Friday, September 22, 2017

"Lullaby of Broadway" Composer & Lyricist Harry Warren 1981 Westwood Village Cemetery

Harry Warren (born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna, December 24, 1893 – September 22, 1981) was an American composer and lyricist. Warren was the first major American songwriter to write primarily for film. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song eleven times and won three Oscars for composing "Lullaby of Broadway," "You'll Never Know" and "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe." He wrote the music for the first blockbuster film musical, 42nd Street, choreographed by Busby Berkeley, with whom he would collaborate on many musical films.

Over a career spanning four decades, Warren wrote more than 800 songs. Other well known Warren hits included "I Only Have Eyes for You," "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "Jeepers Creepers," "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're in the Money)," "That's Amore," "The More I See You," "At Last" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo" (the last of which was the first gold record in history). Warren was one of America's most prolific film composers,and his songs have been featured in over 300 films.


Early life

Warren was born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna, one of eleven children of Italian immigrants Antonio (a bootmaker) and Rachel De Luca Guaragna, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His father changed the family name to Warren when Harry was a child. Although his parents could not afford music lessons, Warren had an early interest in music and taught himself to play his father's accordion. He also sang in the church choir and learned to play the drums. He began to play the drums professionally by age 14 and dropped out of high school at 16 to play with his godfather's band in a traveling carnival. Soon he taught himself to play the piano and by 1915, he was working at the Vitagraph Motion Picture Studios, where he did a variety of administrative jobs, such as props man, and also played mood music on the piano for the actors, acted in bit parts and eventually was an assistant director. He also played the piano in cafés and silent-movie houses. In 1918 he joined the U.S. Navy, where he began writing songs.[1][2]


Warren wrote over 800 songs between 1918 and 1981, publishing over 500 of them.[3][4] They were written mainly for 56 feature films or were used in other films that used Warren's newly written or existing songs.[1] His songs eventually appeared in over 300 films and 112 of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons.[5] 42 of his songs were on the top ten list of the radio program "Your Hit Parade," a measure of a song's popularity. 21 of these reached #1 on Your Hit Parade.[4] "You'll Never Know" appeared 24 times.[6] His song "I Only Have Eyes for You" is listed in the list of the 25 most-performed songs of the 20th Century, as compiled by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).[7] Warren was the director of ASCAP from 1929 to 1932.[2]

He collaborated on some of his most famous songs with lyricists Al Dubin, Billy Rose, Mack Gordon, Leo Robin, Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer. In 1942 the Gordon-Warren song "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," as performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, became the first gold record in history. It was No.1 for nine weeks on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1941–1942, selling 1.2 million copies.[8] Among his biggest hits were "There Will Never Be Another You," "I Only Have Eyes for You," "Forty-Second Street," "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're in the Money)," "Lullaby of Broadway," "Serenade In Blue," "At Last," "Jeepers Creepers," "You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me," "That's Amore," and "Young and Healthy."[1]

Early hits and film years

Warren's first hit song was "Rose of the Rio Grande" (1922), with lyrics by Edgar Leslie.[9] He wrote a succession of hit songs in the 1920s, including "I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me)" and "Seminola" in 1925, "Where Do You Work-a John?" and "In My Gondola" in 1926 and "Nagasaki" in 1928. In 1930, he composed the music for the song "Cheerful Little Earful" for the Billy Rose Broadway revue, Sweet and Low, and composed the music, with lyrics by Mort Dixon and Joe Young, for the Ed Wynn Broadway revue The Laugh Parade in 1931.[1]

Al Dubin and Harry Warren

He started working for Warner Brothers in 1932, paired with Dubin to write the score for the first blockbuster film musical, 42nd Street, and continued to work there for six years, writing the scores for 32 more musicals.[5] He worked for 20th Century Fox starting in 1940, writing with Mack Gordon.[10] He moved to MGM starting in 1944, writing for musical films such as The Harvey Girls and The Barkleys of Broadway, many starring Fred Astaire. He later worked for Paramount, starting in the early 1950s, writing for the Bing Crosby movie Just for You and the Martin and Lewis movie The Caddy, the latter containing the hit song "That's Amore." He continued to write songs for several more Jerry Lewis comedies.[1]

