Gershwin, George, 1898-1937

Alternative names
Birth 1898-09-26
Death 1937-07-11
Swedish, English

Biographical notes:

George Gershwin (1898-1973) was an American pianist and composer well-known for his collaborations with older brother Ira Gershwin. George Gershwin's work included musical theater, opera, most notably Porgy and Bess, and other classical compositions.

From the guide to the George Gershwin sheet music, 1918-1946., (Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

George Gershwin, composer. Ira Gershwin, lyricist. Ken Ludwig, librettist.

From the description of Crazy for you : the touching story of a man, a woman and the same man: typescript, 1992. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 144652472

George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist.

From the description of George Gershwin letters to Isaac Goldberg, 1929-1937. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 698957826

George Gershwin, composer. Ira Gershwin, lyricist. George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, book.

From the description of Of thee I sing : typescript, 2004. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 79468014

Robert Russell Bennett was an American composer, orchestrator and conductor.

From the guide to the Robert Russell Bennett papers, 1911-1981, (Music Library)

George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Isaac Goldberg (1887-1938) was an American journalist, author, critic, translator, and editor. Goldberg received an AB from Harvard College in 1910, AM in 1911, and a PhD in 1912. He wrote articles and a biography on George Gershwin.

From the guide to the George Gershwin letters to Isaac Goldberg, 1929 August 22 - 1931 July 30., (Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

George Gershwin, composer. Ira Gershwin, lyricist. George S. Kaufman, librettist. David Ives, adaptor.

From the description of Strike up the band: typescript, 1998. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122682473

George Gershwin, composer.

From the description of Of the[e] I sing: typescript, n.d. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122485726

Composer George Gershwin (1898-1937) and his lyricist brother Ira (1896-1983) wrote some of the most significant American popular songs of the first half of the twentieth century. Working with novelist and poet DuBose Heyward, they created the great American opera Porgy and Bess. Additionally, George Gershwin composed several singularly American concert works, including An American in Paris and Rhapsody in blue, and both brothers produced many distinguished songs working with other collaborators.

From the description of George and Ira Gershwin collection, 1895-2008 (bulk 1920-1960). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 634760017

American composer.

From the description of Opening Act I .... (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270563360

Biographical Note

  • 1872?: Moishe Gershovitz (later, Morris Gershovitz, then Gershvin, and finally, Gershwin) born in St. Petersburg, Russia. He immigrates to New York in the early 1890s. George will describe him as "a very easy-going, humorous philosopher who takes things as they come."
  • 1875 or 1876: Rosa (later, Rose) Bruskin (or Brushkin) born in St. Petersburg, Russia. She immigrates to New York with parents Gershon and Mariaska (later, Mary) Dechinik Bruskin and younger siblings Bernard "Barney" and Katiel "Kate" in the early 1890s. George will describe her as "nervous, ambitious, and purposeful" and "never the doting type."
  • 1895, July 21: Morris Gershovitz and Rosa Bruskin are married in New York.
  • 1896, Dec. 6: Ira Gershwin is born Israel Gershovitz in Manhattan's Lower East Side. He is known as "Izzy" or "Iz," mistakenly believing (until applying for a passport in 1928) that his given name is Isidore (or Isadore). Ira follows his father's use of the surname Gershvin until 1917, when he adopts Gershwin.
  • 1898, Jan. 15: Morris and Rosa Gershvin become naturalized U.S. citizens.
  • 1898, Sept. 26: George Gershwin is born Jacob Gershwine in Brooklyn, New York. (Gershwine is probably an alternate spelling of Gershvin and not a change of the family name; in the 1890s in the New York's Russian-Jewish immigrant communities both spellings would be pronounced "Gershvin.") By 1913, George is using the name Gershwin, which the entire family eventually adopts. His family sometimes calls him Georgie, although there is scant evidence that he is ever called Jacob.
  • 1900, Mar. 14: Arthur, the third Gershwin sibling, is born.
  • 1900, Oct. 3: Leonore "Lee" Strunsky is born into a Russian-Jewish family in San Francisco. Lee and her parents, Albert and Mascha Strunsky, and her older sister, Emily, move to New York in 1906, following the famous earthquake. Lee’s brother, English, is born in New York in 1908. Emily will later become one of George’s dearest friends.
  • 1906, Dec. 6: Frances (known as "Frankie"), the youngest Gershwin child and only daughter, is born.
  • Early 1900s: Ira's emerging personality is quiet and studious. He becomes an avid reader and also develops an interest in theater (moving pictures as well as stage shows). George is more rambunctious and misbehaves frequently. He describes his first awareness of music as hearing Rubinstein's Melody in F at a penny arcade in Harlem (ca. 1904), and he credits a performance of Dvořák's Humoresque (ca. 1908) by schoolmate-violinist Maxie Rosenzweig (later, Max Rosen) as having "opened the world of music" to him.
  • Circa 1910: The family acquires a piano, with the expectation that Ira will continue piano lessons begun a short time before under the tutelage of Rose's sister, Kate Wolpin. George surprises his family by demonstrating keyboard ability, acquired by experimenting on the player piano at the home of a friend. George begins piano lessons, while the plans for Ira's continued study are discarded. The details of George's early piano instruction remain uncertain and accounts disagree. George's first lessons may have been with an unnamed neighborhood teacher for a short time, then with a Mrs. Louis Greene, and followed by a period under a Hungarian band leader and operetta conductor named Von Zerly.
  • 1910 - 1914 : Ira attends Townsend Harris Hall high school. In 1913, he and Isadore Hochberg (later, lyricist E. Y. "Yip" Harburg) write the "Much Ado" column for the school's literary magazine, the Academic Herald. In October 1913, Ira is listed as one of the publication's four art editors.
  • 1912: George enters the High School of Commerce.
  • 1912 - 1913 : George begins attending concerts by the likes of Leopold Godowsky, Josef Lhévinne, Leo Ornstein, and Efrem Zimbalist during his freshman year in high school.
  • Circa 1913 - 1918 : George's first important piano teacher is Charles Hambitzer, who George will describe as "the first great musical influence in my life." Lessons probably begin in early 1913 and continue until Hambitzer's death in 1918, although how frequently, particularly in the later years, is not certain.
  • Circa 1913: George composes his earliest known songs, to lyrics by Leonard Praskins: Ragging the Traumerei and Since I Found You (now lost). Sources disagree as to which song was first, although Ragging the Traumerei is widely accepted as George's earliest surviving composition.
  • 1914 - 1916 : Ira attends the City College of New York, majoring in English. In November 1915 he and Yip Harburg begin writing a column for The Campus, the City College weekly journal titled, "Gargoyle Gargles," signed by "Yip and Gersh."
  • 1914, Mar. 21: George makes his first documented appearance as a pianist on a concert program presented by the Finley Club, the literary society of the City College of New York, performing an original tango and accompanying a singer.
  • 1914 May: Fifteen-year-old George, already skilled at sight-reading and transposing, leaves the High School of Commerce to become a piano pounder at Jerome H. Remick and Company, at a salary of $15 per week.
