rodgers, who was born in New York City on 28 Jun 1902 and died in 1979, wrote approximately five hundred songs in collaboration with lyricist Hart (1895-1943). Broadway audiences heard their first Rodgers and Hart song in the 1919 musical A Lonely Romeo. Following that show, Rodgers and Hart went on to create songs for twenty-nine Broadway musicals, culminating with By Jupiter, which opened in 1942. Rodgers and Hart also created songs for eight motion pictures, including the 1931 Warner Bros. film The Hot Heiress, and the 1933 Lewis Milestone picture Hallelujah, I'm a Bum. They left Hollywood in 1934, after their contract with M-G-M expired and after Hart completed work on the film The Merry Widow. Some of Rodger and Hart's stage musicals were adapted to the screen in the 1930s, including On Your Toes in 1939, and The Boys from Syracuse in 1940. Other film adaptations of Rodgers and Hart musicals include the 1957 Columbia film Pal Joey ...

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The working title of this film was The Lives of Rodgers and Hart. The film opens with a voice-over introduction spoken by Tom Drake as "Richard Rodgers" and closes with a eulogy of Lorenz Milton Hart delivered by Gene Kelly. The first fifteen cast credits listed above reflect the order in which the credits appear at the end of the film. Kelly, Allyson, Garland, Drake and the other actors who appear as themselves are billed only in the credits at the beginning of the film and are all listed before Mickey Rooney, who played Hart.
       Rodgers, who was born in New York City on 28 Jun 1902 and died in 1979, wrote approximately five hundred songs in collaboration with lyricist Hart (1895-1943). Broadway audiences heard their first Rodgers and Hart song in the 1919 musical A Lonely Romeo. Following that show, Rodgers and Hart went on to create songs for twenty-nine Broadway musicals, culminating with By Jupiter, which opened in 1942. Rodgers and Hart also created songs for eight motion pictures, including the 1931 Warner Bros. film The Hot Heiress, and the 1933 Lewis Milestone picture Hallelujah, I'm a Bum. They left Hollywood in 1934, after their contract with M-G-M expired and after Hart completed work on the film The Merry Widow. Some of Rodger and Hart's stage musicals were adapted to the screen in the 1930s, including On Your Toes in 1939, and The Boys from Syracuse in 1940. Other film adaptations of Rodgers and Hart musicals include the 1957 Columbia film Pal Joey and the 1962 M-G-M film Jumbo. Several Rodgers and Hart songs were introduced in motion pictures, including "You Are Too Beautiful," "It's Easy to Remember" and "Lover."
       Modern biographical sources indicate that Hart's homosexuality was common knowledge during his lifetime, yet Words and Music not only made no reference to Hart's private life but fabricated his romantic attachment to "Peggy McNeil" as well. In mid-1942 Rodgers broke up the long partnership with Hart and teamed with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, II. Their first collaboration was Oklahoma!, the first of a string of successful musical shows. Partly in an effort to revitalize Hart, who was struggling with poor health, depression and alcoholism, Rodgers instigated a Broadway revival of Connecticut Yankee, to which Hart contributed lyrics for six news songs. Hart's health continued to decline, however, and he died 23 Nov 1943, one week after the show opened. Biographical accounts of Hart's final days indicate that he attended the premiere in a drunken state and was ejected from the theater. Hart was hospitalized soon thereafter and treated for a recurring bronchial condition. He died in his hospital bed one week later, and not, as the film depicts, on the sidewalk in front of the store where he bought his elevator shoes. For more information on the music and films of Rodgers and Hart, please consult the Personal Name Indexes and the Songwriters and Composers Indexes in this and other volumes of the AFI Catalog of Feature Films.

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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
11 Dec 1948
---
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1948
p. 3, 8
Film Daily
8 Dec 1948
p. 6
Hollywood Reporter
23 Aug 1946
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 1947
p. 2
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1947
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1948
p. 7
Hollywood Reporter
13 Apr 1948
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1948
p. 10
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1948
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 1948
p. 9, 12
Hollywood Reporter
5 Apr 1949
p. 8
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Sep 1948
p. 4311
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
11 Dec 1948
p. 4417
New York Times
10 Dec 1948
p. 34
Variety
8 Dec 1948
p. 10
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Bob Spencer
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Fred Finklehoffe
Scr
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Jerome Hester
Stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Richard A. Pefferle
Assoc
COSTUMES
Women's cost
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
Vocal arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Mus numbers staged and dir by
Asst dance dir
MAKEUP
Hair styles created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
Assoc
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" by Richard Rodgers.
SONGS
"Lover," "Manhattan," "There's a Small Hotel," "Mountain Greenery," "Way Out West," "Where's That Rainbow," "On Your Toes," "Blue Room," "Thou Swell," "With a Song in My Heart," "Where or When," "The Lady Is a Tramp," "I Wish I Were in Love Again," "Johnny One Note," "Blue Moon," "Spring Is Here," "Here in My Arms," "You Took Advantage of Me," "My Funny Valentine," "Hollywood Party" and "My Romance," music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Lives of Rodgers and Hart
Release Date:
December 1948
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 9 Dec 1948
Production Date:
13 Apr--14 Jul 1948
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Loew's Inc.
7 December 1948
LP2007
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
119
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13293
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, in 1919, Lorenz "Larry" Hart, a diminutive, twenty-five-year-old lyricist, has created words to make hit songs but lacks music to accompany them. Larry's search for a suitable composer to bring his lyrics to life ends on a spring day when his friend, Herbert Fields, introduces him to Richard Rodgers, a talented composer who is looking for a good lyricist. Although Dick is initially offended by Larry's impertinent and erratic behavior, he and Larry eventually forge a close friendship, devoting themselves entirely to the creation of songs. Despite their hard work, two years pass without a single contract with a producer. Dick loses hope and decides to take a job selling infant clothing for fifty dollars a week. Though Larry is more optimistic about their future, he accepts Dick's departure and hosts a farewell party for him. At the party, Larry meets Peggy Lorgan McNeil, a young singer, and falls instantly in love with her. The evening ends on a happy note when Herb arrives with news that the Theatre Guild wants to produce Larry and Dick's first show, Garrick Gaieties . The show soon opens on Broadway with Eddie Lorrison Anders in the leading role, and critics award the musical with very favorable reviews. Larry and Dick's success continues with the sale of their next musical, which will star Gene Kelly. Exhilarated by the news of the sale, Larry immediately telephones Peggy and, without consulting the producers, promises her the feminine lead in the show. Determined to win Peggy's affections, Larry buys a pair of shoes with special heels that will add two inches to his height. His ...

