George Gershwin

George Gershwin: His Life and Work

Howard Pollack
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 901
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppk6n
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    George Gershwin
    Book Description:

    This comprehensive biography of George Gershwin (1898-1937) unravels the myths surrounding one of America's most celebrated composers and establishes the enduring value of his music. Gershwin created some of the most beloved music of the twentieth century and, along with Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter, helped make the golden age of Broadway golden. Howard Pollack draws from a wealth of sketches, manuscripts, letters, interviews, books, articles, recordings, films, and other materials—including a large cache of Gershwin scores discovered in a Warner Brothers warehouse in 1982—to create an expansive chronicle of Gershwin’s meteoric rise to fame. He also traces Gershwin’s powerful presence that, even today, extends from Broadway, jazz clubs, and film scores to symphony halls and opera houses. Pollack’s lively narrative describes Gershwin’s family, childhood, and education; his early career as a pianist; his friendships and romantic life; his relation to various musical trends; his writings on music; his working methods; and his tragic death at the age of 38. Unlike Kern, Berlin, and Porter, who mostly worked within the confines of Broadway and Hollywood, Gershwin actively sought to cross the boundaries between high and low, and wrote works that crossed over into a realm where art music, jazz, and Broadway met and merged. The author surveys Gershwin’s entire oeuvre, from his first surviving compositions to the melodies that his brother and principal collaborator, Ira Gershwin, lyricized after his death. Pollack concludes with an exploration of the performances and critical reception of Gershwin's music over the years, from his time to ours.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93314-9
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-xii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  4. Part One: Life

    • Chapter One Gershwin and His Family
      (pp. 3-21)

      George Gershwin’s father, Morris, was born Moishe Gershovitz (Gershowitz) in St. Petersburg around January 1872. Moishe’s father, Yakov, an inventor and mechanic, had served in the Russian artillery, which gave him dispensation as a Jew to move to St. Petersburg from the Pale of Settlement along Russia’s western border, an area to which the country’s Jews were largely confined in the nineteenth century. By some accounts, Yakov’s father was a rabbi, but little else is known about the Gershovitzes, even the name of Yakov’s wife (George’s paternal grandmother), in part because whereas Morris immigrated to New York, most of his...

    • Chapter Two Gershwin’s Musical Education to the Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
      (pp. 22-40)

      Gershwin encountered classical music at an early age. His father played recordings of the great Enrico Caruso—and presumably other opera singers—on the family Victrola. (In 1910, about the time the family acquired a piano, they conveniently lived upstairs from a Second Avenue record store, Birns Brothers Phonographs.) And the young George attended some concerts at the Educational Alliance, a Lower East Side settlement house, located at 197 East Broadway, that sponsored a string orchestra of mostly Jewish adolescents under the leadership of Sam Franko.¹

      Two youthful musical experiences proved especially memorable. The first occurred when he was about...

    • Chapter Three Gershwin and the New Popular Music
      (pp. 41-60)

      Growing up in New York, Gershwin heard a wide range of popular musics, some mainstream, others emanating from the city’s many ethnic communities. Among the tunes learned at school, including “Annie Laurie” (1838; music adapted by Lady John Scott), he remembered being “especially haunted” by the Scottish folk song “Loch Lomond,” with its refrain, “You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road”; and Arthur Sullivan’s “The Lost Chord” (1877). (Melodies with repeated notes, as found in the latter song, would emerge as a basic impulse for Gershwin, whether in the percussiveSecond Rhapsodyor the tuneful “They...

    • Chapter Four The Popular Pianist
      (pp. 61-80)

      In 1914 Gershwin heard from a friend, Ben Bloom, who plugged songs for music publisher Jerome H. Remick, that the company needed a pianist who “could read notes readily, to play over songs to be tried out.” After an audition in which Gershwin demonstrated his sight-reading and transposition skills, the office manager, songwriter Mose Gumble, offered him a job as a song plugger for fifteen dollars a week. Although his mother opposed his becoming a musician, “she offered very little resistance,” recalled Gershwin, when he decided in May, at only fifteen years old, to leave high school to work full-time...

