(comedic writer, born May 3, 1919, New York, New York – died, November 23, 2006)
(comedic writer, born December 2, 1915, New York, New York – died, October 23, 2002)
Broadway and film musicals were two of America's major cultural gifts to the world, and for more than fifty years nobody did it better than Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Together, they created some of the best-known and most-loved musical comedies to ever roll out of New York or Hollywood. The duo's successful stage frolics such as On the Town, Wonderful Town, Bells were Ringing, and Subways Were for Sleeping, were highly influential, and molded an entire generation's view of Manhattan Island as the most charming, romantic cityscape in the world. For most people, their Singin' In the Rain, which ranks as one of the 10 best films of all time, was the quintessential Hollywood musical.
They began their careers as performers in Greenwich Village in the late 1930s as part of a trio called 'The Revuers'. Unable to hire a writer, Betty and Adolph were forced to create their own original comedy material. It was a fortuitous partnership, and everyone, including Leonard Bernstein, came downtown to see their comedic antics. And then came On the Town, it was a play that would alter the trajectory of their onstage careers forever.
Essentially, a reworking of Jerome Robbins' ballet, Bernstein-Comden and Green's On the Town became the smash hit of 1944. Comden and Green were immediately recognized as the most innovative and gifted lyricists of the year. Over the next two years they adapted On the Town and wrote Good News and The Barkleys of Broadway for the screen. In the 1950s alone, they created Two on the Aisle, added songs to Mary Martin's Peter Pan for Broadway, re-teamed with Bernstein for Wonderful Town, and were reunited with Judy Tuvim, by then known as Oscar winner Judy Holiday, for another smash, Bells Were Ringing. That same decade they were responsible for a string of MGM hits: Singin' in the Rain, The Band Wagon, and It's Always Fair Weather among others.
Subsequently, they turned a bright young partnership into a legendary one, adding Hallelujah, Baby!, Applause, On the Twentieth Century, and the 1991 Tony Award-winning The Will Rogers Follies to the already impressive canon. It was a partnership that, in the words of The Washington Post, "has changed the face of Broadway, and maybe Hollywood too." "We rarely do homework separately," said Betty Comden. "Everything is together."