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Warren, Harry [Guaragna, Salvatore]

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Warren, Harry [Guaragna, Salvatore]

(b Brooklyn, NY, 24 Dec 1893; d Los Angeles, 22 Sept 1981). American popular songwriter. He taught himself the accordion, drums, piano and other instruments, and learned the rudiments of music while singing in a church choir. He first worked in 1909 as a drummer in his godfather’s carnival band, then as a member of a vocal quartet at Vitagraph Studios and a pianist in cinemas and saloons in New York. He rose to become the assistant director of Vitagraph before becoming a pianist and song plugger for Stark and Cowan in 1920. In 1924 he joined Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. and began to find success with his own songs, beginning with I love my baby, my baby loves me (1926).

Warren favoured writing for revues on Broadway, including several co-authored or produced by Billy Rose. But after the Hollywood film studio Warner Bros. bought the Remick Music Corporation, which Warren had joined as a staff composer in 1928, he was called to California to write for early musical films. His first assignment was to provide six new songs for the film version of Richard Rodgers’s Spring is Here (1930). After a period during which he spent intervals in New York, Warren settled permanently in Hollywood, where he became the most successful composer of songs for American films. He contributed songs to more than 75 films for such singers as Dick Powell, Carmen Miranda, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby. Between 1932 and 1957, 42 of his songs reached the Top Ten on popularity charts, and three received Academy awards (Lullaby of Broadway, You’ll never know, and On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe). At Warner Bros. he joined the choreographer Busby Berkeley and the lyricist Al Dubin to create the lavish musical films of the Depression era. Almost all of his approximately 250 songs were published and performed. His own publishing company, Four Jays Music, controlled the songs published by Harry Warren Music and other companies.

Warren’s prolific output and the wide dissemination of his music through the medium of film made him one of the most influential of all 20th-century songwriters. He was extraordinarily versatile and wrote successful songs in many genres. His tunes have remained in the repertory of all branches of the popular-music industry, from jazz to television and even ‘muzak’.

The Harry Warren Collection of 200 musical-comedy folios is in the Archive of Popular American Music at UCLA, recorded interviews with Warren are in the libraries of ASCAP and Southern Methodist University, and the American Film Institute has transcriptions of interviews with Warren in the Louis B. Mayer oral history collection.


(selective list)

Selective editions: The Song Hits of Harry Warren (New York: 1960)

The Harry Warren Song Book (New York, 1960)

Great Songs by Harry Warren (New York, 1968)

Lullaby of Broadway and Music from Great Movie Classics (The Harry Warren Songbook) (New York, 1984)

The Great Songs of Harry Warren (Secaucus, NJ, 1989)

Films (lyrics by A. Dubin unless otherwise stated): Spring is Here (S.M. Lewis and J. Young), 1930 [incl. Would you like to take a walk? (B. Rose and M. Dixon)]; 42nd Street, 1933 [incl. Forty-Second Street, Shuffle off to Buffalo, You’re getting to be a habit with me, Young and Healthy]; Footlight Parade, 1933 [incl. Honeymoon Hotel]; Gold Diggers of 1933, 1933 [incl. We’re in the money, Shadow Waltz]; Roman Scandals, 1933 [incl. Keep young and beautiful]; Dames, 1934 [incl. I only have eyes for you]; Moulin Rouge, 1934 [incl. The Boulevard of Broken Dreams]; Twenty Million Sweethearts, 1934 [incl. I’ll string along with you, Fair and Warmer]

Broadway Gondolier, 1935 [incl. Lulu’s back in town]; Go into your Dance, 1935 [incl. About a Quarter to Nine, She’s a Latin from Manhattan]; Gold Diggers of 1935, 1935 [incl. Lullaby of Broadway, The words are in my heart]; Gold Diggers of 1937, 1936 [incl. All’s fair in love and war, With Plenty of Money and You]; Melody for Two, 1937 [incl. September in the Rain]; Mr. Dodd Takes the Air, 1937 [incl. Am I in love?, Remember me]; The Singing Marine, 1937 [incl. ’Cause my baby says it’s so, Song of the Marines]; Going Places (J. Mercer), 1938 [incl. Jeepers Creepers]; Down Argentina Way (M. Gordon), 1940 [incl. Down Argentina Way]

Sun Valley Serenade (Gordon), 1941 [incl. Chattanooga Choo Choo, I know why]; Iceland (Gordon), 1942 [incl. There will never be another you]; Orchestra Wives (Gordon), 1942 [incl. At Last, Serenade in Blue, I’ve got a gal in Kalamazoo]; The Gang’s all Here (L. Robin), 1943 [incl. A Journey to a Star, No love, no nothin’, The lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat, Paducah]; Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe (Gordon), 1945 [incl. The More I see You]; The Harvey Girls (Mercer), 1946 [incl. On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe]; Summer Holiday (R. Blane), 1948 [incl. The Stanley Steamer]; My Dream is Yours (Blane), 1949 [incl. Love finds a way]; The Caddy (J. Brooks), 1953 [incl. That’s amore]

Songs (associated with stage shows unless otherwise indicated): Nagasaki (M. Dixon), 1918; I love my baby, my baby loves me (B. Green), 1926; I found a million dollar baby (Rose, Dixon), in Crazy Quilt, 1931; You’re my everything (Dixon, Young), in The Laugh Parade, 1931; You must have been a beautiful baby (Mercer), in Hard to Get (film), 1938; You’ll never know (Gordon), in Hello, Frisco, Hello (film), 1943


T. Thomas: The Hollywood Musical: the Saga of Songwriter Harry Warren (Secaucus, NJ, 1975)

R. Hemming: The Melody Lingers On: the Great Songwriters and their Movie Musicals (New York, 1986)

D. Ewen: American Songwriters (New York, 1987)

A. Forte: The American Popular Ballad of the Golden Era, 1924–1950 (Princeton, NJ, 1995)

G. Lees: Singers and the Song II (New York, 1998)


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