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Ira Gershwin
b.1896 — d.1983


Ira Gershwin, the first lyricist to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize — for OF THEE I SING in 1932 — was born in New York City on December 6, 1896. While attending the College of the City of New York, Ira began demonstrating his lifelong interest in light verse and contributed quatrains and squibs to newspaper columnists. In 1918, while working as the desk attendant in a Turkish bath, he tentatively began a collaboration with his brother George, and their “The Real American Folk Song (Is a Rag)” was heard in Nora Bayes' LADIES FIRST. Not wanting to trade on the success of his already famous brother, Ira adopted the nom de plume of Arthur Francis, combining the names of his youngest brother Arthur and sister Frances. Under this pen name, Ira supplied lyrics for his first Broadway show, TWO LITTLE GIRLS IN BLUE (1921), with music by Vincent Youmans.

By 1924 Ira was ready to begin his successful and lifelong collaboration with George and dropped the pseudonym. The Gershwins created their first joint hit, LADY, BE GOOD!, for Fred and Adele Astaire and followed it with more than 20 scores for stage and screen, including OH, KAY! for Gertrude Lawrence; two versions of STRIKE UP THE BAND (1927 and 1930); Ethel Merman's introduction to Broadway, GIRL CRAZY (1930); SHALL WE DANCE (1937), one of Hollywood's stylish pairings of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; and the triumphant folk opera, PORGY AND BESS, written with DuBose Heyward. Before and after George's death in 1937, Ira collaborated with such composers as Harold Arlen (A STAR IS BORN, 1954), Vernon Duke (ZIEGFELD FOLLIES 1936), Kurt Weill (LADY IN THE DARK, 1941), Jerome Kern (COVER GIRL, 1944), Harry Warren (THE BARKLEYS OF BROADWAY, 1949; the final Astaire/Rogers picture), Arthur Schwartz (PARK AVENUE, 1946), and Burton Lane (GIVE A GIRL A BREAK, 1953).
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