Warren is particularly remembered for writing scores for the films of Busby Berkeley; they worked together on 18 films. His "uptempo songs are as memorable as Berkeley's choreography, as [sic] for the same reason: they capture, in a few snazzy notes, the vigorous frivolity of the Jazz Age."[11]

Warren won the Academy Award for Best Song three times, collaborating with three different lyricists: "Lullaby of Broadway" with Al Dubin in 1935, "You'll Never Know" with Mack Gordon in 1943, and "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" with Johnny Mercer in 1946. He was nominated for eleven Oscars.[1]

Last years

In 1955, Warren wrote "The Legend of Wyatt Earp," which was used in the ABC/Desilu Studios television series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. The last musical score that Warren composed specifically for Broadway was Shangri-La, a disastrous 1956 adaptation of James Hilton's Lost Horizon, which ran for only 21 performances. In 1957, he received his last Academy Award nomination for "An Affair To Remember." He continued to write songs for movies throughout the 1960s and 1970s but never again achieved the fame that he had enjoyed earlier. His last movie score was for Manhattan Melody, in 1980, but the film was never produced.[2]

Warren composed a Mass, with Latin text, in 1962. This was performed a decade later at Loyola Marymount University, but it has yet to be recorded commercially.[12] He also wrote nearly three dozen short piano vignettes. The sheet music was first published by Warren's Four Jays Music Co.[13] A dozen of these were released on a 1975 album titled Harry Warren's Piano Vignettes, played by Hugh Delain.[14] Several pianists have recorded the vignettes, including Warren himself.[15]

Personal life

Warren married Josephine Wensler in 1917. They had a son, Harry Jr. (1919–1938), and a daughter, Joan (b. 1925). His wife died in 1993.

Warren died on September 22, 1981 in Los Angeles.[16] He is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. The plaque bearing Warren's epitaph displays the first few notes of "You'll Never Know."[17]

A theatre in Brooklyn, New York is named after Warren.[18]

Reputation and legacy

According to Wilfrid Sheed, quoted in Time Magazine, "By silent consensus, the king of this army of unknown soldiers, the Hollywood incognitos, was Harry Warren, who had more songs on the Hit Parade than Berlin himself and who would win the contest hands down if enough people have heard of him."[11] William Zinsser noted, "The familiarity of Harry Warren's songs is matched by the anonymity of the man... he is the invisible man, his career a prime example of the oblivion that cloaked so many writers who cranked out good songs for bad movies."[10]

At least three episodes of the Lawrence Welk Show were devoted entirely to Warren's music: Season 18, Episode 5, October 7, 1972;[19] Season 25, Episode 10, November 24, 1979;[20] and Season 27, Episode 17, January 2, 1982[21] Susannah McCorkle's debut album was The Music of Harry Warren (1976).

In 1980, producer David Merrick and director Gower Champion adapted the 1933 film 42nd Street into a Broadway musical that won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1981, ran for 3,486 performances and has had several major revivals.[22] The score incorporated songs by Warren and Dubin from various movie musicals including 42nd Street, Dames, Go Into Your Dance, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Gold Diggers of 1935.[23]


Music by Warren, unless noted:

Academy Award nominations and winners


"Lullaby of Broadway" (1935) w. Al Dubin for Gold Diggers of 1935[24]
"You'll Never Know" (1943) w. Mack Gordon for Hello, Frisco, Hello[25]
"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1945) w. Johnny Mercer for The Harvey Girls[26]


