Harbach, Otto, 1873-1963

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1873-08-18
Death 1963-01-24
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Songwriter, playwright.

From the description of Reminiscences of Otto Harbach : oral history, 1958. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 86158341

Otto Harbach, librettist and lyricist, was born Otto Hauerbach in Salt Lake City.

He was educated at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois and went on to teach English at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Moving to New York in 1901, Harbach (who changed the spelling of his name in 1917) began writing for the theater. In 1908 he produced his first hit, THREE TWINS, in collaboration with Karl Hoschna. Over the course of his career, Harbach had over 50 works produced on Broadway; for most of them he wrote both the book and the lyrics. Among his collaborators were the composers Karl Hoschna, Rudolf Friml, Jerome Kern, Louis Hirsch, Herbert Stothart, Vincent Youmans and Sigmund Romberg, and the lyricists Oscar Hammerstein, Irving Caesar, Frank Mandel, and John Murray Anderson. Harbach's most well-known works include the songs Love Nest, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Indian Love Call, One Alone, Rose Marie, The Night Was Made For Love, and the plays THE FIREFLY, ROBERTA, ROSE MARIE, NO, NO, NANETTE, The DESERT SONG and THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE. Harbach was a charter member of The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). He was married to Ella Smith Dougall, with whom he had two sons, Robert and William.

From the description of Otto Harbach papers, 1870-1990, (bulk 1895-1963). (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 144652377

Otto Harbach, librettist and lyricist, was born Otto Hauerbach in Salt Lake City.

Among his collaborators were the composers Karl Hoschna, Rudolf Friml, Jerome Kern, Louis Hirsch, Herbert Stothart, Vincent Youmans and Sigmund Romberg, and the lyricists Oscar Hammerstein, Irving Caesar, Frank Mandel and John Murray Anderson. His most well-known works include the songs Love Nest, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Indian Love Call, One Alone, Rose Marie, The Night Was Made for Love, and the musicals THE FIREFLY, ROBERTA, ROSE MARIE, NO, NO, NANETTE, THE DESERT SONG and THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE. Harbach was married to Ella Smith Dougall, with whom he had two sons, Robert and William.

From the description of Otto Harbach papers, scores and sound recordings, 1870-1990. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122580784

Otto Harbach, author, librettist and lyricist, was born in Salt Lake City on August 18, 1873. His parents, Adolph Julius Hauerbach and Hansena Olsen, were Danes who had converted to Mormonism and migrated to the United States in 1863 (Harbach changed the spelling of his name in 1917). Encouraged by his family, Harbach headed east to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. There he distinguished himself, becoming first the oratorical champion of the college, and then winning the state championship in 1895 in a contest for which William Jennings Bryan was one of the judges. After graduation Harbach accepted a professorship in English at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. In 1901 he arrived in New York to work on a Ph.D. at Columbia, but a lack of funds soon led him to work as a journalist and later as an advertising copywriter.

During his years in New York, Harbach began to think of Broadway as a career and while office work occupied his days, his free time was spent working with Karl Hoschna, his first collaborator, trying to create and sell a musical. It wasn't until 1908, after the success of Three Twins for which Hoschna was the composer, that Harbach quit his job and devoted himself to writing. Over the course of his career Harbach had more than 50 works produced on Broadway. He was also well-known as a "script doctor", rewriting and revising plays for various producers. Harbach's own works were for the most part musicals for which he provided both the book and the lyrics. His contributions were not only memorable lyrics and credible plots, but also a new style of musical, where the songs were an integral part of the story. Among his collaborators were the composers Karl Hoschna, Rudolf Friml, Jerome Kern, Louis Hirsch, Herbert Stothart, Vincent Youmans and Sigmund Romberg, and the lyricists Oscar Hammerstein, Irving Caesar, Frank Mandel, and John Murray Anderson. Harbach's most well-known works include the songs Love Nest, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Indian Love Call, One Alone, Rose Marie, The Night Was Made for Love, and the plays The Firefly, Roberta, Rose Marie, No, No, Nanette, Desert Song, Kid Boots, The Song of the Flame and The Cat and the Fiddle . Harbach also wrote several plays that were not musicals including Up in Mabel's Room and The Silent Witness .

Harbach worked with major Broadway figures of his day on a creative basis, and he also worked with them to enhance the profession as a whole through the American Society of Composer's Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Joining as a charter member in 1914, he worked with ASCAP for more than 40 years as a director, and served as president from 1950-1953. By all accounts his colleagues not only admired his work, but respected the man. Socially Harbach belonged to the Lambs, the Friars and the Dutch Treat Club, but much of his time was spent with his family at their home in Mamaroneck, where Harbach also did much of his work.

Harbach was married to Ella Smith Dougall in Salt Lake City in 1918. Together they had two sons, Robert and William. The family also included Ella's children from her previous marriage, Bernard and Virginia Dougall. Otto Harbach died in New York in 1963.

From the guide to the Otto Harbach Papers, 1870-1990, 1895-1963, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Theater--United States
  • Musicals--Librettos
  • Drama (American)
  • Composers
  • Dramatists--Interviews
  • Motion pictures and music
  • Songs, American
  • Musical theater
  • Theater
  • Composers--Interviews
  • Musicals
  • Musical theater--United States
  • Popular music
  • Prompt-book

Occupations:

  • Librettists
  • Lyricists

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)