Lorenz Hart was born in New York City on May 2, 1895, the oldest of two sons of Frieda and Max Hart. Hart graduated from Columbia Grammar School, and attended the Columbia School of Journalism. In the late ‘teens a mutual friend introduced Hart to composer Richard Rodgers. Rodgers & Hart began their career writing the scores for amateur musicals presented at charity benefits and Columbia Varsity Shows. (One of their early efforts, FLY WITH ME in 1920, featured a score by Rodgers, Hart…and Hart’s classmate Oscar Hammerstein II.) Hart, who spoke fluent German and was a descendant of the tragic poet Heinrich Heine, also supported himself by translating operettas and plays for the Shuberts.
Rodgers & Hart made their professional debut with the song “Any Old Place With You,” featured in the 1919 Broadway musical comedy A LONELY ROMEO. Their breakthrough came with the score for a 1925 charity show, THE GARRICK GAITIES, which introduced the classic valentine to their hometown, “Manhattan.” From 1920 to 1930 Rodgers & Hart wrote an astonishing array of musical comedies for Broadway and London’s West End. At their pinnacle the team was writing an average of four new shows a year, and among these were: DEAREST ENEMY, BETSY, PEGGY-ANN, THE GIRL FRIEND, CHEE-CHEE and A CONNECTICUT YANKEE.
In 1930 the team relocated to Hollywood, where they contributed songs and wrote the scores for several movie musicals, including the landmark LOVE ME TONIGHT starring Maurice Chevalier; THE PHANTOM PRESIDENT starring George M. Cohan; HALLELUJAH, I’M A BUM, starring Al Jolson; and MISSISSIPPI starring Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields. Hart also provided the translation for a 1934 MGM version of Lehar’s THE MERRY WIDOW, and in the same year, wrote with Rodgers their only “pop song” — “Blue Moon.”
Rodgers & Hart were lured back to New York by legendary Broadway producer Billy Rose in 1935 to write the songs for his circus musical spectacular, JUMBO. Their score featured “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” “My Romance” and “Little Girl Blue.” From 1936 to 1943 Rodgers & Hart wrote a series of Broadway musical comedies, each of which seemed to top the one before in terms of innovation and box office success. ON YOUR TOES, BABES IN ARMS, I’D RATHER BE RIGHT, I MARRIED AN ANGEL, THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, TOO MANY GIRLS, HIGHER AND HIGHER, PAL JOEY and BY JUPITER dazzled Broadway in spectacular succession, and collectively offered such classic songs as “There’s A Small Hotel,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Where Or When,” “The Lady Is A Tramp,” “Spring Is Here,” “Falling In Love With Love,” “Sing For Your Supper,” “This Can’t Be Love,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” “Bewitched,” “I Could Write A Book,” “Nobody’s Heart,” and “Wait Till You See Her.”
The Rodgers & Hart partnership disbanded temporarily early in 1943 when Rodgers collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein II on OKLAHOMA! and Hart started work on a musical, never finished, entitled MISS UNDERGROUND with music by Emmerich Kalman and a book by Paul Gallico. The partnership resumed in the autumn of ’43 with a revision of A CONNECTICUT YANKEE, featuring six new songs including Hart’s final lyric, “To Keep My Love Alive”. A CONNECTICUT YANKEE opened on Broadway November 17, 1943. Already ill at the time, Hart developed pneumonia soon thereafter, and died on November 22. His songs, however, have lived on. In 1995 Hart’s centennial was celebrated from coast to coast, with special events in his hometown of “Manhattan,” and in 1999 Hart was commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp.