Ira Gershwin

Active - 1932 - 1954  |   Born - Dec 6, 1896   |   Died - Aug 17, 1983   |   Genres - Musical, Drama, Romance, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Lyricist Ira Gershwin was known far and wide as one of the kindest and best-adjusted men in the music industry. It is now part of American folklore that the Gershwin boys' mother bought a piano so that Ira could take lessons, only to discover that it was George who had "the gift." Ira suppressed his own artistic aspirations while helping out in his father's many business ventures; but while attending CCNY, the older Gershwin brother began composing witty comic poems for the school newspaper. He began writing song lyrics in 1918, using the alias Arthur Francis. The first Broadway show on which Ira Gershwin used his real name was significantly titled Be Yourself. With the 1924 musical comedy Lady Be Good, Ira began writing lyrics for George's melodies; this felicitous fraternal teaming resulted in one hit after another, as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Of Thee I Sing (1931). The Gershwin Brothers' first Hollywood score was for the 1931 Janet Gaynor vehicle Delicious. After George's death in 1937, Ira successfully collaborated with several other composers, notably Jerome Kern (for the 1944 Rita Hayworth/ Gene Kelly film musical Cover Girl) and Kurt Weill (for the 1954 version of A Star is Born). In the 1945 biopic Rhapsody in Blue, Ira Gershwin was portrayed by Herbert Rudley.

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