Frank Loesser

Active - 1916 - 1967  |   Born - Jun 29, 1910 in New York, New York, United States  |   Died - Jul 26, 1969   |   Genres - Comedy, Musical, Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American composer Frank Loesser is more closely associated with Broadway thanks to his classic quartet Where's Charley (1948), Guys and Dolls (1950), Most Happy Fella (1956) and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying (1961). From 1938 through 1949, however, Loesser toiled almost exclusively in Hollywood, farming out his services to studios both big and small. Since Loesser was one of those rare birds who wrote both music and lyrics, he came in handy in the B-picture field, where a solo composer was a lot more attractive financially than a team. On more prestigious projects, however, Loesser did work in collaboration: With Alfred Newman, he wrote "Moon of Manakoora" for Goldwyn's The Hurricane (1939), while he was teamed with Frederick Hollander for such Destry Rides Again (1939) ditties as "See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have." Largely unknown by name until the 1942 hit "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," Loesser became increasingly famous during his years at Paramount Pictures on the strength of such songs as "I Don't Want to Walk Without You, Baby," and "Jingle Jangle Jingle." 1949 was a particularly felicitous year for Loesser: He not only won the Academy Award for "Baby It's Cold Outside" (from MGM's Neptune's Darling) but also made his screen acting debut as a gangster in the Betty Hutton vehicle Red, Hot and Blue (1949). After composing such tunes as "Copenhagen," "Thumbelina" and "Inchworm" for Goldwyn's Hans Christian Andersen (1952), Loesser directed his energies almost exclusively to the Broadway stage (with a few sidetrips into TV commercial jingles). Frank Loesser's last direct-to-screen work consisted of three new songs for the 1955 film version of Guys and Dolls.

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  • Jobs outside the entertainment industry included putting caps on bottles of insecticide and working as the city editor for the New Rochelle News.
  • Among his best-known compositions are "Heart and Soul" (1938, with Hoagy Carmichael), "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" (1942) and the Academy Award-winning "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (1948).
  • Wrote lyrics for songs in more than 60 films, including the Fred Astaire musical Let's Dance (1933) and the Jimmy Stewart western Destry Rides Again (1939).
  • Second wife, Jo Sullivan, was the leading lady in his 1956 musical The Most Happy Fella.
  • Shared the 1962 Pulitzer Prize in Drama with Abe Burrows for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.