Betty Comden is part of the musical-comedy duo Comden and Green, who, over the course of six decades, wrote the music and lyrics to some of the most beloved musicals and movies of the mid-20th century. Born in Brooklyn, New York as Basya Cohen, Betty Comden was the daughter of two Russian Jewish immigrants. She studied drama at New York University, graduating in 1938. After graduation, Comden was introduced to Adolph Green, who at the time was also an aspiring actor. Together, along with Judy Holliday and Leonard Bernstein, Comden and Green created an acting troupe called The Revuers, which would often perform at the Village Vanguard.
On The Town (1944) was Comden and Green’s first Broadway success as a writing team. They wrote the book and lyrics and also wrote two parts for them to perform in the show (the roles of “Claire” and “Ozzie”). Following On The Town, the duo had a few failed musicals and decided to move to California to work for MGM. They wrote screenplays for Good News (1947), The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), and adapted On The Town into a film starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. However, their biggest film success came from Singin’ in the Rain (1952), starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Comden received two Academy Award nominations for her screenplays of The Band Wagon (1953) and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955). In the 1950s, Comden and Green returned to their theatre roots, creating shows such as Two on the Aisle, Wonderful Town, and Bells Are Ringing. Comden’s success continued throughout the 1960s. She continued to collaborate with songwriter Jule Styne, and she won a Tony award along with Green for their score of Hallelujah, Baby! (1968). In the 1970s, Comden and Green wrote the libretto for Applause (1970), and On the Twentieth Century (1978). The duo's final Broadway hit was The Will Rogers Follies (1991).
Comden and Green were inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame in 1980, the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981, and given Kennedy Center Honors in 1991. In her personal life, Comden married Siegfried Schutzman (who later changed his name to Steven Kyle), a designer and businessman. Together, they had two children, Susan and Alan. Schutzman died in 1979 of acute pancreatitis and Alan, her son, passed away in 1990. Betty Comden passed away from heart failure on November 23, 2006 at the age of 89.
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