George & Ira Gershwin


George and Ira Gershwin were, of course, two of the 20th century’s greatest songwriters. With George as composer and Ira as lyricist, their contributions to Broadway in the 1920s alone included “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “‘S Wonderful.”

But they wrote for Hollywood, too, and gave us some of the most memorable movie songs ever written. For Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in SHALL WE DANCE, they wrote “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me.” For Astaire and Joan Fontaine in DAMSEL IN DISTRESS, they wrote “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “A Foggy Day in London Town.” For GOLDWYN FOLLIES, they penned “Love Walked In” and “Love Is Here to Stay.”

George died of a brain tumor in 1937, at the age of 38. Ira went on to collaborate with several other composers, including Jerome Kern on COVER GIRL, which gave us “Long Ago and Far Away”; Kurt Weill on LADY IN THE DARK; Harry Warren on THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY; and Harold Arlen on A STAR IS BORN, which gave us “The Man That Got Away.”

George’s concert works, including “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris,” were featured prominently in films made after his passing. Their landmark opera PORGY & BESS was made into a film in 1958, and Gershwin tunes continued to adorn any number of other films made in the ’40s and ’50s. George’s exquisite melodies, and Ira’s sophisticated lyrics, are timeless contributions to the Great American Songbook.

–Jon Burlingame