Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Salvatore Guaragna, 24 December 1893, Brooklyn NY; d 22 December 1981, Los Angeles) Song composer; one of the great ones, especially successful in films. His parents were immigrants; he was the eleventh of twelve children; he learned to play his father's accordion, sang in a church choir, left school to play drums in a carnival snd used his earnings to buy a second-hand piano. He taught himself to play and worked at Vitagraph studios playing mood music for silent screen actors. He served in the U.S. Navy during WWI. He worked as pianist/songplugger for Stark and Cowan, who issued his first published song, 'Rose Of The Rio Grande', co-written with Ross Gorman and Edgar Leslie, later a crowd-pleaser for years by Duke Ellington with Lawrence Brown and Ivie Anderson. 'I Love My Baby (My Baby Loves Me)' and 'Home In Pasadena' followed '22; he worked with Billy Rose from his first production: revue Sweet And Low '30 was originally titled Corned Beef And Roses, and included 'Cheerful Little Earful' by Warren, Rose and Ira Gershwin, and 'Would You Like To Take A Walk?' by Warren, Rose and Mort Dixon; when the show's title changed yet again to Crazy Quilt one of Warren's all-timers was added: 'I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five And Ten Cent Store)' sung by Rose's wife Fanny Brice in top hat and tails. The Laugh Parade '31 included 'Ooh That Kiss' and 'You're My Everything' by Warren, Dixon and Joe Young.

He went briefly to Hollywood for minor films and didn't like it, but was hired to come back by Darryl F. Zanuck to work with Al Dubin on Warner Brothers' first big musical film, 42nd Street '33, with an all-star cast, Busby Berkeley choreography, songs including 'Shuffle Off To Buffalo' and 'You're Getting To Be A Habit With Me'. The Gold Diggers series of films with Dubin included 'Pettin' In The Park', 'We're In The Money', 'Shadow Waltz' '33 (latter sequence used violins edged with neon, one of its first uses on film); 'Lullaby Of Broadway' (Warren's first Oscar and Berkeley's favourite production number) and 'The Words Are In My Heart' (with 56 pianos shoved around by 56 very small men underneath them) '35. The last in the series included 'All's Fair In Love And War' and 'With Plenty Of Money And You' '37.

Roman Scandals (with Eddie Cantor) included 'Keep Young And Beautiful', Dames 'I Only Have Eyes For You', both '33; Moulin Rouge included 'Boulevard Of Broken Dreams', 20 Million Sweethearts 'I'll String Along With You' (sung by Dick Powell; the film was also Ginger Rogers's first big role), both '34; Go Into Your Dance '35 had Al Jolson and his then-wife Ruby Keeler, songs 'About A Quarter To Nine' and 'A Latin From Manhattan' (Wonder Bar '34 was a WB low point, with Jolson in blackface singing 'Going To Heaven On A Mule' to 200 children playing black angels). Warren teamed with Johnny Mercer '38 in Goin' Places (Louis Armstrong and Maxine Sullivan sang 'Jeepers Creepers') and Hard To Get (Dick Haymes with 'You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby'). He went to 20th Century-Fox '39-45, collaborating with Mack Gordon: Springtime In The Rockies ('I Had The Craziest Dream') and Sweet Rosie O'Grady ('My Heart Tells Me') both had Betty Grable singing; films with Glenn Miller were Sun Valley Serenade and Orchestra Wives, Warren songs 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', 'I Know Why', 'I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo', 'At Last', 'Serenade In Blue'; Rose's Diamond Horseshoe had Phil Silvers in one of his best roles, Haymes singing 'I Wish I Knew' and 'The More I See You'; Hello Frisco Hello had Alice Faye singing Warren's second Oscar winner 'You'll Never Know'.

For Faye's last film Warren worked with Leo Robin: The Gang's All Here inclluded 'No Love, No Nothin'' and 'Journey To A Star', also 'The Lady In The Tutti-Frutti Hat' for Carmen Miranda. To MGM '45 with ace producer/lyricist Arthur Freed on the Fred Astaire film Yolande And The Thief ('Coffee Time') and multi-star Ziegfeld Follies ('This Heart Of Mine'); he won his third Oscar with Mercer for 'On The Atcheson, Topeka And The Sante Fe' from The Harvey Girls with Judy Garland (Warren said to Harold Arlen, 'From now on, you walk two Oscars behind me'). The last Astaire/ Rogers film The Barkleys Of Broadway '49 with Gershwin included 'You'd Be Hard To Replace', 'My One And Only Highland Fling', 'Shoes With Wings On' (with Hermes Pan choreography); Summer Stock '50 included Gene Kelly dancing with a squeaky floorboard and a piece of newspaper to 'You, Wonderful You'. The last Warren songs for MGM were in Belle Of The Ball '52: Astaire with Vera Ellen and 'Seeing's Believing' and 'Baby Doll'. He was at Paramount with Robin '52 for Just For You, with Bing Crosby and 'Zing A Little Zong'. His last big pop hit was 'That's Amore', with Jack Brooks for the Martin & Lewis film The Caddy '53; the single sold millions for Dean Martin.

Movie musicals were now usually transfers from Broadway; Warren wrote title themes for dramatic films Marty '55, An Affair To Remember '57 (score by Hugo Friedhofer), Separate Tables '58. His earliest hits were revived in the '80s following a Broadway version of 42nd Street; he was elected to the Songwriters' Hall of Fame on his 80th birthday. Other Warren hits were 'Nagasaki' '28 (Swing Era hit recorded by Paul Mares's Friars' Society Orchestra, Don Redman, Benny Goodman etc; sung in My Dream Is Yours '49 by Doris Day), also 'September In The Rain', 'Remember Me', 'There Will Never Be Another You', 'I Wish I Knew', 'Lulu's Back In Town', many more.

Lyricist Al Dubin (b 10 June 1891, Zurich; d 11 February 1945, NYC) was songwriter for early sound films; wrote 'Indian Summer' (with Victor Herbert), 'Anniversary Waltz' (Dave Franklin), 'Tiptoe Through The Tulips' and 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes' (Joe Burke), also with Rose, Irving Mills, Jimmy McHugh etc. Leo Robin (b 6 April 1900, Philadelphia; d 29 December 1984) worked with all the best composers, co-wrote 'Thanks For The Memory', Billie Holiday hit 'Miss Brown To You', scores more. Mack Gordon (b 21 June 1904, Warsaw, Poland; d 1 March 1959, NYC) also worked with Jimmy Van Heusen, Vincent Youmans, Ray Henderson; co-wrote 'Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?', 'The More I See You', 'It Happens Every Spring', many more.