  • 1914, Sept. 26: Ira's first publication in a commercial newspaper, the New York Mail, is credited to "Gersh."
  • Late 1915: George begins making piano rolls for the Standard Music Roll Co. From 1915 until 1925 or 1926, he makes some 140 piano rolls, more than half of them in 1916 and 1917. Initially, he records the works of other composers, but after 1919 he concentrates chiefly on his own music, and exclusively so after 1921.
  • 1915 or 1917, - 1921 or 1923 : George studies music theory with Edward Kilenyi, Sr. Again, sources disagree as to the precise dates.
  • 1916 - 1918 : Ira works at his father’s Turkish baths and at B. Altman’s department store, taking occasional evening classes at City College. He attends numerous Vaudeville shows and moving pictures, and he publishes some light verse.
  • 1916: Piano rag Rialto Ripples, written by George and collaborator Will Donaldson, is George's first complete surviving instrumental piece, and his earliest repertoire work.
  • 1916 May: George's first published song, When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don’t Want 'Em (lyric by Murray Roth), earns a total royalty of $5.00.
  • 1916 June: George's second published song (and his first to be sung in a Broadway show) is Making of a Girl (lyric by Harold Atteridge) in The Passing Show of 1916 at the Winter Garden.
  • 1917, Mar. 17: George quits his job as a song plugger at Remick's, wishing to associate himself more closely to what he describes as "production music, the kind Jerome Kern was writing."
  • 1917, May 23: Ira's first known song lyric, You May Throw All the Rice You Desire, is published in the New York Evening Sun; Ira is credited as I. B. Gershwin.
  • 1917 July: George becomes rehearsal pianist for Miss 1917. During the next eighteen months or more, he accompanies rehearsals for a number of shows, acquainting himself with the theater and many of its important figures.
  • Late 1917: George is pit pianist for several weeks at the Cocoanut Grove Roof of the Century Theatre, for an all-Spanish review with music of Quinito Valverde.
  • 1917 Nov.: Ira begins a several-month stint as an occasional Vaudeville reviewer for the New York Clipper.
  • 1917 Dec.: Ira writes his first lyrics to melodies of George's. His diary names one such lyric, You Are Not the Girl (now lost). Later in the month, the diary mentions "a couple" of songs written with George, but the titles are not given.
  • 1918 Feb.: George joins the music publishing firm T. B. Harms Co. as a staff composer. George, Ira, and Lou Paley collaborate on A Beautiful Bird, the earliest surviving George-and-Ira song. Only the melody and lyric are preserved, however.
  • 1918 Feb.: The Shrine, a brief "filler" piece and Ira's first publication for which he is paid, appears in The Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness. Ira is credited as Bruskin Gershwin; he earns $1.00.
  • 1918 Sept.: Some Wonderful Sort of Someone (lyric by Schuyler Greene) becomes the first of George's songs published by T. B. Harms. The following month it is heard in Ladies First at the Broadhurst Theatre, along with The Real American Folk Song (Is a Rag), the first George-and-Ira song performed in a Broadway show, and the earliest George-and-Ira song to survive as a complete piano-vocal score.
  • 1918, Dec. 9: The first musical to feature George's songs, Half Past Eight (three songs with lyrics by Edward B. Perkins, and one by Ira), closes out of town at the Empire Theatre in Syracuse, New York, after only one week and a scathing review in Variety.
  • 1919: George continues writing songs that he hopes may be interpolated into Broadway musicals. I Was So Young (You Were So Beautiful) (lyric by Irving Caesar and Al Bryan) was one of two songs by George included in Good Morning, Judge at the Shubert Theatre. It is the first of George's songs to achieve some popularity.
  • 1919, May 26: La-La-Lucille! (lyrics by Arthur J. Jackson and B. G. DeSylva) opens at the Henry Miller Theatre in New York. George's first book musical and his first full-scale Broadway production, the show is a moderate success, running for 104 performances.
  • 1919 Fall?: George and lyricist Irving Caesar write Swanee in an effort to capitalize on the current one-step rage, Hindustan. The song is included in the Capitol Revue at New York’s new 5,300-seat Capitol Theatre, but it attracts little notice. In December, Al Jolson hears it at a party and decides to interpolate it in his current hit show, Sinbad. The song then becomes an immediate success and George's first international hit.
  • 1920, Aug. 31: Waiting for the Sun to Come Out, the first published George-and-Ira song, is introduced in The Sweetheart Shop at New York’s Knickerbocker Theatre. The sheet music credits Ira as "Arthur Francis," a name that Ira would use for the next 3-1/2 years. Ira devised the pseudonym (combining the names of his younger brother and sister) in an effort to avoid the accusation of attempting to trade on his better-known brother’s reputation.
