Academy pays centennial tribute to Harold Arlen

Apr 26, 2005 by Ian Evans

In honor of Harold Arlen’s 100th birthday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a centennial tribute to the Academy Award®;-winning composer on Thursday, May 19, at 8 p.m. in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The evening, hosted by singer-pianist Michael Feinstein, will feature film clips and live musical performances highlighting an unforgettable body of work.

Arlen and writing partner E. Y. Harburg took home the Oscar® statuette for Original Song in 1939 for Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz. With lyricist Johnny Mercer, Arlen earned four nominations: Blues in the Night (Blues in the Night, 1941), Black Magic (Star Spangled Rhythm, 1943), My Shining Hour (The Sky’s the Limit, 1943) and Accentuate the Positive (Here Come the Waves, 1945). Arlen’s other Original Song nominations include Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe (Cabin in the Sky, 1943, Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg), Now I Know (Up in Arms, 1944, Lyrics by Ted Koehler), For Every Man There’s a Woman (Casbah, 1948, Lyrics by Leo Robin) and The Man That Got Away (A Star Is Born, 1954, Lyrics by Ira Gershwin).

Born February 15, 1905 in Buffalo, New York, Arlen began his study of classical piano at the age of nine, encouraged by his musical family. In his teens he developed a deep love of jazz and began playing in local bands, movie houses, vaudeville troupes and cabarets. Arlen left school at 16 to pursue a full-time career in music and moved to New York City at the age of 20. Failed attempts at
breaking into vaudeville and Broadway as a singer ultimately led to Arlen teaming up with lyricist Ted Koehler. For four years, beginning in 1930, they wrote two shows a year for the Cotton Club. It was during this time period that classics such as Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, I’ve Got the World on a String and Ill Wind were written.

Arlen, working with a variety of partners, then segued to Broadway and Hollywood. His songs, as interpreted by film legends Judy Garland, Lena Horne and Fred Astaire, are among the most memorable in movie history, including Get Happy (Summer Stock, 1950), Stormy Weather (Stormy
, 1943) and One for My Baby (The Sky’s the Limit, 1943) respectively. Arlen’s songs continue to be recorded by numerous artists worldwide and are among the best-known in the world.

Tickets for the Academy tribute go on sale Monday, May 2, and are $5 each for the general public and $3 for Academy members. Tickets may be purchased in advance by mail, in person at the Academy during regular business hours, or, pending availability, the night of the event when the doors open at 7 p.m. The Academy is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.