Where’s Charley?, Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Standouts in the pantheon of the American musical. It didn’t start out so successfully. His first Broadway outing was a flop, but it led to a Hollywood contract and his writing lyrics for over sixty films.
Born in New York City, Frank Loesser came from a musical family (his father taught classical piano and his older brother was a renowned concert pianist). More interested in pop music, Frank refused to study classical music, or take formal music lessons of any kind, instead teaching himself harmonica and piano. His first set lyrics were to the melodies of Irving Actman and it was their collaboration that led to that Broadway flop.
He made his composing debut with the 1939 film Seventeen. During the war, he was assigned to Special Services where he wrote lyrics for the camp shows. After the war, he found himself without a collaborator, became his own composer and wrote the hit Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.
It was back to Hollywood after the war but his big break came when he was asked to write the score for Ray Bolger’s biggest stage success, Where’s Charley? Frank finally had his first major hit. But it was the landmark production of Guys and Dolls that placed him among the notables of musical comedy. The show won the Tony Award for Best Musical and introduced a string of hits that have become part of the Great American Songbook. His next success was The Most Happy Fella, followed by the less-than-successful Greenwillow, which none-the-less produced “Never Will I Marry,” recorded by a young Barbra Streisand. He was back on top with the 1961 How to Succeed, which not only won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, but also took home the Pulitzer Prize. And let’s not forget his beautiful score for the film Hans Christian Anderson.
“Once in Love with Amy,” “I’ve Never Been in Love Before,” “My Time of Day,” “I Believe in You,” “Standing on the Corner,” “Luck Be a Lady,” “I’ll Know,” “My Heart Is So Full of You,” “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year”—all have stood the test of time and continue to be interpreted on Broadway stages and in cabarets. It’s only appropriate, then, that we honor Frank Loesser on the centennial of his birth by adding him to the distinguished honor roll of The Cabaret Hall of Fame.
Category: Hall of Fame