  • 1921, May 3: Two Little Girls in Blue (music by Vincent Youmans and Paul Lannin) opens at the George M. Cohan Theatre. It is Ira’s first successful Broadway show, running for 135 performances.
  • 1921 Summer: In his continuing desire to increase his musical training, George takes summer courses at Columbia University: Nineteenth-Century Romanticism in Music, and Elementary Orchestration, taught by music department head Rossetter G. Cole.
  • 1922, Aug. 28: Blue Monday, a one-act opera with lyrics by B. G. DeSylva, receives its first performance as part of George White's Scandals of 1922 at New York’s Globe Theatre. Sometimes described as George's first serious work and the precursor to Porgy and Bess, it is deemed out of keeping with the rest of the revue, and it is cut after only one performance.
  • 1923 Jan.: George studies musical form and composition with arch-traditionalist Rubin Goldmark. Most sources indicate that the course of study lasted for only three lessons.
  • 1923, Apr. 3: The Rainbow (lyrics by Clifford Grey) opens at London’s Empire Theatre. George makes his first trip to Europe to supervise the production.
  • 1923, Nov. 1: George makes his concert hall debut accompanying mezzo-soprano Eva Gauthier in a "Recital of Ancient and Modern Music for the Voice." George accompanies her in a set of American songs, including some of his own and, it is said, steals the show. The concert (or a version of it) was later repeated in Boston, London, and Derby, Connecticut.
  • 1924, Feb. 12: Rhapsody in Blue receives its first performance at New York's Aeolian Hall by Paul Whiteman's Palais Royal Orchestra, with Whiteman conducting and George as piano soloist. The not-yet-begun work is announced as a "jazz concerto" in the January 4 New York Tribune. George completes his score in less than three weeks; it is then orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. Tentatively titled American Rhapsody, it is retitled Rhapsody in Blue at Ira's suggestion. It is an immediate popular triumph, although critics are somewhat less enthusiastic. The performance is repeated on March 7 and at Carnegie Hall on April 21. George records the work for the Victor label (his first phonograph recording) with Whiteman and his orchestra.
  • 1924 May: Ira drops the pseudonym Arthur Francis. He chooses the name Ira, wanting to keep his initial I, and feeling that Isidore and Irving were too common. Imagine Me Without My You (music by Lewis Gensler), sung in Top Hole at New York's Fulton Theatre, becomes the first published song with lyrics attributed to "Ira" Gershwin (in this instance, Ira B. Gershwin).
  • 1924, Sept. 3: Be Yourself (music by Lewis Gensler and Milton Schwarzwald) opens at the Sam H. Harris Theatre in New York. It becomes the first complete Broadway musical with lyrics by "Ira Gershwin," enjoying a moderately successful run of 93 performances.
  • 1924, Sept. 11: Primrose (lyrics by Ira and Desmond Carter) opens at London's Winter Garden. It runs for 255 performances and becomes the Gershwins' first big London success, as well as their first show to be printed as a complete piano-vocal score.
  • 1924, Dec. 1: Lady, Be Good!, starring the brother-and-sister team of Fred and Adele Astaire, opens at New York's Liberty Theatre. It is the first complete George-and-Ira show on Broadway and its successful run of 330 performances is by far the Gershwins' longest to date.
  • 1925, Dec. 3: Concerto in F, George's first truly symphonic work, is given its premiere performance at Carnegie Hall by the New York Symphony Society (which had commissioned the work), conductor Walter Damrosch, and George as piano soloist. George scores the work himself, as he will score all of his subsequent orchestral works, including Porgy and Bess.
  • 1926 - 1928 : George records three preludes, the "Andantino" section of Rhapsody in Blue for piano solo, and fifteen show tunes. He will make few recordings after 1928, although radio broadcasts preserved from the 1930s give evidence of the development of his piano playing in later years.
  • 1926, Apr. 14: The London production of Lady, Be Good! opens at the Empire Theatre. Hugely successful, its London run of 326 performances was followed by a tour of England, Scotland, and Wales. The genesis of An American in Paris can be traced to the period of George's trip to London for the production. After leaving England, George visits Paris and searches for the famed taxi horns later used for performances of An American in Paris.
  • 1926, Sept. 14: Ira marries Lee Strunsky in New York.
  • 1926 Oct.: George reads DuBose Heyward's novel Porgy, and he is impressed by the operatic possibilities of the story. Although he soon mentions the prospect to Heyward, it will be seven years before serious work on the opera begins.
  • 1926, Nov. 8: Oh, Kay! (earlier titles: Mayfair, Miss Mayfair, and Cheerio) starring Gertrude Lawrence opens in New York at the Imperial Theatre. It receives enthusiastic reviews for the score as well as for Lawrence’s performance and runs for 256 performances.
