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Biography of

Frank Loesser

29 jun 1910 (New York) - 26 jul 1969 (New York)
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Frank Loesser
Birth name Frank Henry Loesser
Born June 29, 1910(1910-06-29)
New York City, New York, USA
Died July 28, 1969 (aged 59)
New York City, New York, USA
Genres Musical theatre
Occupations composer, lyricist, screenwriter
Years active 1936-1969

Frank Henry Loesser (June 29, 1910 – July 28, 1969) was an American songwriter who wrote the scores to the Broadway hits Guys And Dolls and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, among others. He won separate Tony Awards for the music and lyrics in both shows, as well as sharing the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the latter. He also wrote numerous songs for films and Tin pan alley, many of which have become standards, and was nominated for five Academy Awards for best song, winning once for "Baby, It's Cold Outside".


Early years

Loesser was born in New York City to Henry Loesser, a pianist, and Julia Ehrlich. He left City College of New York in 1925 after one year. After trying various jobs, by 1935 he was performing in a club with singer Lynn Blankenbaker Garland, whom he married in 1936.[1]

After signing with Universal Pictures in 1936 he moved to Hollywood, and then worked for Paramount Pictures. He wrote the lyrics for many songs during this period, including "Two Sleepy People" and “I Hear Music.” He stayed in Hollywood until World War II, when he joined the Army Air Force.[1]

One of the early films he worked on was Destry Rides Again (1939), for which he wrote the lyrics to "See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have", sung by Marlene Dietrich.

WWII era

During World War II, while enlisted as a song writer, Loesser wrote the popular war songs Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition (1942) and The Ballad of Rodger Young (1943), among others. Formerly a successful lyricist in collaboration with other composers, Praise the Lord was the first song for which Loesser composed the melody in addition to the lyric.

In 1944, Loesser worked on a little known musical intended to be performed by and for US soldiers abroad, titled Hi Yank!, the music for which was composed by Alex North. Hi Yank! was produced by the U.S. Army Office of Special Services as a "blueprint special" to boost the morale of soldiers located where USO shows could not visit. The "blueprint" was a book containing a musical script with instructions for staging the show, using materials locally available to deployed soldiers. A document located at the US Army Centre for Military History states, "A touring company has been formed in Italy to tour a production of "Hi, Yank!"".[2]

This unique Hi Yank! show without stars or a conventional theater run was generally forgotten until 2008, when the PBS History Detectives TV show researched the case of a long-saved radio transcription disc.[3] The disc has two songs and a promotional announcement for the show's Fort Dix premiere in August 1944, when the disc was broadcast there.[4]


In 1948, Broadway producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin asked Loesser to write both music and lyrics to George Abbott's book for an adaptation of the Brandon Thomas play Charley's Aunt. That musical, Where's Charley? (1948), starred Ray Bolger, and ran for a successful 792 performances. This led to his next musical, Guys and Dolls (1950), also produced by Feuer and Martin, which became a hit and earned him two Tony Awards.[5]

He wrote the book, music and lyrics for his next two musicals, The Most Happy Fella (1956) and Greenwillow (1960). He wrote the music and lyrics for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961), which ran for 1,417 performances and won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and for which he received two more Tonys.

The last musical that he worked on, Pleasures and Palaces (1965), closed during out-of-town tryouts.

Another unproduced musical, Señor Discretion Himself, premiered after his death. He started working on a musical version of the Budd Schulberg short story Señor Discretion Himself in 1966, but stopped working on it after 2 years. A version was presented in 1985 at the New York Musical Theatre Works. With the support of Jo Loesser, a completed version was presented at the Arena Stage, Washington, DC, in 2004, reworked by the group Culture Clash and director Charles Randolph-Wright.[6]

Personal life

Loesser was divorced from his first wife, Lynn, in 1957.[7] They had two children together: John Loesser and Susan Loesser, an author who wrote her father's biography A Most Remarkable Fella: Frank Loesser and the Guys and Dolls in His Life: A Portrait by His Daughter (1993, 2000).

He married his second wife Jo Sullivan (born Elizabeth Josephine Sullivan) on April 29, 1959.[8] Loesser was introduced to Jo by his first wife Lynn. Jo Sullivan had played a lead in The Most Happy Fella.[1] They had two children, Hannah and Emily. Emily is a performer who is married to Don Stephenson.[9]

Loesser died of lung cancer at age 59 in New York City.[10]

Notable songs

See also Category: Musicals by Frank Loesser

Loesser was the lyricist of over 700 songs.[11]

War songs
Broadway musicals
Films and Tin Pan Alley

Awards and legacy

Loesser received Tony Awards for music and lyrics for each of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Guys and Dolls. He was nominated for the Tony Award for book, music and lyrics for The Most Happy Fella and as Best Composer for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Loesser was awarded a Grammy Award in 1961 for Best Original Cast Show Album for How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

He won the 1950 Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside". He was nominated four more times:

"Dolores" from Las Vegas Nights (1941)
"They're Either Too Young or Too Old" from Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943)
"I Wish I Didn't Love You So" from The Perils of Pauline (1947)
"Thumbelina" (1953)

In 2006 the PBS documentary, Heart & Soul: The Life and Music of Frank Loesser was released.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Frank Loesser biography,, accessed December 5, 2008
  2. ^ PBS History Detectives; "Blueprint Special", 2008, show transcript, PDF
  3. ^ PBS History Detectives; "Blueprint Special" Aired: Season 6, Episode 10; 2008
  4. ^ Click on player at the bottom to listen to the recording of the Hi Yank soldier musical. (7m37s)
  5. ^ Loesser biography,, accessed August 4, 2009
  6. ^ Riis, Thomas Laurence. Frank Loesser (2008), Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-11051-0, p,219-223
  7. ^ Frank Loesser biography, accessed December 5, 2008
  8. ^ NPR Weekend Saturday Edition interview by Scott Simon with Jo Loesser on May 1, 2010) May 1, 2010
  9. ^ "Emily Loesser, Actress, Marries", The New York Times, May 5, 1991
  10. ^ Krebs, Alvin, "Frank Loesser, Composer, Dead," The New York Times, July 29, 1969, p. 1
  11. ^ Review of book "Frank Loesser", Thomas L. Riis, Dec 17, 2007,, accessed December 5, 2008
  12. ^ "Heart & Soul, The Life and Music of Frank Loesser", accessed July 30, 2009

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Frank Loesser. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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