Monday, August 13, 2012

A Ship Without A Sail, the Life of Lorenz Hart

    If you’re interested in the memorable songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart, forget the squeaky clean film movie starring Mickey Rooney as Lorenz Hart and pick up a copy of Gary Marmorstein’s gentle but honest, carefully researched   story of Hart’s all too short life.

    Short might well be an operative word here as the adult Hart barely reached five feet.  He was an immensely talented but deeply troubled soul.  Together Rodgers and Hart had an enormous impact on the musical world in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.  They gave us such hit Broadway shows as On Your Toes, Babes In Arms, Pal Joey and countless songs  - My Funny Valentine, Blue Moon, I Wish I Were In Love Again, Where or When, and more that are loved, played and sung today.

    Marmorstein has accomplished a yeoman’s task in detailing the days of Hart’s life from his iconic pairing with Rodgers to his disturbed personality to his sexuality to his alcoholism.   Hart was not an easy working partner, later given to tardiness and sometimes total disappearance.  Yet he seemed able to dash off his best in 30 minutes and was without peer as a lyricist - eloquent, witty, urbane, romantic, wistful.  He felt the bars had not been pushed far enough in American musicals, and he did it with gusto and to great acclaim.

    There are so many memorable ancillary characters coming and going in the lives of Rodgers and Hart that A Ship Without A Sail is always fascinating reading, brimming with anecdotes and quotations.  Yet, for this reader the story is  clouded with sadness  sadness as Hart follows his self-destructive path.  His early death was an immeasurable loss.    But we will always have his unforgettable words - he gave us so much we cannot help but wish that life had given him more.

    - Gail Cooke

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