  • 1926, Dec. 4: George participates in a so-called Futurist concert with the somewhat exotic contralto Marguerite D'Alvarez at New York's Hotel Roosevelt. George plays a set of preludes, some or all of which he plays later in Buffalo and Boston, this later giving rise to considerable scholarly discussion of precisely how many preludes were written and which of the surviving scores and sketches (including and in addition to the three published preludes) might represent those works.
  • 1927 Apr.: George makes a second Victor recording of Rhapsody in Blue, again with the Whiteman Orchestra, but with Nathaniel Shilkret conducting. This "new" electrical recording uses the recently-developed microphone, as opposed to the acoustic horn technology used for George's first recording of the work.
  • 1927, July 23: George makes the first of six appearances with the New York Philharmonic at summer concerts at Lewisohn Stadium, a sports arena on the campus of the City University of New York. This performance, with George as soloist in both Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F, attracts a record-breaking audience of some 15,000 people (the previous record was held by a concert featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony!).
  • 1927, Aug. 27: The "1927 version" of Strike Up the Band begins its out-of-town tryouts at the Broadway Theatre in Long Branch, New Jersey. Ten days later, it moves to the Shubert in Philadelphia where it closes after two weeks. Although the critics are enthusiastic, the show's satire fails to attract audiences. The show would be revised somewhat successfully in 1930.
  • 1927, Oct. 11: The out-of-town tryouts begin for Smarty (eventually retitled Funny Face), featuring Fred and Adele Astaire, who have just returned from the London run of Lady, Be Good! Although it eventually produces such hits as He Loves and She Loves, 'S Wonderful, and How Long Has This Been Going On (discarded), it goes through extensive revisions during its six weeks in Philadelphia, Washington, Atlantic City, and Wilmington before finally opening at New York's Alvin Theatre on November 22, for a successful run of 244 performances.
  • 1928, Mar. 11: George, Ira, Lee, and Frankie sail for a vacation in Europe; the New York Times had announced that George would work on a new composition during the visit. This is Ira’s first trip abroad, and George’s fifth and last. The Gershwins' intinerary includes London, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. The announced "new work" would be An American in Paris
  • 1928, May 10: At Elsa Maxwell's instigation, Frankie sings a set of her brothers' songs as part of a revue that Cole Porter is preparing for the night club, Les Ambassadeurs. George accompanies her first-night performance and Frankie continues on the program for two weeks.
  • 1928, Dec. 13: An American in Paris is given its premiere performance at Carnegie Hall by the Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York, conducted by Walter Damrosch. The work is an immediate popular success.
  • 1929 Feb.: The complete recording of An American in Paris is made by RCA Victor, with Nathaniel Shilkret conducting. This is the first full-scale recording of a work by George, who plays the celesta part for the recording and, it is often said, misses one cue because of his excitement.
  • 1929, July 2: Show Girl opens at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. The show stars Ruby Keeler Jolson and generates considerable press and excitement, but runs for only 111 performances.
  • 1929, Aug. 26: George makes his conducting debut at Lewisohn Stadium in An American in Paris with the New York Philharmonic.
  • 1929, Nov. 1: George conducts the Manhattan Symphony at the Mecca Auditorium in An American in Paris. The New York Times gives him an excellent review.
  • 1929, Dec. 25: The "1930 version" of Strike Up the Band opens its out-of-town tryout at Boston's Shubert Theatre, with a new libretto and half of the original score rewritten. George adopts the practice of conducting the show's out-of-town and New York openings (at the Times Square Theatre on Janueary 14, 1930), a practice he will continue for the rest of his life.
  • 1930, Oct. 14: Girl Crazy, with a score boasting such classics as Embraceable You, But Not for Me, and I Got Rhythm opens at New York's Alvin Theatre and runs for 272 performances. This show is widely credited as establishing the stardom of both Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers.
  • 1930, Nov. 5: George, Ira, and Lee leave New York by train for California, where George and Ira write the score for Delicious, a film produced by the Fox Film Corp. and released the following year. The Gershwins write six songs, the so-called Dream Sequence, and George's Manhattan Rhapsody (later revised as his Second Rhapsody). The film, starring Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, and El Brendel, promises to be a hit in the new medium of musical films, but it fails to meet expectations.
