Betty Comden

Lowest Rated: 13% Slaves of New York (1989)
Birthday: May 3, 1915
Birthplace: Not Available
The collaborative relationship has become a ubiquitous force in the authorship of stage and film musicals, to such a degree that many individual lyricists and composers are fated to go down in history as one half of a lifelong partnership -- from Rodgers & Hart to Kander & Ebb. This particularly applies to film and stage librettist, playwright, and occasional film scenarist Betty Comden, forever associated with writing partner Adolph Green. By teaming up with Green, Comden chose to share her fame, but in so doing, co-created such seminal works as Singin' in the Rain, On the Town, and Bells Are Ringing, and forever altered the face of the Broadway and Hollywood musical. The Comden-Green catalogue of tunes never fails to astonish; with such titles as "New York, New York," "It's Love," "Just in Time," "Some Other Time," and "The Party's Over," it reads like a cruise through the Great American Songbook. Born on May 3, 1917, in Brooklyn, NY, to an attorney father and a schoolteacher mother, Elizabeth Cohen attended Erasmus Hall High School and then enrolled as an undergraduate drama student at New York University, where she took the stage name Betty Comden, had rhinoplasty to render herself more "suitable" for the Broadway stage, and performed with the Washington Square Players. During this period, Comden became acquainted not only with Green, but with John Frank, Alvin Hammer, and Judy Holliday. Fast friends but never romantically involved with one other, Comden and Green moved jointly to Greenwich Village and persuaded several of the aforementioned colleagues, including Holliday and an aspiring composer named Leonard Bernstein, to form a cabaret troupe christened "The Revuers." The thesps -- neophytes at the time -- then boldly marched up to Max Gordon, owner of the legendary Village Vanguard (c. 1939), and pitched the act to him. He bought it instantly, and club attendance shot skyward. The titles of early Revuers sketches included "The Baroness Bazuka" (an operetta) and "The Banshi Sisters." The triumph of the Vanguard gig yielded a film contract, and the Revuers headed west in the early '40s, where they landed parts in Greenwich Village (1944), a now forgotten musical directed by Walter Lang and starring Don Ameche and Carmen Miranda. The blink-and-you-miss-it nature of the onscreen appearances drove Comden and Green straight back to New York, where they resumed club dates. The bookings were short-lived, however, for an offer instantly materialized to work on a major theatrical production. Bernstein called and referenced his co-authorship, with Jerome Robbins, of a new ballet about life in the Big Apple called "Fancy Free." Bernstein and Robbins believed -- correctly -- that they could send the show straight to Broadway, but needed a couple of hands to write the book and lyrics. Comden and Green seized the opportunity; the four artists retitled the work and emerged weeks later with On the Town, a now infamous production about three sailors on shore leave in Manhattan. The musical's popularity skyrocketed after its timely debut in the winter of 1944, selling mass numbers of tickets and running from December 28, 1944, to February 2, 1946. It also created a new song standard; months after its premiere, thousands of New Yorkers could be heard humming the tune: "New York, New York, a helluva town -- the Bronx is up and the Battery's down. The people ride in a hole in the ground...." Comden and Green doubled up with roles in the production, as the anthropologist Claire de Loone and Ozzie the sailor. Comden and Green followed it up with a sophomore Broadway musical, Billion Dollar Baby, with a score by Morton Gould, choreography by Jerome Robbins, and the direction of George Abbott. The production debuted on December 21, 1945, and though it failed to attract a sizeable audience on par with On the Town, it did last seven months, wrapping on June 29, 1946. Deeply impressed, Tinseltown beckoned once more, and a spate of successful music

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No Score Yet Tcm Presents Singin' In The Rain 60th Anniversary Event Encore Screenwriter 2012
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No Score Yet What a Glorious Feeling: The Making of 'Singin' in the Rain' Actor 2002
13% Slaves of New York Mrs. Wheeler 1989
No Score Yet Follies in Concert Emily Whitman 1985
14% Garbo Talks Garbo #2 1984
No Score Yet Follies in Concert Actor 1978
29% What a Way to Go! Screenwriter 1964
80% Bells Are Ringing Screenwriter 1960
93% Auntie Mame Screenwriter 1958
100% It's Always Fair Weather Screenwriter 1955
100% The Band Wagon Screenwriter 1953
100% Singin' in the Rain Screenwriter 1952
93% On the Town Screenwriter 1949
64% The Barkleys of Broadway Screenwriter 1949
No Score Yet Good News Screenwriter 1947
No Score Yet Greenwich Village Herself 1944


No Score Yet Great Performances
  • 2013
No Score Yet American Masters
  • 2002
94% Frasier
Voice of Linda
  • 1994


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