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by Gary Marmorstein

From “Blue Moon” to “Where or When,” and “My Funny Valentine,” Lorenz Hart, together with Richard Rodgers, created some of the most beautiful and witty songs ever written. Here is the story of the strikingly unromantic life of this songwriting genius.An unforgettable portrait of an exuberant yet troubled artist who so enriched the American songbook “Blue Moon, ” “Where or When, ” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Isn’t It Romantic?,” “My Romance,” “There’s a Small Hotel,” “Falling in Love with Love,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”—lyricist Lorenz Hart, together with composer Richard Rodgers, wrote some of the most memorable songs ever created. More than half a century after their collaboration ended, Rodgers & Hart songs are indispensable to the repertoire of nightclub singers everywhere. A Ship Without a Sail is the story of the complicated man who was Lorenz Hart. His lyrics spin with brilliance and sophistication, yet at their core is an unmistakable wistfulness. The sweetness of “My Romance” and “Isn’t It Romantic?” is unsurpassed in American song, but Hart’s lyrics could also be cynical, funny, ironic. He brought a unique wit and elegance to popular music. Larry Hart and Richard Rodgers wrote approximately thirty Broadway musicals and dozens of songs for Hollywood films. At least four of their musicals—On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, The Boys from Syracuse, and Pal Joey— have become classics. But despite their prodigious collaboration, Rodgers and Hart were an odd couple. Rodgers was precise, punctual, heterosexual, handsome, and eager to be accepted by Society. Hart was barely five feet tall, alcoholic, homosexual, and more comfortable in a bar or restaurant than anywhere else. Terrified of solitude, he invariably threw the party and picked up the check. His lyrics are all the more remarkable considering that he never sustained a romantic relationship, living his entire life with his mother, who died only months before he died at age forty-eight. Gary Marmorstein’s revelatory biography includes many of the lyrics that define Hart’s legacy—those clever, touching stanzas that still move us or make us laugh.
Download A Ship Without A Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart epub
ISBN: 1416594256
ISBN13: 978-1416594253
Category: Photography
Subcategory: Performing Arts
Author: Gary Marmorstein
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (July 3, 2012)
Pages: 544 pages
ePUB size: 1923 kb
FB2 size: 1499 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 202
Other Formats: doc lrf docx azw

You have to have sympathy for this author...because a huge portion of Larry Hart's life has been lost to the ages and is unavailable to any biographer. Because he was a gay man in the first half of the 20th century, his entire personal life was conducted after midnight at locations unknown - with only hints of whatever that part of his personal life was all about as his genius slowly got drowned by his alcoholism. This is a good biography, detailing Hart's work with generous samples of his incredible lyrics and detailed behind-the-scenes drama behind his and Rodgers' creative endeavors on Broadway and Hollywood, as well as an honest take on their contentious partnership. Still, the book can't quite compensate for the missing pieces that might explain Hart's seemingly unendurable personal pain that shortened his life by decades. Again, not the author's fault...but still a substantial fault of the book itself.
So little in the way of biography exists about the great lyricist Lorenz "Larry" Hart that this book is a welcome addition for that reason alone. Author Gary Marmorstein does a good job of quoting and celebrating his incredibly witty and creative lyrics. I give it 4 stars for that reason. But based solely on its merits, I would probably rate this biography more of a 3-star effort.

It's filled with details about the various Rodgers and Hart shows. For those keenly interested in the history of musicals, this is probably of great interest. For the more casual reader, the minutia is probably overkill. What I feel this biography lacks is any real insight into the character of Larry Hart.

We learn that he drank to excess from the earliest days of his involvement with writing partner Richard Rodgers and that this increased as the years wore on, leading to Hart becoming less and less reliable until he was uninterested in working by the end of 1942. His homosexuality is mentioned. We find out he was incredibly self-conscious about his short stature, standing barely 5 feet tall, and thought himself ugly due to his head being oversized for his body. But we never really find out anything about the inner man and what made him tick.

I came away from this book feeling I knew quite a bit about the history of one of Broadway's greatest lyricists but, at the same time, knew almost nothing about him at all. Perhaps Hart was so secretive about his personal life that this information simply was unavailable or difficult to acquire. But it seems more could have been done in elucidating the personal side of Hart and not just the professional one.
This is a fine book for anyone interested in the life and times of Larry Hart, one of the creators of 20th Century American Song. Happily there are thoroughgoing descriptive and analytic reviews on this Amazon web page; I see no need to add anything but reinforcement to the recommendation that this is a very readable and reliable source for the interested reader. I will add only one point about which I was curious as to how it would be handled by the author: that is, how would he deal with the Black Star of Hart's Life. The answer is, he did about the best one can do without resorting to psychobabble or imaginative reconstruction of the unknown from the little known. So far as I can tell, to this date, there exists no body of personal letters from Hart, no detailed diaries, not even multiple source intimate accountings, of that part of his life which existed behind the iron curtain between it and the part he lived with Richard Rodgers, his younger brother Teddy, and, in fact, nearly all the old Columbia University, summer camp, Broadway and Hollywood acquaintances. Apparently, the ubiquitous ex-dentist, Bender, who was the only known regular participant with him, left nothing to biographical history, by which light could be cast on him, when he was deep in the shadows. It is assumed that he was a homosexual. Yet we do not have a single fact clearly supporting the notion that he ever engaged in an actual sexual act with another man. He did have homosexual buddies, he had heterosexual buddies. He knew women in his public life and never did much with far as we know. He is likely to have gone to the baths and other centers of homosexual life in NYC, when it was an illegal act; but, so did many men who were not homsexual. Are we assured that he never was active at Stella Adler's, center for so much show business and political heterosexual activity, did he never have a "kept" woman in one of the infinite number of private apartments available to a rich man. The answer is, to date, we do not know. (From this book we do know that, in his dying days, he suffered from gonorrhea, which allows us to assume that he had some form of sexuality.
It is not only the sexual activity that is masked by this iron curtain. Do we know for certain that in the shadows, more or less, he never ghosted the writing of lyricsof songs orparts of the books of shows, just to help one friend or another...or, given his gregariousness, almost anyone. Are there classic songs, outstanding theatrical events, that are Hart's and not the one to which they are attributed.
I stress the first point, in particular, because I expect, if the best of the club singers, of the good middle of the road singers, still sing Rodgers and Hart, someone is going to give us deep analysis of the "real" Larry Hart, when, there is a good chance that there will be no more data available than there is today on which to ground it. (Given that many collections of private papers are donated on the basis of no public availability until fifty, a hundred, or what have you, number of years after the death of...(for example, anyone mentioned in the papers), there is always the hope that more will be known of the "Private Life" of this man who has given so many of us greatjoy through his lyrics.
I've read several recent biographies that appear to have been researched on the web. This is one of them. It is a lifeless litany of facts. There are virtually no personal insights to Larry's genius with lyrics. What was the meaning behind the lyrics in "the Lady is a Tramp" and other enigmatic songs? What did contemporary singers and songwriters have to say about him? What caused his descent into alcoholism?