  • 1931, Dec. 29: Of Thee I Sing opens at the Music Box Theatre in New York. It will run for 441 performances, making it the longest-running of any original Gershwin musical. It is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the first musical to be so honored. However, the citation and the $1,000 prize go to George S. Kaufman, Morrie Rysking, and Ira, the authors of the book and lyrics. The composer of the music is not included among the honorees.
  • 1932, Jan. 29: George's Second Rhapsody (reworked from the Manhattan Rhapsody written for the film Delicious) receives its premiere performance by the Boston Symphony, conductor Serge Kousssevitzky, and George as piano soloist. The same forces give the work's first New York performance at Carnegie Hall on February 5.
  • 1932, May 14: Morris Gershwin dies in New York.
  • 1932, Aug. 16: The first performance of Rumba takes place at Lewisohn Stadium, by the New York Philharmonic and conductor Albert Coates. The work is derived from George's experiences on vacation in Cuba in February 1932. It is soon renamed Cuban Overture.
  • 1932: George Gershwin's Songbook is published, containing his piano transcriptions of eighteen of his songs. A signed limited edition is issued by Random House in May, followed in September by the less-fancy edition from Simon and Schuster.
  • 1933, Jan. 20: Pardon My English opens at New York's Majestic Theatre, but closes after only 46 performances.
  • 1933, Oct. 21: Let 'Em Eat Cake opens at New York's Imperial Theatre. Although it is widely considered to be the most sophisticated and fully developed of the Gershwin political musicals, and despite an enthusiastic early box office, it was not a popular success, running for only 90 performances.
  • 1933 Nov.: George begins work on the score for Porgy and Bess after DuBose Heyward sends him the draft libretto for the first scenes. Heyward sends additional scenes early in 1934.
  • 1934, Jan. 14: "I Got Rhythm" Variations receives its first performance at Boston's Symphony Hall by the Leo Reisman Symphonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Previn with George as piano soloist. This concert inaugurates a month-long 28-city concert tour which will be an artistic success, but a financial failure.
  • 1934, Feb. 19: George begins a radio show, Music by Gershwin, with two fifteen-minute broadcasts each week from February through May and one half-hour show each week from September through December.
  • 1934, Aug. 27: Life Begins at 8:40 (music by Harold Arlen) opens at the Winter Garden in New York. The show runs for 237 performances.
  • 1935: Work continues on Porgy and Bess. After approximately twenty months (eleven months composing the opera and nine months orchestrating it), work is completed in early September. Rehearsals begin on August 26. With Todd Duncan and Anne Wiggins Brown in the title roles, the Boston tryout opens at the Colonial Theatre on September 30, and the New York opening, at the Alvin Theatre, is on October 10. The production receives thunderous applause but mixed reviews. Its New York run of 124 performances is followed by a short tour. It remains an aesthetic triumph, but the initial production is a financial disappointment.
  • 1936, July 9 - 10 : George's final New York performances take place at Lewisohn Stadium with Alexander Smallens conducting a program that includes Rhapsody in Blue and Concerto in F (both with George as piano soloist) and selections from Porgy and Bess.
  • 1936, Jan. 30: Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 (music by Vernon Duke) opens at the Winter Garden in New York, for an initial run of 115 performances, followed by 112 performances of the second, revised edition.
  • 1936, Aug. 10: George, Ira, and Lee fly to Los Angeles, where George and Ira will write the scores for three films. Although it may not have been their intention at the time, all three will live in California for the remainder of their lives.
  • 1936, Sept. 19: George, Ira, and Lee give what George describes as their first "big Hollywood party" with a guest list including "about a hundred of the Hollywood notables." The occasion was "the unveiling of Moss Hart's new teeth ... he having had all sorts of things done to his teeth with porcelain."
  • 1937, Feb. 10 - 11 : George makes his last concert performances as piano soloist in an all-Gershwin program with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with Alexander Smallens conducting.
  • 1937 May: Shall We Dance, the brothers' first RKO film and the seventh Astaire-Rogers musical, is released.
  • 1937, July 11: George Gershwin dies following surgery to remove a brain tumor in Los Angeles, aged 38.
  • 1937 Nov.: A Damsel in Distress, the brothers' second RKO film, starring Fred Astaire and George Burns and Gracie Allen, is released.
  • 1938 Feb.: The Goldwyn Follies, the brothers' final film, is released. It includes four songs by George and Ira. Love Is Here to Stay is the last song that they wrote together.
