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Betty Comden

(1919 - )

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Betty Comden (1919-) had finished her studies at NYU and was looking for a theatrical agent when she met Adolph Green in 1938. This was the beginning of a partnership that would last over six decades. They began writing material for a nightclub act called The Revuers, which included a young actress later known as Judy Holliday and a friend who sometimes played piano with them, Leonard Bernstein. When composer Bernstein was working on adapting his ballet for the musical theater, he asked them to collaborate on it, and it became the hit On the Town in 1944. In addition to writing the book and the lyrics for songs such as “New York, New York,” “Some Other Time,” and “Lonely Town,” the pair performed in the stage show. They also adapted it for film in 1949.

Their success took them to Hollywood and MGM where they wrote the screenplays for Good News (1947), The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), which won them an Oscar for Best Written American Musical. They received two Oscar nominations for The Band Wagon (1953), and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) was nominated for Best Story and Screenplay. They also contributed lyrics to the film Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949).

Comden and Green returned to New York to collaborate again with Bernstein on Wonderful Town in 1953, winning their first Tony for Best Book of a Musical. A revival of the show in 2003 ran for over a year. In 1954 they were called by composer Jule Styne to add songs to Peter Pan, and they contributed “Never Never Land.” The trio’s Bells Are Ringing (1956) starred Judy Holliday and introduced the hit songs “The Party’s Over” and “Just in Time.” The Styne/Comden/Green production Do Re Mi (1960) produced the song “Make Someone Happy,” and Hallelujah Baby (1969) won Tony Awards for the book and music.

Comden and Green won three more Tonys: one for the Applause libretto (1970) and two with composer Cy Coleman--for On the Twentieth Century in 1978 (book and lyrics) and The Will Rogers Follies in 1991 (score). Their memorable two-person show A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green won an Obie in 1958 and was reprised successfully in 1977. Comden published her autobiography, Off Stage, in 1995.

- Sandra Burlingame

Wonderful Town (Original 1953 Broadway Cast)

Never Never Land

Jane Monheit

Just in Time

Oliver Jones
Reading and Viewing

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Betty Comden

Off Stage

Limelight Editions

Betty Garrett, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin, Frank Sinatra, Vera-Ellen

On the Town

Warner Home Video


Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds

Singin' in the Rain

Warner Home Video


Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray, Jack Buchanan

The Band Wagon

Warner Home Video


Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams, Gene Kelly, Betty Garrett, Edward Arnold

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Warner Home Video


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