Gus Kahn was a prolific lyricist during the 20s and 30s for Tin Pan Alley, stage and films. Not particularly well known by the public, but highly regarded in the music business, he was once rated by a trade magazine as the second most popular US songwriter after Irving Berlin. After being taken to the USA by his immigrant parents in 1891 when they settled in Chicago, he started writing songs while still at school. However, it was not until 1908 when he collaborated with his future wife, the composer Grace LeBoy, that he had some success with 'I Wish I Had A Girl'. His first big hit came in 1915 with 'Memories', written with composer Egbert van Alstyne. In the following year, Kahn collaborated with him again, and Tony Jackson, for 'Pretty Baby', which became one of Kahn's biggest hits, and was featured in the biopics Jolson Sings Again (1949) and The Eddie Cantor Story (1953); two artists who benefited substantially from Kahn's output. 'Pretty Baby' was just one of a series of Kahn 'baby' songs which evoke the 'jazz age' of the 20s. These included 'Yes Sir, That's My Baby', 'There Ain't No Maybe In My Baby's Eyes', 'My Baby Just Cares for Me', 'I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight' and 'Sing Me A Baby Song', all written with composer Walter Donaldson, Khan's major collaborator.
Donaldson, with his playboy image, was the antithesis of Kahn with his sober, family background. Other songs by the team included 'That Certain Party', 'Carolina In The Morning', 'My Buddy' and 'Beside A Babbling Brook'. Some of their best work was contained in the 1928 Broadway show Whoopee! Starring Ruth Etting and Eddie Cantor, it introduced 'I'm Bringing A Red, Red Rose', 'Love Me Or Leave Me', 'My Baby Just Cares for Me' and 'Makin' Whoopee', the lyric of which is considered to be one of Kahn's best. The show later became an early sound movie in 1930. In 1929, Kahn contributed to another Broadway musical, Show Girl. This time his collaborators were George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. The trio produced 'Liza', for the show's star, Ruby Keeler. It is said that, during at least one performance, Keeler's husband, Al Jolson, stood up in the audience and sang the song to her. In 1933, Kahn went to Hollywood to work on various movies, from the Marx Brothers' A Day At The Races ('All God's Chillun Got Rhythm'), to Spring Parade, starring Deanna Durbin, singing 'Waltzing In The Clouds'. In 1933, his first Hollywood project, with composer Vincent Youmans, was Flying Down To Rio, which featured the title song and 'The Carioca'. It was also the first film to bring together Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It was Youmans' last original film score before he died in 1946.
For the next eight years Kahn's output for films was prolific. They included Bottoms Up ('Waiting At The Gate For Katy'), Caravan ('Ha-Cha-Cha' and 'Wine Song'), Hollywood Party ('I've Had My Moments'), Kid Millions ('Okay Toots', 'When My Ship Comes In' and 'Your Head On My Shoulder'), One Night Of Love, The Girl Friend, Love Me Forever, Thanks A Million (Dick Powell singing the title song), San Francisco (Jeanette MacDonald singing the title song), Rose Marie ('Just For You' and 'Pardon Me, Madame'), Three Smart Girls (Deanna Durbin singing 'Someone To Care For Me'), Everybody Sing ('The One I Love'), Girl Of The Golden West ('Shadows On the Moon' and 'Who Are We To Say'), Lillian Russell (a biopic of the famous 1890s entertainer) and Ziegfeld Girl ('You Stepped Out Of A Dream', written with composer Nacio Herb Brown, sung by Tony Martin). Kahn's realised a life-long ambition to write with Jerome Kern with his last song, 1941's' Day Dreaming'. Throughout his career Kahn had many different collaborators, including band leader Isham Jones ('I'll See You In My Dreams', 'The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else', 'Swingin' Down The Lane', and 'It Had To Be You'), Richard Whiting ('Ukulele Lady'), Whiting and Ray Egan ('Ain't We Got Fun'), Whiting and Harry Akst ('Guilty'), Ted Fio Rito ('I Never Knew', 'Charley My Boy' and 'Sometime'), Ernie Erdman, Elmer Schoebel and Billy Meyers ('Nobody's Sweetheart Now'), Erdman and Dan Russo ('Toot Toot Tootsie (Good-Bye)'), Wilbur Schwandt and Fabian Andre ('Dream A Little Dream Of Me' - a later hit for 'Mama' Cass Elliot), Charlie Rossoff ('When You And I Were Seventeen'), Carmen Lombardo and Johnny Green ('Coquette'), Neil Moret ('Chloe'), Wayne King ('Goofus'), Matty Malneck and Fud Livingston ('I'm Through With Love'), Malneck and Frank Signorelli ('I'll Never Be The Same') and Victor Schertzinger ('One Night Of Love'). In the 1951 movie, I'll See You In My Dreams, based on his life, Kahn was portrayed by Danny Thomas, and Grace LeBoy by Doris Day.
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