Billy Rose

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Billy Rose
Billy Rose 1948.jpg
Rose in 1948
Born
William Samuel Rosenberg

(1899-09-06)September 6, 1899
DiedFebruary 10, 1966(1966-02-10) (aged 66)
Other namesBilly Rose
Spouse(s) Fanny Brice (1929–1938)
Eleanor Holm (1939–1954)
Joyce Mathews
(1956–1959, 1961–1963)
Doris Warner Vidor (1964–1966)

Billy Rose (born William Samuel Rosenberg, September 6, 1899 – February 10, 1966) [1] was an American impresario, theatrical showman and lyricist. For years both before and after World War II, Billy Rose was a major force in entertainment, with shows such as Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt (1931), Jumbo (1935), Billy Rose's Aquacade (1937), and Carmen Jones (1943). [1] As a lyricist, he is credited with many famous songs, notably "Me and My Shadow" (1927), "More Than You Know" (1929), "Without a Song" (1929), "It Happened in Monterrey" (1930) and "It's Only a Paper Moon" (1933). [1]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

An impresario is a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, or operas, performing a role similar to that of an artist manager or a film or television producer.

Showman can have a variety of meanings, usually by context and depending on the country.

Contents

Despite his accomplishments, Rose may be best known today as the husband of famed comedian and singer Fanny Brice (1891–1951).

Fanny Brice American actress, singer and comedian

Fania Borach, known professionally as Fanny Brice or Fannie Brice, was an American illustrated song model, comedienne, singer, theater, and film actress who made many stage, radio, and film appearances and is known as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series The Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after her death, Brice was portrayed on the Broadway stage by Barbra Streisand in the 1964 musical Funny Girl; Streisand also starred in its 1968 film adaptation, for which she won an Oscar.

Life and work

Rose was born to a Jewish family in New York City. He attended Public School 44, where he was the 50-yard dash champion. [1] While in high school, Billy studied shorthand under John Robert Gregg, the inventor of the Gregg System for shorthand notation. He won a dictation contest using Gregg notation, taking over 150 words per minute, and writing forward or backward with either hand. [1]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Shorthand abbreviated symbolic writing method

Shorthand is an abbreviated symbolic writing method that increases speed and brevity of writing as compared to longhand, a more common method of writing a language. The process of writing in shorthand is called stenography, from the Greek stenos (narrow) and graphein. It has also been called brachygraphy, from Greek brachys (short) and tachygraphy, from Greek tachys, depending on whether compression or speed of writing is the goal.

John Robert Gregg Irish inventor

John Robert Gregg was an educator, publisher, humanitarian, and the inventor of the eponymous shorthand system Gregg Shorthand.

Billy Rose began his career as a stenographic clerk to Bernard Baruch of the War Industries Board during World War I, and became head of the clerical staff. [1] Later he became a lyricist. In this role, he is best known as the credited writer or co-writer of the lyrics to "Me and My Shadow," "Great Day" (with Edward Eliscu), "Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight" (with Marty Bloom), [1] "I Found a Million Dollar Baby" (with Mort Dixon) and "It's Only a Paper Moon" (with E. Y. Harburg).

Bernard Baruch 20th-century American businessman

Bernard Mannes Baruch was an American financier, stock investor, philanthropist, statesman, and political consultant. After his success in business, he devoted his time toward advising U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt on economic matters, and became a philanthropist.

War Industries Board

The War Industries Board (WIB) was a United States government agency established on July 28, 1917, during World War I, to coordinate the purchase of war supplies between the War Department and the Navy Department. Because the United States Department of Defense would only come into existence in 1947, this was an ad hoc construction to promote cooperation between the Army and the Navy, it was founded by the Council of National Defense. The War Industries Board was preceded by the General Munitions Board —which didn't have the authority it needed and was later strengthened and transformed into the WIB.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Most of Rose's lyrical credits were collaborations. Biographer Earl Conrad said, "Nobody clearly knew what he wrote or didn't write.... Publishers tend to credit him with writing the songs known to bear his name as a lyricist.... But tales rumble on ... that Billy could feed and toss in a remark and monkey around, but that others did most of the writing." Lyricists might have been willing to tolerate a Rose credit grab because Rose was very successful at promoting "his" songs.