    • Chapter Five Toward a Career in the Theater
      (pp. 81-95)

      During his nearly three years at Remick, Gershwin became increasingly frustrated with the company’s unwillingness to publish any of his songs, and he grew disenchanted with the music business in general, notwithstanding his continued admiration for the likes of Berlin and Muir. Harry Ruby and other friends “thought he was going highfalutin’ ” when he would speak “of the artistic mission of popular music.” “The height of artistic achievement to us was a ‘pop’ song that sold lots of copies,” recalled Ruby, “and we just didn’t understand what he was talking about.”¹

      “The popular-song racket began to get definitely on...

    • Chapter Six Gershwin among His Friends
      (pp. 96-117)

      Before leaving 111th Street in the fall of 1917, Gershwin befriended an extended family, some of whom occupied a large house around the corner at 112th and Seventh Avenue. This family included brothers Herman and Lou Paley; their niece Mabel Pleshette, whose mother, Anna Paley (sister to Herman and Lou), had married one Louis Pleshette; and their cousins, Max Abramson and his brother, George Pallay. Gershwin apparently met Herman Paley at Remick, where the latter had established himself as one of the firm’s more successful songwriters, and where his cousin Max, a drama critic (and later motion picture publicist), enjoyed...

    • Chapter Seven Later Studies
      (pp. 118-135)

      Even after the great success of theRhapsody in Blue, Gershwin continued his musical studies. “To express the richness of [American] life fully a composer must employ melody, harmony and counterpoint as every great composer of the past has employed them,” he stated in 1925. “Not, of course, in the same way, but with a full knowledge of their value.” To friends concerned that study might jeopardize his freshness and originality, he argued “that every composer of the past who had added anything vital to music had been a well-trained musician and that I was convinced that the native talent...

    • Chapter Eight Gershwin and the Great Tradition
      (pp. 136-156)

      Concurrent with his later theoretical studies, Gershwin further investigated the classical repertoire. Merle Armitage presumably overstated the case when he wrote that Gershwin had a knowledge of music’s “rich heritage from Palestrina to Bartók,” including “the world of Rameau, Pergolesi, Palestrina, and Gluck,” along with “almost everything written by Bach and Beethoven.” But such claims, however exaggerated, at least offered a corrective to the common view of the composer as uncultivated.¹

      Gershwin especially admired Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Wagner, Brahms, Rimsky-Korsakov, Richard Strauss, Debussy, and Stravinsky. He even commissioned artist William Henry Cotton (1880–1958) to paint caricatures of...

    • Chapter Nine Gershwin and Popular Music and Jazz after 1920
      (pp. 157-174)

      Whereas Gershwin stood somewhat apart from his more serious colleagues, from the mid-1920s to the end of his life he reigned as Broadway’s indispensably central composer, the epicenter of a circle that included composers Milton Ager, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Rube Bloom, Hoagy Carmichael, Phil Charig, Vernon Duke, Johnny Green, Jerome Kern, Burton Lane, Oscar Levant, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Ann Ronell, Harry Ruby, Arthur Schwartz, Kay Swift, Dana Suesse, Harry Warren, and Vincent Youmans, along with lyricists Irving Caesar, Buddy DeSylva, Howard Dietz, and Yip Harburg.

      Popular composers and lyricists flocked to George and Ira in part because of...

    • Chapter Ten Working Methods
      (pp. 175-192)

      Gershwin was a composer of enormous facility, bursting with ideas. Ira recalled that while on the road withFunny Face, George left “two notebooks containing at least forty tunes” in a hotel room in Wilmington, Delaware. “After calling the hotel and learning the notebooks could not be located, he did not seem greatly perturbed,” wrote Ira. “His attitude is that he can always write new ones.”¹

      At the same time, Gershwin worked enormously hard, prompting Ira to comment, “To me George was a little sad all the time because he had this compulsion to work. He never relaxed.” Gershwin himself...

    • Chapter Eleven Gershwin the Man
      (pp. 193-216)

      Gershwin’s hit song “Swanee” (1919) brought him fame and fortune at age twenty-one, and he remained quite well-off for the rest of his short life, the 1929 stock market crash notwithstanding. Indeed, in 1930 he earned a whopping $70,000 for the film musical Delicious, as well as a good portion of the $50,000 paid by Universal Pictures for the right to use theRhapsody in Bluein the pictureKing of Jazz; nor did this include other royalties and fees for a year that also saw the opening of one of his biggest Broadway hits,Girl Crazy. Such income more...

