Friday, May 13, 2016

...and Mr. Merrill

 Bob Merrill, born May 17, 1921,
grew up in Philadelphia, but hitchhiked away to NYC
when he was 17, finding work changing titles on movie marquees.
Then he hitched to Hollywood,
played some bit parts in pictures
(The GI Joe Story, for one)
and then found work in radio, writing scripts and songs.
After a few attempts, he scored with hits like
 "If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd've Baked a Cake,"
"Mambo Italiano,"
and "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?"
Seventeen hits in just 3 years.

 Merrill's first shot at Broadway was
New Girl In Town, 1957 (above with Thelma Ritter who starred)
for which he wrote both the music and lyrics.
In 1959, it was Take Me Along,
below with Jackie Gleason.
Both shows (and Carnival! as well, in 1961)
were nominated for Best Musical,
but no win for Merrill...

 In 1964, it was time for Funny Girl,
which Bob collaborated with Jule Styne on
(above at the piano, with Babs and Bob).
So yes, it's his lyrics to the classics "People" 
and "Don't Rain On My Parade."
During this time, Merrill also assisted Jerry Herman on Hello, Dolly!,
writing both "Elegance" and "Motherhood."

 Bob wrote both the music and lyrics for 
the ill-fated Breakfast At Tiffany's,
above with Mary Tyler Moore and RIchard Chamberlain,
who look pretty ready to STAR!
David Merrick and his grandstanding shot all of their work down,
cancelling the opening at the last minute.

 Sugar came in 1972,
and another collaboration with Jule Styne.
Despite some lousy reviews,
its score was called "the last of the Golden Age of Broadway."
(Above Robert Morse, Elaine Joyce, and Tony Roberts.)

 Merrill never learned to read music.
''I'm no Tchaikovsky," he said.
"I can't read or write a note. 
I compose all my songs on this
 toy xylophone I bought at the five-and-ten for $1.98."
His work was simple, direct, filled with cliches,
and damned memorable.
 Bob turned to screenplays in later years,
including Mahogany with Diana Ross,
as well as the music for Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.
He took his own life in 1974,
suffering from depression and other health issues.
He never received a Tony for his Broadway accomplishments. 

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