He went on to become a Broadway producer, and a theatre/nightclub owner. In June 1934, he opened The Billy Rose Music Hall at 52nd and Broadway in New York with the first Benny Goodman Orchestra. He produced Jumbo , starring Jimmy Durante, at the New York Hippodrome Theatre. For the Fort Worth Frontier Days fair (1936–37), [1] he constructed the huge elaborate dinner theatre Casa Mañana which featured celebrated fan-dancer Sally Rand and the world's largest revolving stage. He presented a show at the Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland, Ohio in 1937 where he also displayed the "Aquacade". [1] [2] [3]

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, commonly known as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

<i>Jumbo</i> (musical) 1935 stage musical

Jumbo is a musical produced by Billy Rose, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and book by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

Jimmy Durante American jazz singer, pianist, comedian and actor

James Francis Durante was an American singer, pianist, comedian, and actor. His distinctive clipped gravelly speech, Lower East Side Manhattan accent, comic language-butchery, jazz-influenced songs, and prominent nose helped make him one of America's most familiar and popular personalities of the 1920s through the 1970s. He often referred to his nose as the schnozzola, and the word became his nickname.

Rose was diminutive in stature. When he attended a show, his practice was to book four seats: one for himself, one for his date, and the two in front of those so he would have an unobstructed view.

In 1929, he married Fanny Brice, who would go on star in the 1931 Broadway production of Billy Rose's Crazy Quilt. The marriage lasted for nine years, ending in divorce in 1938.

In 1938, he opened Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe, a nightclub in New York City's Times Square in the basement of the Paramount Hotel. It initially opened with a version of his Fort Worth show. The Diamond Horseshoe operated under that name until 1951.

Times Square Neighborhood in Manhattan in New York City, New York

Times Square is a major commercial intersection, tourist destination, entertainment center and neighborhood in the Midtown Manhattan section of New York City at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue. It stretches from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, Times Square is sometimes referred to as "The Crossroads of the World", "The Center of the Universe", "the heart of The Great White Way", and "the heart of the world". One of the world's busiest pedestrian areas, it is also the hub of the Broadway Theater District and a major center of the world's entertainment industry. Times Square is one of the world's most visited tourist attractions, drawing an estimated 50 million visitors annually. Approximately 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, many of them tourists, while over 460,000 pedestrians walk through Times Square on its busiest days.

Paramount Hotel

The Hotel Paramount in New York City is a hotel located at 235 West 46th Street, to the west of Broadway. Designed by Thomas W. Lamb, construction was completed in 1928. In 1988, the hotel was closed for an 18-month remodelling project. In 1990, the hotel, under the ownership of Ian Schrager and redesigned by Philippe Starck, reopened as the Paramount Hotel. The hotel underwent a seven-month-long renovation in 1998 at a cost of $7 million, which included enhancements to lobby lighting.

At the 1939 New York World's Fair, Billy Rose's Aquacade [1] starred Olympian Eleanor Holm in what the fair program called "a brilliant girl show of spectacular size and content." Future MGM star Esther Williams and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller were both Aquacade headliners. Rose began an affair with the then-married Holm, who left her husband for Rose. The couple married in 1939.

Following the 1939 World's Fair, Rose asked John Murray Anderson, who had staged the Aquacade, to recommend a choreographer for a new show at the Horseshoe. Anderson recommended Gene Kelly, then performing in William Saroyan's One for the Money. Rose objected that he wanted someone who could choreograph "tits and asses," not "soft-soap from a crazy Armenian" (Yudkoff, 2001). However, after seeing Kelly's performance, he gave Kelly the job, an important step in Kelly's career.

In 1943, he produced Carmen Jones with an all-black cast. An adaptation of Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, the story was transplanted to World War II America by lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. It was an instant hit. The New York Telegraph called it "far and away the best show in New York"; The New York Times said it was "beautifully done ... just call it wonderful." The New York Herald Tribune said that Oscar Hammerstein II "must be considered one of the greatest librettists of our day" and that Carmen Jones was "a masterly tour de force." It was made into a motion picture in 1954, for which Dorothy Dandridge received an Academy Award nomination.

