Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Monday, November 19

Gershwin's last film score

Synopsis

In the summer of 1936, the songwriting team of George and Ira Geshwin settled their affairs in New York, put their furniture in storage, and flew off to Hollywood to fulfill a contract with the RKO Studios. The Gershwins were to supply music for a series of new movies, some starring an old friend of theirs, dancer Fred Astaire.

In those days the big movie studios moved quickly, and so did the Gershwins. The first film in the contracted series, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as the romantic leads, was entitled “Shall We Dance” and was completed, scored and released in less than a year.

On today’s date in 1937, RKO Studios released their second Gershwin collaboration, “Damsel in Distress.” This starred Astaire and Joan Fontaine, and included two songs that would become Gershwin classics: “A Foggy Day in London Town” and “Nice Work if You Can Get It.”

The release of “Damsel in Distress,” however, must have been a bittersweet event for the friends and family of George Gershwin. The composer had died suddenly on July 11 that year following surgery to remove a brain tumor. The musical world was shocked, and there were funeral services and memorial concerts arranged on both the East and West Coast.

“Damsel in Distress” proved to be the last major project Gershwin had completed before his death.

Music Played in Today's Program

George Gershwin (1898 – 1937) Damsel in Distress Suite (An American in London) Hollywood Bowl Orchestra; John Mauceri, cond. Philips 434 274

Additional Information

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