Ruby, Harry

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1895-01-27
Death 1974-02-23
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Songwriter; interviewee b.1895, d.1974.

From the description of Reminiscences of Harry Ruby : oral history, 1959. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122684149

American composer.

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1963 May 20. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849700

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Sept. 30. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849664

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Mar. 11. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849687

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Feb. 1. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849654

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1962 Jan. 15. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849704

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1959 Nov. 18. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849683

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Mar. 26. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849658

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Oct. 6. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849693

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1960 Feb. 23. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849677

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1964 Sept. 29. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849713

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1962 Feb. 15. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849716

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Jan. 27. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849718

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1964 July 11. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849710

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Sept. 8. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849673

From the description of Harry Ruby letter to Irving Brown, 1961 Mar. 5. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 722849648

Harry Ruby, Bert Kalmar, Grover Jones, screenwriters.

From the description of Duck soup : screenplay, 1933 Jan. 18. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 84364185

Born Harry Rubinstein on the lower East Side of New York City in 1895, Harry Ruby was the fourth of six children. His main childhood interest was baseball, a passion which remained with him throughout his life. As a teenager, Ruby discovered his natural aptitude for music when he learned to play the piano. For a very brief period after high school, at his father's insistence, Ruby apathetically studied business before abandoning his post graduate education. Seeking a more exciting path, Ruby found himself working as a song-plugger in stores, restaurants and cafes. He was soon playing variety houses, working the vaudeville circuit as a pianist for the Messenger Boys Trio and the Bootblack Trio.

During this period Ruby met and struck up a friendship with Bert Kalmar, a successful vaudevillian who also ran a music publishing company with Harry Puck in New York. Before long, Kalmar hired Ruby as a staff pianist, song plugging for his company. After a knee injury that ended his stage career, Kalmar returned to New York, devoting his career to songwriting. At the time Ruby was working as a composer, collaborating with a number of other lyricists. Soon Ruby and Kalmar began to collaborate, and by 1920 the two formed a permanent team.

Kalmar and Ruby wrote only individual songs for vaudeville, revues and records from 1920 to 1922. The following year brought their first libretto and musical score to Broadway, Helen of Troy, N.Y., which opened the door for other hit shows and their future work with the Marx Brothers. Throughout the rest of the decade they churned out a succession of hit songs and continued to write lyrics, as well as compose for and collaborate with others on musicals.

Kalmar and Ruby's last Broadway musical for nearly twelve years was Top Speed, which they co-produced and co-wrote with Guy Bolton. Running a mere 102 performances, Top Speed was a relative commercial failure. This disappointment coupled with the advent of talking pictures and musical films led to Kalmar and Ruby's decision to move to Hollywood in 1930.

In Hollywood, Kalmar and Ruby worked for RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) Pictures writing songs for the film comedy team Wheeler and Woolsey. In addition, the two wrote the screenplay and songs for the Amos 'n' Andy film Check and Double Check and made film adaptations of three of their musicals, all released in 1930: The Cuckoos (based on The Ramblers), Animals Crackers and Top Speed. A slow year, the team only scored one independent hit song in 1931, Nevertheless (I'm in Love with You). Things picked up in 1932 with the release of two films that Kalmar and Ruby composed and screenwrote: The King of Spain and Horse Feathers. The next three years afforded them a number of commercial successes, co-writing Duck Soup (1933), Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934), Kentucky Kernels (1934), The Circus Clown (1934) and Bright Lights (1935). The late 1930s were less active for Kalmar and Ruby, for which their screen and songwriting is noted for Walking on Air (1936), The Life of the Party (1937), Everybody Sing (1938), You're an Education (1938), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) and others.

In 1941, Kalmar and Ruby returned to Broadway, writing the music and co-writing the script for the musical comedy High Kickers. They continued to write hit songs for films and independent artists until Kalmar's death in 1947. Shortly before Bert Kalmar's death, the duo signed a contract with MGM to make a biopic based on the Kalmar and Ruby partnership. In 1950, the film Three Little Words was released, with Red Skelton as Ruby and Fred Astaire as Kalmar. The film breathed new life into the team's song catalog, leading to Top Ten revival hits, chart covers and new chart recordings.

Ruby continued to write, but was without a hit. In the 1950s, Ruby co-wrote his last screenplay, Lovely to Look At (1952), and wrote The Real McCoys television theme song (1957). The 1960s brought a renewed interest in the Marx Brothers, restoring luster to a good deal of Kalmar and Ruby songs. Towards the end of his life Ruby was frequently a guest on a number of television programs recalling his musical career and in 1970 was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Ruby spent his last years in Woodland Hills, California before passing away on February 23, 1974.

A handful of Kalmar and Ruby songs endure in popularity to this day, most notably Connie Francis' multimillion selling rendition of Who's Sorry Now and Louis Armstrong's recording of A Kiss to Build a Dream On (a revised version of Moonlight on the Meadow), which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1952, featured in the 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle, the 1998 computer game Fallout 2, and the 2005 film Lord of War.

From the guide to the Harry Ruby papers, 1917-2004, 1917-1974, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Loading...

Loading Relationships

Constellation Information

Permalink:
http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6tq7cms
Ark ID:
w6tq7cms
SNAC ID:
26208555

Subjects:

  • Vaudeville
  • Musicals--Scores and parts
  • Composers
  • Musicals
  • Composers--Correspondence
  • Lyricists
  • Motion picture industry
  • Screenwriters
  • Composers--Interviews
  • Popular music
  • Motion pictures
  • Motion pictures and music
  • Theater

Occupations:

  • Lyricists--United States
  • Composers

Places:

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