  5. Part Two: Work

    • Chapter Twelve From “Ragging the Traumerei” (ca. 1913) to The Capitol Revue (1919)
      (pp. 219-241)

      Gershwin wrote his first known composition, a song titled “Ragging the Traumerei,” in 1912 or (“more probably,” says Ira) 1913. He would have been about fourteen or fifteen at the time and just beginning his lessons with Charles Hambitzer. The friend who provided the words, Leonard Praskins (1896-1968), used “Preston” as a pseudonym, just as Gershwin substituted awfor avin his own name.¹

      “Ragging the Traumerei,” only the music of which survives, makes an appropriate debut, because the idea of jazzing up classical music—in this case, “Trfflmerei” (“Reverie”), the famous daydreaming movement from Robert Schumann’sScenes...

    • Chapter Thirteen From Morris Gest’s Midnight Whirl (1919) to The Perfect Fool (1921)
      (pp. 242-262)

      Toward the end of 1919, during the same week that Jolson first introduced “Swanee” intoSinbad, Morris Gest, a leading producer, launchedMorris Gest’s Midnight Whirl, Gershwin’s first revue to appear on Broadway. An after-hours revue comparable to theZiegfeld Midnight Frolic, the show opened on December 27 at the Century Grove on the roof of the Century Theatre, located at West 63rd and Broadway, and starred singers Bernard Granville, Helen Shipman, and Annette Bade; dancer and male impersonator Bessie McCoy Davis; comedian and female impersonator James Watts; and, reportedVariety, “the usual alluring bunch” of “corphyees [sic].” Joseph Urban...

    • Chapter Fourteen From The French Doll to Our Nell (1922)
      (pp. 263-278)

      On February 20, 1922, two shows opened on Broadway—The French Dollat the Lyceum andFor Goodness Sakeat the Lyric—that featured some new songs by Gershwin. Adapted by A. E. Thomas from the French of Paul Armont and Marcel Gerbidon, produced by Ray Goetz, and staged by W. H. Gilmore,The French Dollinvolved the attempts of an impoverished French American aristocrat, Baron Mazulier (Edouard Durand), to find a wealthy husband for his attractive daughter, Georgine (Irene Bordoni, the “French doll” of the title), and her eventual choice of an older millionaire over a handsome young engineer....

    • Chapter Fifteen From The Sunshine Trail to Sweet Little Devil (1923)
      (pp. 279-293)

      FollowingOur Nell, Gershwin ventured again into the realm of satirical Americana when in 1923 he provided music for the western comedy pictureThe Sunshine Trail, produced by Thomas H. Ince, directed by James W. Horne, and starring Douglas MacLean, a leading silent-film comedian reminiscent of the better-remembered Harold Lloyd. The screenplay, written by Bradley King after a William Wallace Cook story, told the picaresque story of a guileless idealist, James Henry MacTavish (MacLean), who leaves the Wild West to return to his home in the East with the intention of scattering “seeds of kindness.” Along the way, he assumes...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter Sixteen The Rhapsody in Blue (1924)
      (pp. 294-315)

      About the time thatSweet Little Devilwent into rehearsal, Gershwin started work on a composition—soon to be known around the world as theRhapsody in Blue—for Paul Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra, a piece that would prove an important milestone in terms of not only the composer’s career but American music in general.

      Paul Whiteman (1890–1967) grew up in Denver, where his father was superintendent of music in the public schools and where his mother sang in choral societies. For a while, he played viola with the Denver Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony...

    • Chapter Seventeen The Scandals of 1924, Primrose, and Lady, Be Good! (1924)
      (pp. 316-336)

      TheScandals of 1924was Gershwin’s last Broadway revue. George White, who coauthored the book with William K. Wells, directed the show; DeSylva wrote the lyrics (with some help from Ballard MacDonald); G. A. Weidhaas supervised the art direction; Erté designed the costumes and curtains; William Daly conducted the orchestra; Maurice DePackh furnished the orchestrations; and James Hanley provided additional music. The show, which featured comedian Will Mahoney in addition to suchScandalsfavorites as Lester Allen, Richard Bold, Helen Hudson, Winnie Lightner, Tom Patricola, and Olive Vaughn, opened on June 30, 1924, at the Apollo Theatre on West 42nd...

    • Chapter Eighteen Short Story, Tell Me More, and the Concerto in F (1925)
      (pp. 337-358)

      Late in 1924, violinist Samuel Dushkin (1891–1976) asked Gershwin for a piece that he could play in recital. Born in Poland, Dushkin had grown up in New York, where he studied with Leopold Auer and Fritz Kreisler. Keenly interested in contemporary music, he would eventually commission and premiere works by, among others, Copland, Martinů, Schumann, and Stravinsky, with whom he concertized extensively in the 1930s.

