Lerner, Alan Jay

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Lerner, Alan Jay,

1918–86, American lyricist and librettist, b. New York City. After two years as a radio scriptwriter, Lerner began an association with the composer Frederick Loewe that resulted in several popular musicals, including Brigadoon (1947, film 1954), Paint Your Wagon (1951, film 1969), Camelot (1960, film 1967), and the Academy-Award-winning film Gigi (1958). Their highly successful My Fair Lady (1956, film 1964), an adaptation of Shaw's Pygmalion, has been translated into many languages. Lerner also wrote Love Life (1948) with Kurt WeillWeill, Kurt
, 1900–1950, German-American composer, b. Dessau, studied with Humperdinck and Busoni in Berlin. He first became known with the production of two short satirical surrealist operas, Der Protagonist (1926) and Der Zar lässt sich photographieren
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 and the book for the film An American in Paris (1951).


See his autobiography, On the Street Where I Live (1978, rev. ed. 1994); biography by E. Jablonski (1996); studies by G. Lees (1990) and S. Citron (1995).

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Lerner, Alan Jay

(1918–86) lyricist, librettist; born in New York City. Son of a wealthy owner of a women's clothing store chain, he enjoyed the privileges of a cultured family. He began piano lessons at age five and wrote his first songs as a teenager, but his father planned for him to enter the diplomatic service. While at Harvard he contributed to the Hasty Pudding Club Shows in 1938 and 1939; during the summers of 1936 and 1937 he studied at Juilliard. An accident in a boxing match cost him sight in his left eye, and after graduation (1940) he went to New York City determined to write for the theater. He wrote radio scripts and contributed to satirical revues, and in 1942 he met composer Frederick Loewe. They began their collaboration on such hit musicals as Brigadoon (1947), My Fair Lady (1956), and Gigi (1958). Lerner also collaborated on other works, writing the libretto and lyrics for Love Life (1948), music by Kurt Weill, and the screenplay for An American in Paris (1951). He rejoined Loewe for Camelot (1960) but they had a falling-out and went their own ways. Lerner wrote the words for two other musicals, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965) and Coco (1969). He rejoined Loewe in 1973 to make a stage version of their film musical, Gigi, and then for their last collaboration, The Little Prince (1974). Lerner's final musicals were not successful but he had earned his place as one of the most meticulous wordsmiths in the history of American musicals.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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