  • Early 1940: Moss Hart approaches Ira about writing lyrics for a show to be called I Am Listening and later titled Lady in the Dark. This will be Ira's first major project following George's death nearly three years earlier.
  • 1941, Jan. 23: Lady in the Dark opens at the Alvin Theatre, the first of three Ira Gershwin-Kurt Weill shows. It runs for 467 performances, making it Ira's longest running original musical, and slightly exceeding the run of George's longest running show, Of Thee I Sing.
  • 1943 Oct.: The North Star (with music by Aaron Copland, produced by RKO) is released. The film is not widely-embraced in the U.S., but it does find some success in Russia, perhaps because of Russian curiosity about American depictions of Russians.
  • 1944 Apr.: Cover Girl (with music by Jerome Kern, produced by Columbia Pictures) is released. Ira and Kern write seven songs for the film, of which Long Ago (and Far Away) becomes Ira’s biggest commercial hit in a single year.
  • 1945 Sept.: Rhapsody in Blue (produced by Warner Brothers and directed by Jesse Lasky), an inaccurate and highly romantic film biography of George, is released.
  • 1945 May: Where Do We Go From Here? (with music by Kurt Weill, produced by 20th Century Fox) is released to great critical praise. Its 12-minute opera bouffe, titled The Nina, The Pinta, and the Santa Maria, is said to be the longest non-dancing musical number ever written for a film.
  • 1945, Mar. 22: The operetta, The Firebrand of Florence, opens its brief run of 43 performances at New York's Alvin Theatre. Its lyrics were so integral to the plot that Ira shares billing for the libretto.
  • 1946, Nov. 4: Park Avenue opens at the Shubert Theatre in New York. Ira's last original Broadway score, it received generally negative critical reaction, and although Ira's lyrics got better notices, the show's run lasted for only 72 performances.
  • 1947 Jan.: The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (produced by 20th Century Fox, and starring Betty Grable) is released. The score is constructed from George's archives with assistance from Kay Swift, the first such posthumous project. Ira writes lyrics for eleven of George's melodies for the film (ten were used).
  • 1948, Dec. 15: Rose Gershwin dies in New York.
  • 1949 May: The Barkleys of Broadway (with music by Harry Warren, produced by MGM) is released. It is the tenth and final film starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, reuniting them after a ten-year hiatus since their previous appearance on-screen.
  • 1951 Nov.: An American in Paris (produced by MGM) is released. The film incorporates nine songs by George and Ira, as well as Concerto in F and An American in Paris. It stars Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, and Oscar Levant and eventually wins six Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 1951.
  • 1952, June 9: The Blevins Davis and Robert Breen production of Porgy and Bess, starring William Warfield and Leontyne Price in the title roles, opens in Dallas, beginning a four-year worldwide tour under the auspices of the U.S. State Department that would include performances in Europe, the Middle East, and Russia.
  • 1953: Ira begins organizing the vast archive of music manuscripts and lyric sheets at his home, preparing detailed descriptions of many of the items, and making frequent donations of these materials to the Library of Congress. This enterprise will continue for most of the remainder of his life.
  • 1954 Sept.: A Star is Born (with music by Harold Arlen, produced by Transconia-Warner Brothers and starring Judy Garland) is released. Garland's performance of The Man That Got Away is one of the most iconic scenes in the history of American cinematography.
  • 1954 Dec.: The Country Girl (with music by Harold Arlen, produced by Paramount Pictures, and starring Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby) is released. It is nominated for seven Academy Awards, and wins two. It is Ira’s last significant film project.
  • 1955: Ira begins work on his memoirs, titled Lyrics on Several Occasions, published in 1959 by Alfred A. Knopf.
  • 1966, June 4: Ira receives an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Maryland.
  • 1981, Nov. 20: Arthur Gershwin dies in New York, aged 81.
  • 1983, May 1: My One and Only, Ira's last project, opens at the St. James Theatre in New York, running for 762 performances.
  • 1983, Aug. 17: Ira Gershwin dies in Beverly Hills, aged 86.
  • 1985, Aug. 9: Congress approves awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to George and Ira for their "outstanding and invaluable contributions to American music, theatre and culture."
  • 1991, Aug. 20: Lee Gershwin dies in Beverly Hills, aged 90.
  • 1998: A Pulitzer Prize Special Citation is awarded posthumously to George for his "enduring and distinguished contributions to American music."
  • 1999, Jan. 18: Frances Gershwin Godowsky dies in New York, aged 92.

