Hoagy Carmichael

Active - 1933 - 2020  |   Born - Nov 22, 1899 in Bloomington, Indiana, United States  |   Died - Dec 27, 1981   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Action, Romance, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Actor/singer/composer Hoagy Carmichael was taught piano by his mother in his native Bloomington, Indiana. Carmichael worked his way through the University of Indiana law school by performing with his own three-piece band. His first published song, written while he was in college, was "Riverboard Shuffle." Even while trying to set up a law practice in Florida, Carmichael's composition "Riverboat Shuffle" was being turned into a modest hit by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Finally giving in to the inevitable, Carmichael began making records as an orchestra leader; among his musicians were the Dorsey brothers, Benny Goodman, and Carmichael's personal hero and closest friend, jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke. In 1931, Hoagy and lyricist Michael Parish cooked up a little something called "Stardust," which soon became a standard and made Carmichael a millionaire. He followed this with a steady stream of easygoing hit tunes, including "Up the Lazy River," "Lazybones" and "Rocking Chair." His first movie work occurred in 1936's Anything Goes; one year later he played an unbilled cameo in Topper, for which he wrote an original number, "Old Man Moon." His first "dramatic" role was in To Have and Have Not (1944), followed by laid-back character parts in such films as The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Night Song (1947), Young Man with a Horn (1951) (an a clef version of Bix Beiderbecke's life story) and Belles on Their Toes (1952). His bony, angular on-screen presence made quite an impression on author Ian Fleming, who in his first James Bond novel Casino Royale described Bond as closely resembling Hoagy. In 1946, Carmichael received an Academy Award nomination for his song "Old Buttermilk Sky" (from the 1946 western Canyon Passage), and in 1952 won an Oscar for "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" (from Here Comes the Groom). Carmichael's TV work included a regular role on the TV western Laramie (1959-63), and a pen-and-ink "guest" appearance on a 1961 episode of the cartoon series The Flintstones, for which he contributed a song titled (what else?) "Yabba Dabba Doo." Though he wrote his last hits in the 1950s, Hoagy Carmichael lived in comfortable retirement thanks to his song royalties and wise real estate investments.

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  • His first published song, "Riverboard Shuffle," written while he was in college, was recorded by Bix and the Wolverines in 1924.
  • Among his best-known compositions are "Stardust" (1927), "Georgia on My Mind" (1935) and "Heart and Soul" (1938).
  •  Author Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, described Bond as closely resembling Carmichael.
  • In the 1960s, starred in the weekly TV western Laramie and "guest-starred" in an episode of the cartoon series The Flintstones, contributing a song called "Yabba-Dabba-Dabba-Dabba-Doo."
  • Authored two autobiographies, The Stardust Road (1946) and Sometimes I Wonder (1965).