"Remember Me?" (1937) w. Al Dubin for Mr. Dodd Takes The Air[26]
"Jeepers Creepers" (1938) w. Johnny Mercer for Going Places[24]
"Down Argentina Way" (1940) w. Mack Gordon for Down Argentine Way[27]
"Chattanooga Choo Choo" (1941) w. Mack Gordon for Sun Valley Serenade[28]
"I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo" (1942) w. Mack Gordon for Orchestra Wives[29]
"Zing a Little Zong" (1952) w. Leo Robin for Just For You[25]
"That's Amore" (1953) w. Jack Brooks for The Caddy[30]
"An Affair To Remember" (1956) w. Harold Adamson and Leo McCarey for An Affair To Remember[28]

#1 hits

"By the River Sainte Marie" (1931) w. Edgar Leslie[28]
"Too Many Tears" (1932) w. Al Dubin[30]
"I Found a Million Dollar Baby" (1932) w. Mort Dixon[29]
"You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me" (1933) w. Al Dubin[25]
"Forty-Second Street" (1933) w. Al Dubin[27]
"Shadow Waltz" (1933) w. Al Dubin[31]
"(You May Not Be an Angel, But) I'll String Along With You" (1934) w. Al Dubin[25]
"Lullaby of Broadway" (1935) w. Al Dubin[24]
"She's a Latin from Manhattan" (1935) w. Al Dubin[31]
"I'll Sing You a Thousand Love Songs" (1936) w. Al Dubin[29]
"September in the Rain" (1937) w. Al Dubin[31]
"With Plenty of Money and You" (1937) w. Al Dubin[25]
"Remember Me?" (1937) w. Al Dubin[26]
"Jeepers Creepers" (1938) w. Johnny Mercer[24]
"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" (1938) w. Johnny Mercer[25]
"Chattanooga Choo Choo" (1941) w. Mack Gordon[28]
"My Heart Tells Me (Should I Believe My Heart?)" (1943) w. Mack Gordon[24]
"I Had the Craziest Dream" (1943) w. Mack Gordon[29]
"You'll Never Know" (1943) w. Mack Gordon[25]
"The More I See You" (1945) w. Mack Gordon[30]
"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1945) w. Johnny Mercer[26]

Other selected songs from films

"You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me" (1932) w. Al Dubin for 42nd Street[25]
"Forty-Second Street" (1933) w. Al Dubin for 42nd Street[27]
"Shuffle Off to Buffalo" (1933) w. Al Dubin for 42nd Street[31]
"The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (1933) w. Al Dubin for Moulin Rouge[28]
"Keep Young and Beautiful" (1933) w. Al Dubin for Roman Scandals[24]
"Pettin' in the Park" (1933) w. Al Dubin for Gold Diggers of 1933[26]
"We're in the Money" (1933) w. Al Dubin for Gold Diggers of 1933[25]
"I Only Have Eyes for You" (1934) w. Al Dubin for Dames[29]
(You May Not Be an Angel, But) I'll String Along with You" (1934) w. Al Dubin for Twenty Million Sweethearts[25]
"Lullaby of Broadway" (1935) w. Al Dubin for Gold Diggers of 1935[24]
"September in the Rain" (1935) w. Al Dubin for Stars Over Broadway[31]
"You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" (1938) w. Johnny Mercer for Hard to Get[25]
"Chica Chica Boom Chic" (1941) w. Mack Gordon for That Night in Rio[28]
"I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)" (1941) w. Mack Gordon for That Night in Rio[29]
"Chattanooga Choo Choo" (1941) w. Mack Gordon for Sun Valley Serenade[28]
"I Know Why (And So Do You)" (1941) w. Mack Gordon for Sun Valley Serenade[29]
"It Happened in Sun Valley" (1941) w. Mack Gordon for Sun Valley Serenade[29]
"At Last" (1941) w. Mack Gordon for Sun Valley Serenade[28]
"I Had the Craziest Dream" (1942) w. Mack Gordon for Springtime in the Rockies[29]
"Serenade In Blue" (1942) w. Mack Gordon for Orchestra Wives[31]
"There Will Never Be Another You" (1942) w. Mack Gordon for Iceland[30]
"You'll Never Know" (1943) w. Mack Gordon for Hello, Frisco, Hello[25]
"On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1945) w. Johnny Mercer for The Harvey Girls[26]
"The More I See You" (1945) w. Mack Gordon for Diamond Horseshoe[30]
"This Heart of Mine" (1946) w. Arthur Freed for Ziegfeld Follies[30]
"(The Same Thing Happens with) The Birds and the Bees" (1956) Mack David for The Birds and the Bees[28]