From the guide to the George and Ira Gershwin Collection, 1895-2008, (bulk 1920-1960), (Music Division Library of Congress)


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Ark ID:


  • Revues
  • Lyricists
  • Piano music (jazz)
  • Saxophone and harmonica with percussion ensemble--Scores and parts
  • Music--Manuscripts--Facsimiles
  • Musical revues, comedies, etc.--Vocal scores with piano
  • Political satire
  • Songs
  • Musicals--Excerpts--Vocal scores with piano
  • Musical revues, comedies, etc.--Scores
  • Revues--Excerpts--Scores
  • /Waltzes
  • Music
  • Composers--Autographs
  • Rhapsodies (Music)
  • Piano music
  • Musical theater
  • Operas, Arranged--Scores
  • Musicals
  • Lyricists--United States--Correspondence
  • Popular music--1961-1970
  • Orchestral music--Scores and parts
  • Orchestral music, Arranged--Scores and parts
  • Presidential candidates--Drama
  • Composers
  • Musicals--Vocal scores with piano
  • Popular music--1921-1930
  • Presidents--Drama
  • Music, American
  • Piano music (Blues)
  • Postcards
  • Composers--United States--Correspondence
  • Popular music--1911-1920
  • Political campaigns--Drama
  • Opera--Scores
  • Popular music--1931-1940
  • Lyricists--Correspondence
  • Composers--Correspondence
  • Blues (Music)
  • Musicals--Scores
  • Piano with orchestra--Scores
  • Lyricists--United States
  • Musical films
  • Composers--United States
  • Improvisation (Music)
  • Operas--Excerpts, Arranged--Scores and parts
  • Musicals--Excerpts--Scores and parts
  • Vice--Presidents--Drama
  • Composers--United States--Autographs
  • Orchestral music, Arranged--Parts
  • Marches (Piano)


  • Collector
  • Composers


  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Connecticut--East Haddam (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)