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This article, written by me in mid-April 2000, is going to be the "biography section" of this web site for a while. This article was written for and appeared in the Summer 2000 edition of The Dick Haymes Society's newsletter, which is distributed worldwide. For the curious, it appears in Newsletter #46. In the time since I wrote the article, I have found it necessary to make corrections and/or addendums to my original article here, and all of those will appear in red text.

NOTE: This article does not reflect, by any means, my full knowledge about Harry Warren and/or his music. If you are researching Harry Warren, whether as a hobby or for a school project, please feel free to ask me anything that may come to mind in relation to Harry Warren's life or his music. If you have ANY questions, please go to the Contact Me page and write to me.

 

This site is designed for educational and personal use only, and any copying, in whole or in part, of any of the MIDI sound files, song lists, editorial material, pictures, and/or lyrics presented at this site is strictly prohibited. This article and its subsequent revisions are copyright (©) 2000-2005 by David Jenkins, webmaster of www.harrywarren.org/www.harrywarren.net, and any copying, in whole or in part, of this article for ANY PURPOSE is strictly prohibited without express written consent of David Jenkins.



HARRY WARREN – HOLLYWOOD'S UNKNOWN COMPOSER


By David Jenkins


We know that Dick Haymes was one of the best baritone crooners ever to live. He performed some of the greatest songs ever written and even made fair songs sound like the greatest. Performers like Haymes often basked in the sunlight though, with bags of fan mail, write-ups and publicity in newspapers and magazines, and hoards of fans waiting every night for a coveted autograph. I’m not saying that he and others didn’t deserve all that, but what about the creators of these songs? Dick Haymes and all these talented performers could not put forth a note until someone had worked long hours, days, or even weeks to put a good song together. These songwriters often received little or no recognition, with the exception of a few composers. Disc jockeys rarely mentioned their names, they were rarely, if ever, mentioned in newspapers or magazines, and no one was clamoring for their autograph. One such composer who deserved that kind of attention was Harry Warren (1893-1981). Numbers vary from source to source (most sources say 311 or 350), but my records show that he wrote more than 500 songs for no less than 115 different movies from 1928 through 1981. Of those, 42 songs written between 1935 through 1950 placed in the top ten on the popular radio program, Your Hit Parade. His nearest competitor, the famous Irving Berlin, had only 33. Harry wrote in almost every conceivable music style, and quite successfully in most cases. He wrote waltzes, marches, tangos, love ballads, rumbas, beguines, sambas, blues, Dixieland, Italian love songs, lullabies, polkas, “hot” numbers, swing, ballads, novelty numbers, specialty numbers, dramatic pieces, country/western, pseudo-rock, classical piano solos, and even a Catholic mass. Harry’s music made so many people famous, so the question is, why isn’t he a household name like his contemporaries Berlin, Porter, Rodgers, and Gershwin? The answer, no one really knows.

© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)