      In collaboration with Dushkin, who at the least helped arrange the violin part, Gershwin composed in early 1925 a brief piece for violin and piano,Short Story. Dushkin recalled that he himself selected the...

    • Chapter Nineteen Tip-Toes and Song of the Flame (1925)
      (pp. 359-376)

      In the fall of 1925 the successful creators ofLady,Be Good!—the Gershwin brothers, bookwriters Fred Thompson and Guy Bolton, and producers Aarons and Freedley—launched a new musical,Tip-Toes. The show was designed especially for Queenie Smith (1898–1978), the diminutive ballet dancer who had left the corps of the Metropolitan Opera in order to pursue a career in musical comedy, and who had only recently achieved celebrity, thanks to a star turn in Kern’sSitting Pretty(1924).Tip-Toeswould represent the pinnacle of her stage career, though she subsequently enjoyed some success in Hollywood, where she played...

    • Chapter Twenty Oh, Kay! and Other Works (1926)
      (pp. 377-394)

      In marked contrast to 1925, Gershwin produced only one major work in 1926, the musical comedyOh, Kay!–though in the course of the year he also launched hisFive Preludesfor piano and wrote “That Lost Barber Shop Chord” for the showAmericana.

      A two-act revue written by J. P. McEvoy with assistance from Morrie Ryskind,Americanastarred Lew Brice (Fanny Brice’s brother) and Roy Atwell, with a featured spot for Helen Morgan. Opening on July 26 at the small Belmont Theatre on 48th Street, the show, which ran for 224 performances, satirized American life, including an after-dinner speech...

    • Chapter Twenty-One Strike Up the Band and Funny Face (1927)
      (pp. 395-416)

      In 1927 George and Ira collaborated with producer Edgar Selwyn and playwright George S. Kaufman—two of Broadway’s most eminent figures—on the musical comedyStrike Up the Band, which made it all the more surprising that the show proved—at least at first—one of Gershwin’s biggest flops.

      Edgar Selwyn (born Simon, 1875–1944) grew up poor in towns across the United States and Canada. Arriving in New York as a young man, he worked his way up on Broadway and by the early 1910s had established himself as a successful writer, director, and producer. He began making films...

    • Chapter Twenty-Two Rosalie and Treasure Girl (1928)
      (pp. 417-430)

      Less than two months afterFunny Facedebuted in New York, producer Florenz Ziegfeld launched a new show,Rosalie, with music by Gershwin and Sigmund Romberg, and lyrics by Ira and P. G. Wodehouse. Ziegfeld was at his height when he approached Gershwin in 1927 about writing something for Marilyn Miller and Jack Donahue; though still mounting the annual series ofFolliesthat had made him a household name, he had become increasingly involved in musical comedy, his credits including such blockbuster successes as Jerome Kern’sSally(1920), Harry Tierney’sRio Rita(1927), and a new work by Kern that...

    • Chapter Twenty-Three An American in Paris (1928) and East Is West (1929)
      (pp. 431-450)

      After spending a week in Paris in April 1926, Gershwin sent his hosts, Robert and Mabel Schirmer, a thank-you postcard dated April 11 inscribed with two musical quotes: the opening of the “Andantino” from theRhapsody in Blue, and a melodic fragment marked “Very Parisienne” and labeled “An American in Paris.” In January 1928, as he began work in earnest on an “orchestral ballet” titledAn American in Paris, he returned to the latter snippet. At first, he was not sure how to develop the music—“as I was not a Frenchman, I knew that I was about as far...

    • Chapter Twenty-Four Show Girl and The Dybbuk (1929)
      (pp. 451-464)

      In the spring of 1929, George and Ira temporarily—or so they thought—set asideEast Is Westin order to write another musical for Ziegfeld,Show Girl, after J. P. McEvoy’s popular 1928 novel of the same name. Ira later recalled, “In his hypnotically persuasive manner (always great charm until a contract was signed), Ziegfeld managed to have us postpone the operetta and start onShow Girl.”¹

      A largely epistolary novel, McEvoy’sShow Girlrevolves around Dixie Dugan, an aspiring eighteen-year-old singer whose involvements with four suitors—sweet salesman Denny Kerrigan, tempestuous tango dancer Alvarez Romana, Wall Street sugar...

