ALAN JAY LERNER Biography - Musicians


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Name: Alan Jay Lerner                                                                   
Born: 31 August 1918 New York City, New York                                             
Died: 14 June 1986 New York City, New York                                               
Alan Jay Lerner (August 31, 1918 - June 14, 1986) was an American Broadway               
lyricist and librettist.                                                                 
Born in New York City, he was the son of Joseph Jay Lerner, the brother of the           
owner of the Lerner Stores, a chain of dress shops. The founder and owner of             
Lerner Stores was Samuel Alexander Lerner. Alan Jay Lerner was educated at               
Bedales School, Choate Rosemary Hall, and Harvard, where he befriended classmate         
John F. Kennedy. Like Cole Porter at Yale and Richard Rodgers at Columbia, his           
career in musical theater began with his collegiate contributions to the annual         
Harvard Hasty Pudding musicals.                                                         
Following graduation, Lerner wrote scripts for radio, including Your Hit Parade,         
until he was introduced to a down-on-his-heels Austrian composer Frederick Loewe,       
who needed a lyricist, in 1942. Their first collaboration was a musical                 
adaptation of Barry Connor's farce The Patsy called Life of the Party for a             
Detroit stock company. It enjoyed a nine-week run and encouraged the duo to join         
forces with Arthur Pierson for What's Up?, which opened on Broadway in 1943. It         
ran for 63 performances and was followed two years later by The Day Before               
Spring. One of Broadway's most successful partnerships had been established.             
Their first hit was Brigadoon (1947), a romantic fantasy set in a mystical               
Scottish village, directed by Robert Lewis. It was followed in 1951 by the less         
successful Gold Rush story Paint Your Wagon.                                             
Lerner poured his excess energy into collaborations with Kurt Weill on the stage         
musical Love Life (1948) and Burton Lane on the movie musical Royal Wedding (1951).     
In that same year Lerner also wrote the Oscar-winning original screenplay for An         
American in Paris, produced by Arthur Freed and directed by Vincente Minnelli.           
This was the same team who would later join with Lerner and Loewe to create Gigi.       
In 1956 Lerner and Loewe unveiled My Fair Lady. Their adaptation of George               
Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion retained his social commentary and added unusually             
appropriate songs for the characters of Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins,               
played originally by Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. It was hugely popular and           
set box-office records in New York and London. When brought to the screen in             
1964, the movie version would win eight Oscars.                                         
Lerner and Loewe's run of success continued with their next project, a film             
adaptation of stories from Colette, the Academy Award winning film musical Gigi,         
starring Leslie Caron. The film won all of its nine Oscar nominations, a record         
at that point in time, and a special Oscar for co-star Maurice Chevalier.               
The Lerner-Loewe partnership cracked under the stress of producing the Arthurian         
Camelot in 1960, with Loewe resisting Lerner's desire to direct as well as write.       
Camelot was a hit nonetheless, with a poignant coda; immediately following the           
assassination of John F. Kennedy, his widow told Life Magazine that JFK's               
administration reminded her of the "one brief shining moment" of Lerner and             
Loewe's Camelot. To this day Camelot is invoked to describe the idealism,               
romance, and tragedy of the Kennedy years.                                               
Loewe retired to Palm Springs, California while Lerner went through a series of         
unsuccessful musicals with such composers as Andre Previn (Coco), John Barry (Lolita,   
My Love), Leonard Bernstein (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), Burton Lane (Carmelina)         
and Charles Strouse (Dance a Little Closer, based on the film, Idiot's Delight,         
(nicknamed Close A Little Faster by Broadway wags because it closed on opening           
night). Most biographers blame Lerner's professional decline on the lack of not         
only a strong composer but a strong director Lerner could collaborate with as           
Neil Simon did with Mike Nichols or Stephen Sondheim did with Harold Prince (Moss       
Hart, who had directed My Fair Lady, died shortly after Camelot opened). In 1965         
Lerner collaborated again with Burton Lane in the musical On a Clear Day You Can         
See Forever, which was adapted for film in 1970. Lerner was inducted into the           
Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.                                                       
In 1973 Lerner coaxed Fritz Loewe out of retirement to augment the Gigi score           
for a musical stage adaptation. The following year they collaborated on a               
musical film version of The Little Prince, based on the classic children's tale         
by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry. This film was a critical and box office failure,           
but has become a cult favorite, with the soundtrack recording and the film               
itself back in print (on CD and DVD) after many years of being unavailable.             
In 1978 he penned The Street Where I Live, his account of three of his and Loewe's       
successes, My Fair Lady, Gigi, and Camelot along with autobiographical                   
information. In the last year of his life he published The Musical Theatre: A           
Celebration, a well-reviewed history of the theatre replete with personal               
anecdotes and his trademark wit. A book of Lerner's lyrics entitled A Hymn To           
Him, edited by Benny Green, was published in 1987.                                       
At the time of Lerner's death, he had just begun to write lyrics for The Phantom         
of the Opera, and was replaced by Charles Hart. He had turned down an invitation         
to write the English-language lyrics for the musical version of Les Miserables.         
He also had been working with Gerard Kenny in London on a musical version of the         
classic film My Man Godfrey.                                                             
Lerner had an addictive personality; for more than twenty years he battled an           
amphetamine addiction, and he would marry eight times. The drugs and divorces           
cost him much of his wealth. When he died, he reportedly owed the IRS over $1,000,000   
(USD) in back taxes.                                                                     
Lerner died from lung cancer in Manhattan at the age of 67. At the time of his           
death he was married to actress Liz Robertson, who was thirty-six years his