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In New York City, in 1919, Lorenz "Larry" Hart, a diminutive, twenty-five-year-old lyricist, has created words to make hit songs but lacks music to accompany them. Larry's search for a suitable composer to bring his lyrics to life ends on a spring day when his friend, Herbert Fields, introduces him to Richard Rodgers, a talented composer who is looking for a good lyricist. Although Dick is initially offended by Larry's impertinent and erratic behavior, he and Larry eventually forge a close friendship, devoting themselves entirely to the creation of songs. Despite their hard work, two years pass without a single contract with a producer. Dick loses hope and decides to take a job selling infant clothing for fifty dollars a week. Though Larry is more optimistic about their future, he accepts Dick's departure and hosts a farewell party for him. At the party, Larry meets Peggy Lorgan McNeil, a young singer, and falls instantly in love with her. The evening ends on a happy note when Herb arrives with news that the Theatre Guild wants to produce Larry and Dick's first show, Garrick Gaieties . The show soon opens on Broadway with Eddie Lorrison Anders in the leading role, and critics award the musical with very favorable reviews. Larry and Dick's success continues with the sale of their next musical, which will star Gene Kelly. Exhilarated by the news of the sale, Larry immediately telephones Peggy and, without consulting the producers, promises her the feminine lead in the show. Determined to win Peggy's affections, Larry buys a pair of shoes with special heels that will add two inches to his height. His exuberance is dashed, however, when Herb and Dick inform him that actress Joyce Harmon has been selected by Kelly to play the female lead. When Larry breaks the news to Peggy, she tells him that she will be leaving New York to go on the road with another show. Dick, meanwhile, tries to begin a romance with Joyce, but she rejects him because he is ten years younger than she. Later, Dick invites Dorothy Feiner, the sister of his old friend Ben, to the movies, but she rejects his offer, insisting that he is too old for her. Larry, who has not given up on Peggy, makes another desperate attempt to woo her and proposes marriage, but she shows little interest in him. Following a brief estrangement, Larry and Dick resume their partnership and travel to London to work on their next successful show, The Girl Friend , which allows them to return to America and follow it up with Connecticut Yankee . Despite this string of successes, Larry becomes restless and sinks into a depression. At Dick's suggestion, Larry offers the leading role in their next show to Peggy, who is in California. The prospect of seeing Peggy again gladdens Larry, but his joy is soon dashed when Peggy declines the offer and informs him that she has signed a motion picture contract. Devastated by the rejection, Larry abandons Dick just before the opening of Connecticut Yankee and goes to Hollywood to search for Peggy. Dick, meanwhile, sparks a romance with Dorothy, and they eventually become engaged. When Larry returns to New York, Dick and Dorothy tell him about their engagement and invite him to move to Los Angeles with them to pursue a career in motion pictures. Larry makes a fresh start in California, and soon after buying a large house in the Hollywood Hills, throws a lavish, star-studded party. Dorothy and Dick attend Larry's party, as does Judy Garland, who agrees to do a picture with Larry and Dick. Larry is drunk at the end of the evening, and, after the guests leave, he winds up alone in his big house. Years pass, and Dorothy and Dick, who now have two children, decide to return to New York to do a Broadway show. Larry, however, sinks into greater despair, and another period in which Dick loses contact with Larry ensues. Larry takes to wandering the city streets and consorting with shady characters until one day, he hears one of his songs being sung inside a nightclub. The song prompts Larry to return to Dick and continue his work. A new musical by Dick and Larry, On Your Toes , soon opens in New York, but Larry, who is spiritually exhausted, collapses in the lobby right after the show. A lengthy illness follows and Larry is confined to a hospital bed for several months. When a revival of Connecticut Yankee opens on Broadway, Larry escapes from the hospital and arrives at the theater in a tragic state. Larry leaves the theater gasping for air, and dies in front of the shoe store where he bought his special height-enhancing shoes. Months later, Larry is honored in a musical tribute, during which Dick fondly recalls their twenty-year friendship.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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