Adolph Green (12/2/1914-10/23/2002), was born in the Bronx, son of Helen & Daniel Green. He was to become a beloved lyricist, playwright and actor. Perhaps his long-time collaborator’s name, Betty Comden, will help you remember him. For some six decades this pair produced some of the most revered and enjoyed Broadway and Hollywood hits.
Adolph was working as a runner on Wall Street while trying to get a foothold in an acting career. In 1938, when Betty Comden was studying drama at NYU, they met through mutual friends. Along with such future luminaries as Judy Holliday (who was then Judy Tuvim) and Leonard Bernstein, they formed The Revuers, a troupe which performed at the Village Vanguard. They went west to make a movie called Greenwich Village, with Don Ameche and Carmen Miranda, and soon went back to New York to seek further (or any) fame and fortune.
And then came On the Town. You see, choreographer Jerome Robbins had teamed with composer Leonard Bernstein on a ballet, Fancy Free (1944), which the American Ballet Theatre produced. The production team, including scenic designer Oliver Smith and businessman Paul Feigay, decided the ballet could become a musical if only they had Comden and Green writing the book and lyrics. George Abbott directed, and MGM put up some production money in return for the film rights. (Your correspondent laments the best song, “I Can Cook, Too” with lyrics by Bernstein, was left out of the movie. Search it, sung by Nancy Walker. But we digress.) Comden and Green also performed in the production.
Their two subsequent musicals, Billion Dollar Baby and Bonanza Bound, were not profitable and so they headed back to California where they wrote Good News and The Barkleys of Broadway, before adapting On the Town for film with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin. (Judy Holliday even had a small uncredited voice-over role.)
Among their hits have been Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, It’s Always Fair Weather, the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan, Bells Are Ringing, and so much more, up through The Will Rogers Follies (1991).
In 1958, they created A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, a Broadway revue of their early work. They revived it (updated) in 1977. Adolph Green was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1980, and into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981. The team was honored by the Kennedy Center Honors in 1991.
Green and Comden were married to others, but they were a tight team. Green appeared in Candide in 1991, an episode of Frasier in 1994 (“Burying a Grudge”), and The Substance of Fire in 1996.
Showpersons do not leave us; they simply await the next cue.