Alan Jay Lerner was an American lyricist and librettist best known for his work on Golden Age musicals in collaboration with Frederick Loewe. He is considered to be one of the greatest lyricists of the Golden Age of musical theatre and was the recipient of three Tony Awards, three Academy Awards, and countless other honors.
Lerner was well educated, having attended Juilliard School of Music and Harvard, where he began writing lyrics for the Hasting Pudding theatrical society. He collaborated with Leonard Bernstein while at Harvard and wrote over 500 radio scripts between 1940 and 1942.
Lerner met his collaborative partner, Frederick Loewe, in August of 1942. The first musicals the two worked on were considered commercial “flops”, with many productions closing after only one week. Gaining small success in 1945, the duo did not have a significant hit until Brigadoon, which opened on Broadway in 1947. Their next success came with Paint Your Wagon (1951), followed by their arguably most popular musical, My Fair Lady (1956). My Fair Lady won six out of the ten Tony Awards it was nominated for. Four years later, the two began work on their first film musical: Gigi (1958). The film would go on to win nine Academy Awards. Lerner and Loewe had personal differences that led to the suspension of their collaboration for more than a decade. The two reunited to adapt Gigi for the stage and wrote the score for the film The Little Prince (1974).
Aside from his work with Loewe, Lerner wrote the book and lyrics for Kurt Weill’s Love Life (1948) and the script for An American in Paris (1951), along with several other films. Lerner also wrote the lyrics for a handful of Broadway musicals with various composers such as Leonard Bernstien, André Previn, Burton Lane and Charles Strouse.
In 1978, Lerner published an autobiography entitled The Street Where I Live, which recounted three of his most successful collaborations with Loewe. Just before his death, Lerner was contacted by Andrew Lloyd Webber to write lyrics for The Phantom of the Opera. However, Lerner refused because he felt like he was losing his memory. This was due to an undiagnosed brain tumor. Lerner passed away June 14, 1986 from lung cancer at the age of 67.
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