Irving Berlin: An American Song

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Part of the Biography television series from A&E, this documentary reviews the career and personal life of musician Irving Berlin. With only an elementary knowledge of how to read music -- he never really learned how to read harmony and played only in the key of F sharp -- Berlin composed by picking out, by ear, notes that a pianist-arranger then wrote down. The documentary tells how Berlin wrote his first complete Broadway score for +Watch Your Step, which debuted in December 1914. Over the next four decades, Berlin wrote successful stage and film musicals that included many American standards, such as "Puttin' on the Ritz," "Say It Isn't So," and the now classic song "Easter Parade." In 1938, on the eve of World War II, Berlin's patriotic song "God Bless America," which he had written during his Army service but never released, was unofficially adopted as a second national anthem. The video goes on to tell how Berlin wrote the scores for a number of feature films, beginning in 1935 with Top Hat. The 1942 film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby, featured "White Christmas," a song that Berlin had written several years earlier while staying in sunny Hollywood working on the 1938 film version of +Alexander's Ragtime Band. His most successful stage musical was +Annie Get Your Gun, starring Ethel Merman. The show opened on Broadway in May 1946 and ran for over 1,000 performances.


Harry Smith
as Narrator

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