Harry Warren was born in Brooklyn, New York to Italian immigrants on December 24, 1893, and was christened Salvatore Anthony Guaragna. By the time he started attending school, his name had been changed (by his older sisters) to Harry Warren. He had an early interest in music, and taught himself to play the drums, the accordion, and later the piano. He had no formal music education, but he learned much by singing in a church choir. He quit high school at age 16 to join a traveling circus, where he played drums. By 1915, he was working for the Vitagraph movie studio in New York, playing mood music on the piano for actress Corinne Griffith. He served as a prop man and even acted in several silent films, mainly in the role of a messenger boy. He also worked as an assistant director on several films. He served in the Navy for about a year, starting in 1917, and was stationed in Montauk Point, New York. He was one of the entertainers, and it was around this time that he began writing songs, the first of which was called “How Would You Like To Be A Sailor,” which is believed to no longer be in existence. In December of 1917, Harry married Josephine Wensler and they had their first child, a son, Harry Jr. (“Sonny”) in mid-1919. Harry continued to write songs, writing both words and music. Nobody wanted to publish his songs because his lyrics were not very good. In 1920, Harry got a big break. While playing piano one night in a Brooklyn saloon, two guys from the publishing firm Stark & Cowan came in. Harry tried out an early effort on them, one called “I Learned To Love You When I Learned My A-B-C’s,” another song that is likely to be gone forever. The two guys liked it and told Harry to come in the next week and play it for their boss, Rubey Cowan. Cowan didn’t publish it, but did offer Harry a job as a song plugger (basically a guy who went around trying to get performers to sing that publisher’s songs). Harry took a disliking to that line of work because it was not what he wanted to do: write songs. Harry persisted in his writing and in 1922 finally came up with his first hit, “Rose of the Rio Grande,” with lyrics by Edgar Leslie. From then on, a steady stream of Harry Warren songs were marketed. He had two hits in 1923, “Home In Pasadena” and “So This Is Venice,” both introduced by Paul Whiteman. By early 1925, 10 Warren songs had been published, with about half of them becoming hits, not a bad record to start off! By this time, Harry’s last child, a daughter, Joan “Cookie,” was born. 1925 was a very productive year for Warren, and he scored big with “I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me)” and “Seminola.” 1926 brought “Where Do You Work-a John?” and “In My Gondola.” In 1927, a couple of show tunes emerged as well as some moderate hits, and in 1928 the very popular “Nagasaki” was born, among others. By 1929, Harry Warren was the director of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), a position he held until 1933. 1929 was a busy year for Warren song-wise as well, and he wrote several additional hits with top lyric writers, including Gus Kahn and Kalmar & Ruby. With his record of hits, it’s not surprising that in 1930 he was called on to write a movie score for “Spring Is Here” and a score for a Broadway show, “Sweet And Low.” More song hits. In 1931 came two big Broadway shows, one with Fannie Brice, the other with Ed Wynn. Al Jolson even called on Harry to write one song to be interpolated into his show “The Wonder Bar.”

© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)


At the Trocadero in California circa 1938. Top (left to right): Al Dubin, Mack Gordon, Leo Robin, Harry Revel and Harry Warren; Below: Lorenz Hart and Hoagy Carmichael.


On the set of "Hello, Frisco, Hello" in 1943. From left to right are Mack Gordon, Alice Faye and Harry Warren. Ms. Faye is holding a pre-publication copy of Mack and Harry's Academy Award-nominated "I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo."

1932 was a major turning point in Harry Warren’s music career. This was the year he was called on to write a score with Al Dubin for a Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler picture entitled “Forty-Second Street.” Needless to say, the movie was the grandfather of the Hollywood musical, with four splendid Busby Berkeley production numbers, all set around Warren and Dubin’s snappy tunes. Harry wrote nearly all of those numbers for the 1930’s Gold Diggers movies, songs like “The Shadow Waltz,” “We’re In The Money,” “Lullaby Of Broadway” (which won the second ever Academy Award for best song), and others. Warren and Dubin were the writers of the songs for nearly all of the Busby Berkeley production numbers in the 1930’s, and Berkeley insisted on having Warren & Dubin supply songs for his production numbers even though some of the movies had scores by other writers, including Fain & Kahal, Dixon & Wrubel, and even Harburg & Arlen! There were so many hits written in the 1930’s by them, it’s impossible to list all the titles here. His songs were performed by the likes of the afore-mentioned Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, in addition to Al Jolson, Ginger Rogers, Joan Blondell, Eddie Cantor, Ruth Etting, the Mills Brothers, Dolores Del Rio, James Melton, Joe E. Brown, Rosalind Marquis, Lola Lane, Helen Morgan, Kenny Baker, Ann Sheridan, Rudy Vallee, John Payne, and others. Harry was constantly kept busy from 1932 till 1939 at Warner Brothers Studios and wrote no less than 149 songs for movies. Harry also did some acting in three films and at least one short during these years. He appeared with Al Dubin in both “Forty-Second Street” and “Go Into Your Dance” as a songwriter (with spoken lines). He also appeared with Al Dubin in the movie "A Very Honorable Guy;" Harry also appeared in a Vitaphone short called "Harry Warren: America's Foremost Composer," in 1933. On a sad note, Harry’s only son, Harry Jr., also known as “Sonny,” died of complications from pneumonia in early 1939, at the age of 19.

© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)

In 1940, Harry moved over to Twentieth Century Fox Studios, where he wrote for the likes of Glenn Miller (BOTH movies), Shirley Temple, Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Jack Oakie, John Payne, Benny Goodman, Harry James, Sammy Kaye, and others. Harry was kept busy at Fox with lyricist Mack Gordon and later with Leo Robin (after his partner, Ralph Rainger, passed away), and from 1940 till 1943, roughly 70 songs were turned out, and a good number of them were big hits. Without Warren’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and Glenn Miller’s recording of it, would the “gold record” ever have existed? Yes, it sold a million copies, 1.2 million to be exact, and “Chattanooga Choo Choo” was the first gold record in history! The only thing Harry and Mack got for it was 12.5 percent of the royalties each, and Fox (and its subsidiary publishing company) got the other 75 percent! 1943 brought “You’ll Never Know,” and over a million copies of the sheet music were sold. It garnered a second Academy Award for Harry Warren, and that song also helped to really launch the career of a man we all know and love, Dick Haymes! It is said to be his biggest recording. In late 1943, Warren signed with The Freed Unit at MGM and wrote two numbers for “Ziegfeld Follies” as well as the first few songs in the score for the Judy Garland film, “The Harvey Girls.” Also, in late 1943, Harry started work on a Fox score, one that Dick Haymes fans will likely recognize…

© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)

The score for the Dick Haymes and Betty Grable film “(Billy Rose’s) Diamond Horseshoe” was begun in late 1943 and work continued well into 1944. Harry and Mack Gordon wrote a total of ten new songs, and 8 of them are heard in the final film. Two of the songs are yet more marks in the big hits column for Dick Haymes and Warren & Gordon. The big number was “I Wish I Knew,” which was sung throughout the film by both Haymes and Grable. One of Harry’s loveliest melodies, “The More I See You,” is also beautifully sung by Haymes in the film, but only once or twice, which was somewhat of a disappointment. Haymes shines very brightly on that one and it was obviously tailor-made for him. Grable also knocks everyone dead in the aisles early on with her performance of “In Acapulco” (Thank God for Technicolor!!!). The rest of the new Warren-Gordon numbers in the final film were either performed by Grable, William Gaxton, or Beatrice Kay. Of most interest to the Society as well as myself are two numbers I have discovered that were intended for use in this film but did not appear in the final version. The first is likely one intended for Betty Grable during her mink fantasy sequence. It is called “The Mink Lament” and is among the published songs from the movie, but it is a very rare piece of sheet music. The music is rather “slight,” considering the quality of the rest of the score, and the lyric isn’t much better. Perhaps the greatest find of all for this movie is an excellent blues number, unpublished, and likely written for Haymes to sing at some point in the film. Its title is “Moody,” a simple title. The music is somewhat similar (yet very different) to Harry’s famous “Serenade In Blue,” but “Moody” is much better musically and lyrically! The song was written in late 1944 and, speaking musically, it has the same vocal range as “The More I See You,” a B-flat to an E-flat an octave and a half above that. It is my dream to query Twentieth Century Fox some day and have them dig through their vaults and unearth a pre-recording master of Dick Haymes singing this one, if he indeed performed it. Harry Warren wrote very few blues numbers, and this is his second best in my opinion (the best is arguably “Me And The Blues” (1946)), and why this was not used in the final version of the film is still a mystery to me. It would have easily been another big hit for Dick Haymes and Warren due to its quality.

© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)

(ADDENDUM (not in original article): I subsequently found that "Moody" was not recorded by Dick Haymes for "Diamond Horseshoe." It was recorded for use in the movie by Betty Grable. - The rest of this article is as originally written…)

After his days at Twentieth Century-Fox, Harry went on to MGM to write for the afore-mentioned “The Harvey Girls” and other films. Harry won his third and final Academy Award in 1946 for his “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe,” with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The song was used as an eight-minute production number in “The Harvey Girls.” At MGM, Warren mainly wrote scores for Fred Astaire movies, including one for the reunion of Astaire and Ginger Rogers, in “The Barkleys Of Broadway.” He also wrote for Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, Gloria De Haven, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller, Red Skelton!, Howard Keel, Esther Williams, Vivian Blaine, the De Marco Sisters, Billy Eckstine, and others. Harry’s favorite film of all the movies he worked on was “Summer Holiday,” and the score he and Ralph Blane wrote for it is the most charming movie score I have ever heard. It was butchered on the cutting room floor though, with 3 excellent songs cut out, including an Omar Khayyam dream sequence! Harry wrote about 80 songs at MGM from 1943 through 1952. In 1949, he was loaned out to Warner Brothers for a Doris Day musical, “My Dream Is Yours,” and wrote two additional hits. In 1952, Harry was released from his MGM contract and he immediately went to work on a Bing Crosby film, “Just For You,” with 11 new songs in the score. Harry only worked on one picture in 1953, and that was a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film entitled “The Caddy.” This movie was the birthplace of one of Harry’s greatest hits, “That’s Amoré,” a song virtually everybody knows at least a portion of! In 1954, Warren began work on the score for a Broadway show entitled “Shangri-La,” which eventually opened in June 1956 and ran for only 21 performances. That score is also quite charming, but little of it has been made public, in sheet music form at least. In 1955, Harry wrote several songs for yet another Martin & Lewis film, as well as the very popular “The Legend Of Wyatt Earp,” as used in the TV series “The Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp.” 1957 was the year of Harry’s final Academy Award nomination, and in my humble opinion, he should have won it with such a standard as “An Affair To Remember!”

© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)

Harry wrote title songs for a couple movies and full scores for a couple more Jerry Lewis films into the early 60’s, but after that, his kind of music was no longer needed in Hollywood. He continued to write music though, with friends, and he even wrote music for the Miss Oklahoma Pageant in 1964. Harry’s music in the 1960’s had basically the same quality as all the earlier songs he had written for movies, but nothing came close to becoming a hit. Harry’s final movie invitation came in 1980 with a movie entitled “Manhattan Melody,” and he wrote several new numbers for it (at the age of 86!). Sadly, the movie was never produced, but the songs are of exceptional quality, my favorite being “Bells.” 1980 was also the year of the opening of the Broadway musical “42nd Street,” which featured a dozen Warren songs from his years at Warner Brothers. Harry’s final musical contribution to the world was a number probably intended for his wife, titled “Ungrateful Heart.” Harry passed away on September 22, 1981, largely unknown by most of the general public. He is interred in the Sanctuary of Tenderness at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and his son. Harry’s marker reads:


[First four bars of “You’ll Never Know”]
Harry S. Warren
1894-1981 
Beloved husband, father, composer


Harry has received some past-due recognition in recent years. Several CD’s are devoted entirely to his music, singer/pianist Michael Feinstein has been active in attempting to make his name more widely known, and I have this web site devoted entirely to Harry’s music. It is my hope in writing this article that others will begin to appreciate the talents of songwriters like Harry Warren and other unsung heroes of American song. All generations of people accept and love his music (not to mention perform it!), but most have no idea who he was or the scope of the music he wrote. His song catalogue is most impressive, and even George and Ira Gershwin (both undisputed geniuses) were envious of his and Al Dubin’s tremendous output in the mid-30’s.

© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)   

The major song successes of Harry Warren:

Rose Of The Rio Grande (1922)
Home In Pasadena
(1923)
The Only Only One (For Me)
(1924)
I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me)
(1925)
In My Gondola
(1926)
Clementine (From New Orleans)
(1927)
My Regular Gal(1927)
Hello Montreal
(1928)
Nagasaki
(1928)
Old Man Sunshine (Little Boy Bluebird)
(1928)
Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder
(1929)
© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)  
Cheerful Little Earful
(1930)
Cryin’ For The Carolines
(1930)
Have A Little Faith In Me
(1930)
Would You Like To Take A Walk
(1930)
By The River Sainte Marie
(1931)
I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five And Ten Cent Store)
(1931)
You’re My Everything
(1931)
Forty-Second Street
(1932)
Shuffle Off To Buffalo
(1932)
Three’s A Crowd
(1932)
Young And Healthy
(1932)
You’re Getting To Be A Habit With Me
(1932)
The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
(1933)
Honeymoon Hotel
(1933)
I've Got To Sing A Torch Song(1933)
Keep Young And Beautiful
(1933)
Shadow Waltz
(1933)
We’re In The Money
(1933)
I Only Have Eyes For You
(1934)
I’ll String Along With You
(1934)
About A Quarter To Nine
(1935)
Don’t Give Up The Ship
(1935)
Go Into Your Dance
(1935)
Lullaby Of Broadway
(1935)
Lulu’s Back In Town
(1935)
Page Miss Glory
(1935)
The Rose In Her Hair
(1935)
She’s A Latin From Manhattan
(1935)
Where Am I (Am I In Heaven?)
(1935)
The Words Are In My Heart
(1935)
You Let Me Down
(1935)
I’ll Sing You A Thousand Love Songs
(1936)
My Kingdom For A Kiss
(1936)
Summer Night
(1936)
With Plenty Of Money And You
(1936)
’Cause My Baby Says It’s So
(1937)
How Could You?
(1937)
I Know Now
(1937)
Remember Me?
(1937)
September In The Rain
(1937)
The Song Of The Marines (We’re Shovin’ Right Off Again)
(1937)
Daydreaming (All Night Long)
(1938)
The Girl Friend Of The Whirling Dervish
(1938)
Jeepers Creepers
(1938)
Love Is Where You Find It
(1938)
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby
(1938)
© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)     
Devil May Care
(1940)
Down Argentina Way
(1940)
Fifth Avenue
(1940)
Two Dreams Met
(1940)
You Say The Sweetest Things (Baby)
(1940)
Chica Chica Boom Chic
(1941)
Chattanooga Choo Choo
(1941)
I Know Why (And So Do You)
(1941)
I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much)
(1941)
Tropical Magic
(1941)
Where You Are
(1941)
At Last
(1942)
I Had The Craziest Dream
(1942)
I’ve Got A Gal In Kalamazoo
(1942)
Let’s Bring New Glory To Old Glory
(1942)
Serenade In Blue
(1942)
There Will Never Be Another You
(1942)
A Journey To A Star
(1943)
The Lady In The Tutti Frutti Hat
(1943)
My Heart Tells Me
(1943)
No Love, No Nothin’
(1943)
You’ll Never Know
(1943)
This Heart Of Mine
(1944)
You've Got Me Where You Want Me (1944)
Coffee Time
(1945)
I Wish I Knew
(1945)
The More I See You
(1945)
On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe
(1945)
Wait And See
(1945)
This Is Always
(1946)
My Dream Is Yours
(1949)
My One And Only Highland Fling
(1949)
Someone Like You
(1949)
© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)     
Friendly Star
(1950)
If You Feel Like Singing, Sing
(1950)
You Wonderful You
(1950)
I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man
(1952)
Just For You
(1952)
Seeing’s Believing
(1952)
Zing A Little Zong
(1952)
That’s Amoré
(1953)
Innamorata
(1955)
The Legend Of Wyatt Earp
(1955)
(The Same Thing Happens With) The Birds And The Bees
(1956)
An Affair To Remember
(1957)
Separate Tables
(1958)


© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)

Some records and stats about Harry Warren’s music:

# of songs written (1918-1981): about 845 titled works
# of songs published (1922-1981): varies between 450 and 550 (definition of "published")
# of songs considered standards: varies between 50 and 125
# of songs on Your Hit Parade top ten: 42
# of songs #1 on Your Hit Parade list: 21
Most songs in top ten on Your Hit Parade at one time (week): 4 (1942)
# of hit records of his songs: about 220
Academy Award nominations: 11
Academy Award wins: 3
# of movies, TV shows, stage shows, and shorts that have used at least one Warren song: at least 826+
# of Harry Warren songs or song versions featured on this web site: 715


© 2000-2005 David Jenkins, www.harrywarren.org (copying is prohibited)

About the author: David Jenkins is a 25-year old Harry Warren enthusiast and collector. He first discovered the music of Harry Warren through an early interest in the music of Glenn Miller. Through the use of excellent songs by Warren in both movies featuring Glenn Miller, David “discovered” the music of Harry Warren and became a devoted fan. For nearly eight years, David has been collecting Warren sheet music (over 800 pieces) and studying Warren and his music, and he now has a web site on the Internet featuring hundreds of MIDI sound files of Warren songs. In David’s spare time, he likes to work on his web site, make MIDI files, and sing. David’s growing web site is located at http://www.harrywarren.org and in its first month it received over 250 visits. If you have web access, we encourage you to visit his web site and discover Harry’s music. If you would like to contact David, you can e-mail him through the Contact Me page at this site.

This site is designed for educational and personal use only, and any copying, in whole or in part, of any of the MIDI sound files, song lists, editorial material, pictures, and/or lyrics presented at this site is strictly prohibited. This article and its subsequent revisions are copyright (©) 2000-2005 by David Jenkins, webmaster of www.harrywarren.org/www.harrywarren.net, and any copying, in whole or in part, of this article for ANY PURPOSE is strictly prohibited without express written consent of David Jenkins.

 

Welcome Harry Who? Song List The Songs
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