One of the most important of all the popular film composers, Harry Warren (born Salvatore Guaragna Warren) is probably best remembered for the innovative 30s film musicals he scored with lyricist Al Dubin. A son of Italian immigrants, from a family of 12, Warren taught himself to play accordion and piano, and joined a touring carnival show in his teens. Later, he worked in a variety of jobs at the Vitagraph film studios, and played piano in silent-movie houses. After serving in the US Navy in World War I, he started writing songs. The first, 'I Learned To Love You When I Learned My ABCs', gained him a job as a song-plugger for publishers Stark and Cowan, and in 1922 they published his 'Rose Of The Rio Grande', written with Edgar Leslie and Ross Gorman, which became a hit for popular vocalist Marion Harris. During the remainder of the 20s, his most successful songs were 'I Love My Baby, My Baby, Loves Me' (with Bud Green), '(Home In) Pasadena' (with Edgar Leslie and Grant Clarke) and 'Nagasaki' (with Mort Dixon). In the early 30s Warren contributed songs to several Broadway shows including Billy Rose's revue Sweet And Low ('Cheerful Little Earful' and 'Would You Like To Take A Walk"'), Crazy Quilt ('I Found A Million-Dollar Baby (In A Five-And-Ten-Cent Store)'), and Ed Wynn's 1931 hit, The Laugh Parade, ('Ooh! That Kiss', 'The Torch Song' and 'You're My Everything').
Another of his 1931 songs, 'By The River St. Marie', was a number 1 hit for Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. Between 1929 and 1932, Warren wrote for a few minor movies, but made Hollywood his permanent home in 1933, when hired by Darryl F. Zanuck to work with Al Dubin on Warner Brothers' first movie-musical, 42nd Street. Starring Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler and Bebe Daniels, and choreographed by Busby Berkeley, the film included songs such as 'Shuffle Off To Buffalo', 'You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me' and 'Young And Healthy'. During the 30s, Warren and Dubin wrote songs for some 20 films, including several starring Dick Powell, such as Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933, 'We're In The Money', 'Pettin' In The Park', 'Shadow Waltz', and the powerful plea on behalf of the ex-servicemen, victims of the Depression, 'Remember My Forgotten Man'), Footlight Parade (1933, co-starring James Cagney, and featuring 'Shanghai Lil'), Dames (1934, 'I Only Have Eyes For You'), Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934, I'll String Along With You'), Gold Diggers Of 1935 (Warren's first Oscar-winner 'Lullaby Of Broadway', effectively sung by Wini Shaw, and 'The Words Are In My Heart'), Broadway Gondolier (1935, 'Lulu's Back In Town'), Gold Diggers Of 1937 (1936, 'All's Fair In Love And War' and 'With Plenty Of Money And You', and Gold Diggers In Paris (1938, 'I Wanna Go Back To Bali', 'The Latin Quarter', 'Put That Down In Writing', and 'A Stranger In Paree').
The team's other scores included the Eddie Cantor vehicle, Roman Scandals (1933, 'Keep Young And Beautiful'), Go Into Your Dance (1935, starring Al Jolson and his wife, Ruby Keeler, and featuring 'A Latin From Manhattan' and 'About A Quarter To Nine'), Moulin Rouge (1934, with Constance Bennett and Franchot Tone, and the song, 'The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams').
Warren and Dubin also contributed some numbers to Melody For Two (1937), including one of their evergreens, 'September In The Rain'. Shortly before taking his leave of Warners and Dubin in 1939, Warren teamed with Johnny Mercer to write songs for two more Dick Powell films, Going Places (1938) with Louis Armstrong and Maxine Sullivan singing the Academy Award nominee, 'Jeepers Creepers', and Hard To Get (1938, 'You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby'). Warren's move to 20th Century-Fox led him to work with lyricist Mack Gordon, whose main collaborator was Harry Revel. During the 40s, Warren and Gordon wrote some of World War II's most evocative songs. They composed for films such as Down Argentine Way (1940, starring Betty Grable and Don Ameche), Tin Pan Alley (1940, 'You Say The Sweetest Things, Baby', That Night In Rio (1941, featuring Carmen Miranda singing 'I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)'), two films starring Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, Sun Valley Serenade (1941, 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', 'I Know Why', 'It Happened In Sun Valley), and Orchestra Wives (1942, 'Serenade In Blue', 'At Last', 'I Got A Gal In Kalamazoo'), Springtime In The Rockies (1942, 'I Had The Craziest Dream'), Iceland (1942, 'There Will Never Be Another You'), Sweet Rosie O'Grady (1943, 'My Heart Tells Me'), and Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943, starring Alice Faye singing Warren's second Oscar-winner, 'You'll Never Know'). While at Fox Warren also wrote the songs for another Alice Faye movie, in partnership with Leo Robin.
In Busby Berkeley's The Gang's All Here (1943), Faye sang their ballad, 'No Love, No Nothin", while Carmen Miranda was her usual flamboyant self as 'The Lady With The Tutti-Frutti Hat'. Warren wrote his last score at Fox, with Mack Gordon, for the lavish Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe (1945), starring Dick Haymes, Betty Grable, and Phil Silvers. Two songs from the film, 'I Wish I Knew' and 'The More I See You', are considered to be among their very best. From 1945-52 Warren worked for MGM Pictures, and won his third Oscar, in partnership with Johnny Mercer, for 'On The Atchison, Topeka, And The Santa Fe', from the Judy Garland/Ray Bolger film, The Harvey Girls (1946). Warren and Mercer also provided songs for the Fred Astaire/Vera-Ellen movie The Belle Of New York, which included 'Baby Doll', 'Seeing's Believing', 'I Wanna Be A Dancin' Man' and 'Bachelor Dinner Song'. In 1949, after 10 years apart, MGM reunited Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, for their last musical together, The Barkleys Of Broadway. The musical score, by Warren and Ira Gershwin included the ballad, 'You'd Be Hard To Replace', the novelty, 'My One And Only Highland Fling' and the danceable 'Shoes With Wings On'.
Other Warren collaborators while he was at MGM included Dorothy Fields, Arthur Freed and Mack Gordon, the latter for some songs to the Judy Garland/Gene Kelly film Summer Stock (1950), including 'If You Feel Like Singing' and 'You, Wonderful You'. In 1952, Warren teamed with lyricist Leo Robin for Paramount's Just For You, starring Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman. The songs included 'A Flight Of Fancy', 'I'll Si Si Ya In Bahia' and 'Zing A Little Zong'. In the following year, together with Jack Brooks, he provided Dean Martin with one of his biggest hits, 'That's Amore', from the film The Caddy (1953), which sold over three million copies. Warren remained under contract to Paramount until 1961, writing mostly scores for dramatic films such as The Rose Tattoo (1955) and An Affair To Remember (1957). In the early 50s he went into semi-retirement. On his 80th birthday he was elected to the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. Warren was one of the most respected and energetic of the songwriters from the 30s, and a year before his death in 1981, many of those hits that he wrote with Al Dubin were celebrated again in Broadway and London stage versions of the movie 42nd Street.
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