Friday, June 10, 8901
Frederick Loewe (1901-1988) - Musicals
[Frederick Loewe and Alan J. Lerner]
Frederick Loewe (June 10, 1901 - February 14, 1988) was a Tony Award-winning Austrian-American composer.
Loewe was born in Berlin to Viennese parents Edmond and Rosa Loewe. His father Edmond was a noted Jewish operetta star who traveled considerably, to North and South America and throughout much of Europe. Fritz grew up in Berlin and attended a Prussian cadet school from the age of five until he was 13.
At an early age Loewe learned to play piano by ear and helped his father rehearse. He eventually attended a music conservatory in Berlin, one year behind virtuoso Claudio Arrau. Both won the coveted Hollander Medal awarded by the school, and Fritz gave performances as a concert pianist while still in Germany.
In 1925, his father received an offer to appear in New York, and Loewe traveled there with him, determined to write for Broadway. This proved to be difficult, and he found work playing piano in German clubs in Yorkville and in movie theaters as the accompanist for silent pictures.
Loewe began to visit The Lambs Club, a hangout for theater performers, producers, managers, and directors. It was here that he met Alan J. Lerner 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.
My Fair Lady (1956): The Rain in Spain
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. Together with Lerner, he won the Tony Award for Best Musical. With My Fair Lady a smash hit, MGM took notice, and commissioned them to write the 1958 film musical Gigi, which won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Their next Broadway production, Camelot, received mediocre reviews when it opened. The director and producer arranged for stars Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show and sing a few numbers from the musical, along with an appearance by Lerner and Loewe. The following morning the box office was swamped with requests, and Camelot became a huge hit.
Loewe then decided to retire to Palm Springs, California, not writing anything until he was approached by Lerner to augment the Gigi film score with additional tunes for a 1973 stage adaptation, which won him his second Tony, this time for Best Original Score. 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-Exupéry. 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.
Loewe was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. He remained in Palm Springs until his death.
[8901 Partch / 8900 Loewe / 8900 Copland]