American songbook songs

In his book American Popular Song, Alec Wilder notes that Warren "wasn't in the category as the best theater writers, but he certainly was among the foremost pop song writers." He discusses songs he likes: "Would You Like to Take a Walk?" (1930, with Mort Dixon and Billy Rose for Sweet and Low), "I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)" (1931, with Dixon and Rose for Crazy Quilt), "You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me" (1932), "Summer Night" (1936), "There Will Never Be Another You" (1942), "Serenade in Blue" (1942), "At Last" (1942), "Jeepers Creepers" (1938), and "The More I See You" (1945).[32]

Other popular songs

"Cheerful Little Earful" (1930) w. Ira Gershwin and Billy Rose for Sweet and Low[28] "Nagasaki" (1928) w. Mort Dixon[26]


1. PBS biography entry for Harry Warren.
2. Jenkins, David. Biography at
3. List of Warren songs at
4. Jenkins, David. "Harry Warren – Hollywood's Unknown Composer",
5. Walls, Robert. "Who is Harry Warren????" GuideToMusicals
6. Forte, p. 265
7. Zinsser, pp. 137 and 251
8. "Chattanooga Choo Choo: The #1 Hits",
9. Harry Warren at Composers and Lyricists Database (1988)
10. Zinsser, p. 137
11. Corliss, Richard."That Old Feeling: We Need Harry Warren",Time Magazine, October 5, 2001
12. Feinstein, p. 243.
13. Thomas, Tony (1975). The Hollywood Musical: The Saga of Songwriter Harry Warren. Citadel Press. p. 341. ISBN 0-8065-1066-8.
14. "Harry Warren's Piano Vignettes",, 1975
15. "Harry Warren: Piano Vignettes",
16. Holden Stephen, "Harry Warren, Songwriter, Is Dead", The New York Times, September 23, 1981, p. A1
17. Warren, Westwood Village Seeing-stars
18. Harry Warren Theatre
19. "Season 18: 1972–73", Welk Musical Family
20. "Season 25: 1979–80", Welk Musical Family
21. "Season 27: 1981–82", Welk Musical Family
22. "Westchester Broadway Theater Presents 42nd Street with Galantich, Stanley and More",, September 8, 2009
23. "42nd Street",
24. "Songs J to M",
25. "Songs UtoZ",
26. "Songs N to R",
27. "Songs D to H",
28. "Songs A to C",
29. "Songs I",
30. "Songs T",
31. "Songs S",
32. Wilder, pp. 395–404


Feinstein, Michael (1995). Nice Work If You Can Get It: My Life in Rhythm and Rhyme. New York City (NY): Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-7868-6093-6.
Forte, Allen (1995). The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924–1950. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04399-X.
Hemming, Roy (1999) [1986]. "Harry Warren". The Melody Lingers on: The Great Songwriters and Their Movie Musicals. New York City (NY): HarperCollins. ISBN 978-1557043801.
Zinsser, William K. (2006). Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs. Boston (MA): David R. Godine, Publisher. ISBN 9781567923254.
Wilder, Alex (1972). Maher, James T., ed. American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950. New York City (NY): Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195014457.

Additional reading

Thomas, Tony (1975). Harry Warren and the Hollywood Musical. Lyle Stuart. ISBN 0-8065-0468-4.