    • Chapter Twenty-Five Girl Crazy (1930)
      (pp. 465-481)

      The Gershwins spent the summer and early fall of 1930 working on another musical for Aarons and Freedley,Girl Crazy, to a book cowritten by Guy Bolton and John McGowan (1894–1977). Although McGowan had begun his career as an actor (he had introduced two Gershwin songs in the1922 Scandals), by this time he had become a successful producer, director, and author as well, penning both a straight comedy,Express Baggage(1927), and a musical comedy,Flying High(1930).

      Girl Crazytakes place in Custerville, Arizona, founded 1841—a dusty town that regularly kills off its sheriffs—and proclaims,...

    • Chapter Twenty-Six Delicious and the Second Rhapsody (1931)
      (pp. 482-498)

      On Gershwin’s return from Europe in August 1928, the press announced that he had signed with Winfield Sheehan of Fox Studios for $100,000 to write a Hollywood musical to be directed by Frank Borzage. “At first skeptical about the possibilities of the talking movies,” stated theNew York Evening Post, “Gershwin then made a careful study of the new medium and finally decided that it constituted a good vehicle for jazz and other forms of modern music.” These reports proved premature, but two years later, on April 10, 1930, the Gershwins indeed signed with Fox to write a musical for...

    • Chapter Twenty-Seven Of Thee I Sing (1931)
      (pp. 499-518)

      Discussing the origins ofOf Thee I Sing, Morrie Ryskind recalled that, during preparations for the revisedStrike Up the Band(1930), producer Edgar Selwyn insisted that he, Ryskind, cut a provocative scene from Kaufman’s original 1927 script; and that at the show’s triumphant premiere in Boston, Selwyn remarked to Ryskind and Kaufman, alluding to the eliminated scene, “What difference could it have made anyway?” “Had Edgar not asked that question,” stated Ryskind, “I seriously doubt that George [S. Kaufman]—who was basically apolitical—would have taken any more ventures into political satire. Because he was a man who expressed...

    • Chapter Twenty-Eight George Gershwin’s Song-Book (1932)
      (pp. 519-533)

      During the summer of 1928, publisher Bennett Cerf approached Gershwin about putting out a limited edition of some of his music with Random House (which Cerf had founded the previous year). “Nothing could please me more,” replied Gershwin, who pursued with Cerf the idea of publishing either a concert work or a song anthology. Nothing along these lines immediately materialized, though in 1930 Isaac Goldberg reported that Gershwin had a “cherished project … to be cleared off his desk,” a collection of sixteen of his songs that would alternate their original sheet-music versions with “an arrangement that records them exactly...

    • Chapter Twenty-Nine The Cuban Overture (1932) and Pardon My English (1933)
      (pp. 534-548)

      In February 1932 Gershwin took a two-week vacation in Havana with some friends, including Bennett Cerf, Adam Gimbel, Everett Jacobs, Emil Mosbacher, and Daniel H. Silberberg. Staying at the Hotel Almendares, he golfed, sunbathed, and nightclubbed; visited the races a few times; went to one party hosted by J. P. McEvoy and another given by Howard Hughes; and attended a dance recital by Ruth Page, who extemporaneously danced to the second of theThree Preludesin his honor. “I spent two hysterical weeks in Havana where no sleep was had,” he wrote to George Pallay, “but the quantity and the...

    • Chapter Thirty Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933) and Variations on “I Got Rhythm” (1934)
      (pp. 549-566)

      In late 1932, as George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind considered writing a sequel toOf Thee I Sing, Kaufman’s wife, Beatrice, suggested picking up the story with John P. Wintergreen’s reelection campaign following his first term as president. Kaufman and Ryskind liked the idea; the latter already had demonstrated the satire’s continued viability by way of his 1932 book,The Diary of an Ex-President. After securing the support of some of the principals associated withOf Thee I Sing—including the Gershwins, producer Sam Harris, and some of the lead actors—they started work on the show in early...

    • Chapter Thirty-One Porgy and Bess (1935)
      (pp. 567-591)

      Asked about his ambitions in 1920, Gershwin stated, “Operettas that represent the life and spirit of this country are decidedly my aim. After that may come opera, but I want all my work to have the one element of appealing to the great majority of our people.” He subsequently wrote a short one-act opera,Blue Monday Blues, for theScandalsin 1922, as discussed earlier, but as interest in “jazz opera”—understood at the time as precisely the sort of thing he might write—quickened in the mid–1920s,expectations for a full-fledged opera intensified accordingly.¹

      Discussing jazz opera himself in...

