Lester Cowan and Ann Ronell Trial of Billie Holiday Collection

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Lester Cowan (1907-1990), originally from Mansfield, Ohio, was an independent producer of motion picture films in the 1930s and 40s. He started his career by leaving his studies at Stanford University and migrating to Hollywood in the late 1920s. In 1928, he was hired by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where he wrote a book on the advent of talkies and helped start the annual Academy Awards. In 1929, he started a lecture series on film studies at the University of Southern California. He also organized the film industry's research council, which was responsible for developing technical standards and audience research. Films he produced include "You Can't Cheat On Me" (1939), "My Little Chickadee" (1940), "Ladies in Retirement" (1941), "Commandos Strike At Dawn" (1942), "Tomorrow the World" (1944) and "The Story of G.I. Joe" (1945). He collaborated on the proposal for "The Trial of Billie Holiday" with his wife, Ann Ronell.

Ann Rosenblatt Ronell (1908-1993), a composer of both classical works and music for motion pictures, was born in Omaha, Nebraska. During her studies at Radcliffe College, she met George Gershwin, who subsequently gave her a job as a rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows. She also took up teaching, vocal coaching and songwriting. Ronell became one of the few composers of her day to be adept at writing both lyrics and music. After writing a few successful songs in the 1930s ("Baby's Birthday Party" and "Willow Weep for Me"), she started composing music for films. Her collaboration with composer Frank Churchill resulted in the first Disney hit song, "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?" (from The Three Little Pigs, 1933). Her work as music director for "The Story of G.I. Joe" (1945) won her two Oscar nominations. She also composed a Broadway musical ("Count Me In," 1942) as well writing opera lyrics and music for ballet. The Cowan and Ronell "Trial of Billie Holiday" Collection suggests that she created the script for this film, and provides evidence of her participation in the planning of it.

From the guide to the Lester Cowan and Ann Ronell "Trial of Billie Holiday" Collection, 1957-1988, 1957-1988, (Special Collections in Performing Arts)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lester Cowan and Ann Ronell "Trial of Billie Holiday" collection, 1957-1988 University of Maryland (College Park, Md.). Libraries
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
correspondedWith Cowan, Lester person
associatedWith Holiday, Billie, 1915-1959 person
correspondedWith Ronell, Ann person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Motion picture producers and directors--United States

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