In 1946 Rose's memoir Wine, Women and Words, dedicated to Rose's early patron Bernard M. Baruch, was published in New York by Simon & Schuster. The book was illustrated, including the cover of the numbered and signed first edition of 1500 copies, by Salvador Dalí whom Rose met while producing events at the 1939 World's Fair.

Following the publication of Wine, Women and Words Rose appeared on the cover of Time on June 2, 1947.

Rose and Holm divorced in 1954. On July 2, 1956, he married showgirl Joyce Mathews, and they divorced July 23, 1959. They then remarried on December 29, 1961, only to divorce again on February 10, 1964, exactly two years before he died. (In the 1940s, Mathews had twice married and twice divorced comedian Milton Berle.) Later in 1964, Rose married Doris Vidor, who was the widow of film director Charles Vidor.

Billy Rose founded the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Israel. His legendary pragmatism is illustrated by a seeming minor event at the sculpture garden opening ceremony, which Rose attended personally. When asked by one of the many distinguished guests what, in the event of war, Rose would have Israel do with these artworks, many of which were modern, steel abstracts, Rose unsmilingly replied, "Melt them down for bullets."

From 1949 until 1955, Rose was the owner-operator of the Ziegfeld Theatre. During that time, the theater housed four musicals and five plays. In 1965 he sold the theater to be demolished to make way for a new skyscraper, the Fisher Bros. Building.

Billy Rose was a board member of American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. ASCAP often slandered rock-and-roll songs. In general, Rock and Roll performers wrote the music and lyrics themselves. Consequently, as rock musicians increasingly wrote their own songs, professional songwriters, formerly dominant figures in music industry, encountered less demand for their work. As an ASCAP member, Billy Rose labeled rock-and-roll songs "junk" and was quoted as saying, "in many cases they are obscene junk much on the level with dirty comic magazines." [4]

Later years and death

Billy Rose (standing) visiting David Ben-Gurion in 1960 David Ben Gurion Billy Rose1960.jpg
Billy Rose (standing) visiting David Ben-Gurion in 1960
Billy Rose's mausoleum in Westchester Hills Cemetery Billy Rose 800.jpg
Billy Rose's mausoleum in Westchester Hills Cemetery

From 1959 until his death in 1966, he was also the owner-operator of the Billy Rose Theater. During that time the theater housed four plays, one musical, one revue, three ballets, and twenty-nine concert performances. After his death, the theater retained its name, and remained in the ownership of his estate until 1978, when it was renamed. Today it is the Nederlander Theatre.

Rose was a wealthy man when he died of lobar pneumonia at his vacation home in Montego Bay, Jamaica at the age of 66. [5] At the time of his death, his fortune was estimated at about $42 million ($320 million in 2018 dollars), [6] which he left entirely to a foundation named after him, disowning both of his sisters. He is interred at Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

In 1970, Rose was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

Depictions

Rose was a leading character in the 1975 musical film Funny Lady, a sequel to Funny Girl, which continues the story of Fanny Brice, again played by Barbra Streisand. Despite physical dissimilarities, actor James Caan was cast as Rose.

The 1962 film Billy Rose's Jumbo , starring Doris Day, depicted the original Broadway show staged by Rose. Although he was not involved in the making of the film, a contractual stipulation made it mandatory that his name appear in the title.

Work on Broadway

Posthumous Credits

Further reading

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References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Composers – Lyricists Database – 'R' entries page 7," 2007, webpage: NFO-tr7.
  2. "GREAT LAKES EXPOSITION" in Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Case Western Reserve University
  3. DeMarco, Laura. "Greatness on the Lake." Sun News [Cleveland] July–Aug. 2016, Life sec.: 1. Print.
  4. David P. Szatmary, Rockin' in Time, 8th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2014), p. 25.
  5. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/900/billy-rose
  6. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  7. League, The Broadway. "The Great Magoo – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB". www.ibdb.com.