    • Chapter Thirty-Two The First Production of Porgy and Bess
      (pp. 592-608)

      In late 1934 Gershwin presented to the Theatre Guild a list of possible stage directors forPorgy and Bess, including Heyward’s apparent first choice, John Houseman, the young writer-director who earlier in the year had staged the premiere of Virgil Thomson’s operaFour Saints in Three Acts. But the guild ultimately engaged Rouben Mamoulian, who not only had directed the stage version ofPorgybut had wide experience with opera. “They [the guild] feel that he knows more about music than any other producer,” Gershwin explained to Heyward, “and might do a beautiful thing with the musicalization of the book....

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter Thirty-Three Porgy and Bess in Revival
      (pp. 609-640)

      Less than a year after Gershwin’ death, Merle Armitage launched the first revival ofPorgy and Bess. Directed by Rouben Mamoulian, Frances Herriott, and Burton McEvilly, with scenery and costumes designed by Armitage himself, the production, led by Alexander Steinert, featured many of the original principals, along with Jack Carr (Crown) and Avon Long (Sportin’ Life). After premiering in Pasadena, California, on February 3, 1938, the production appeared the following night in Los Angeles at the Philharmonic Auditorium, the standing-room-only audience (which included film stars John Barrymore, Charles Boyer, Joan Crawford, and Marlene Dietrich) cheering this crowning achievement of a...

    • Chapter Thirty-Four Porgy and Bess on Disc, Film, and the Concert Stage
      (pp. 641-664)

      During the original Broadway run ofPorgy and Bess, Gershwin prepared a five-movement orchestral suite (1935–1936) from the opera (titledCatfish Rowby Ira in 1958) about twenty-five minutes in length: “Catfish Row” (“Introduction,” “Jasbo Brown Blues,” “Summertime,” and some of the craps-game music), “Porgy Sings” (“I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’ ” and “Bess, You Is My Woman”), “Fugue” (the fight music from act 3,scene 1), “Hurricane” (the calm opening and stormy conclusion of act 2, scene 3) and “Good Morning, Brother” (the act-3, scene-3 pantomime, “Good Morning, Sistuh!” and “Oh Lawd, I’m On My Way”). Gershwin allegedly hoped...

    • Chapter Thirty-Five From Swing Is King (1936) to A Damsel in Distress (1937)
      (pp. 665-683)

      In the first half of 1936, Gershwin published little new music other than a song, “King of Swing,” that helped fill out an all-Gershwin revue,Swing Is King, at the Radio City Music Hall, the enormous Art Deco theater that opened its doors in late 1932. With Ira on vacation, Gershwin wrote the number with Albert Stillman (1906–1979), the Radio City staff lyricist who had changed his name from Silverman at Gershwin’s suggestion and who would later provide the words for hits by Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, and Cher. This commission, if not the entire revue itself, probably owed...

    • Chapter Thirty-Six From The Goldwyn Follies (1938) to Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
      (pp. 684-700)

      No sooner had the Gershwins completedA Damsel in Distressthan they started work in mid-May on the pictureThe Goldwyn Folliesfor Samuel Goldwyn. Goldwyn had an option for a second film as well, but as Ira had rightly predicted in December 1936, “by that time, if not before, we’ll probably be fed up.” Indeed, by May, Gershwin—his weariness with the film industry no doubt exacerbated by his declining health—could hardly wait to leave Hollywood, take a vacation (perhaps to Europe), and turn his attention to more serious work. That Goldwyn could be overbearing no doubt made...

  6. Conclusion
    (pp. 701-706)

    Twentieth-century depictions of Gershwin tended toward one of two scenarios. The first viewed him as a childlike genius who scaled the heights without benefit of formal instruction, a modest and somewhat naive man scorned by disdainful critics and envious colleagues. The second regarded him, more darkly, as a flawed genius incapable of sustained study, but ambitious and vain and eager for critical approbation. That both stereotypes were in a number of ways diametrically opposed helped underscore their basic inadequacy: for Gershwin, it might be argued, was thoughtful and generous, if evidently self-absorbed; more tactful than not; artistically adventurous and open-minded;...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 707-816)
  8. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 817-824)
  9. Index
    (pp. 825-884)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 885-885)