Jurmann, Walter, 1903-1971

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Jurmann was born in Vienna, Austria, Oct. 12, 1903; began working with lyricist, Fritz Rotter in Semmering; moved to Berlin (1927) and worked as a pianist at the Eden hotel; that same year he and Rotter had their first collaborative effort with Was weisst denn Du, wie ich verliebt bin; started his prolific collaboration with Polish composer, Bronislaw Kaper (1931) sometimes using the pseudonyms, Bob Hander or Henders, Erich Walter Schmidt, and Caspar Paolo; Jurmann and Kaper became involved with the German film industry and went to Paris (1933) to write for a number of French films and revues; published mostly with the Parisian firm, Édition Coda sometimes under the pseudonym Pierre Candell; went to Hollywood at the request of Louis B. Mayer and produced songs for motion pictures such as, A night at the opera, Mutiny on the bounty, Escapade, and San Francisco; dissolved his collaboration with Kaper (1938); as of the early 1940s he was a freelance composer and eventually retired from professional song-composing; in addition to his other work, Jurmann composed the stage works, Parade de France and Windy city; he served as chairman of the American Revue Theater which produced the Duke Ellington show (1941); in the last years of his life he wrote songs for his second wife and for the cities of San Antonio, Houston, and Los Angeles; died in Budapest, Hungary, June 17, 1971.

From the description of Collection, 1910-1988. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 40161028


The composer Walter Jurmann (born in Vienna, Austria, 12 October 1903; died in Budapest, Hungary, 17 June 1971), was part of the great wave of talented European emigres who played so significant a role in shaping and to some extent redirecting American culture after 1933. In Jurmann's case, emigration was fortuitous rather than, as for so many, either planned or forced. After completing his schooling, love for music and his melodic gifts led him to an engagement as a professional piano player in a fashionable spa hotel in the resort town of Semmering, south of Vienna. Here he met Fritz Rotter, already a successful lyricist, who suggested they work together. In 1927 Jurmann moved to Berlin, unquestionably the most important cultural center in the German-speaking world during those interwar years, and became a pianist in the famous Eden Hotel. Rotter's and Jurmann's first collaborative effort from that year, "Was weißt denn Du, wie ich verliebt bin", was an immediate hit song, the first of many. In 1931 Rotter introduced Jurmann to the Polish composer Bronislaw Kaper (1902-1983), who had come to Berlin in 1926. Kaper had attended both the Warsaw and Vienna Conservatories, as well as the Vienna University, and in the ensuing collaboration with Jurmann he became the one to arrange and orchestrate the other's melodies. From the start the Jurmann/Kaper team was a successful and extremely productive one, further cemented by friendship. In fact, their output was so prolific as to lead their publishers to begin issuing a certain amount of the music under pseudonyms; of these Bob Handers (variously spelled also as Henders), Erich Walter Schmidt and Caspar Paolo have been ascertained from the Berlin years.

The singers who helped disseminate Jurmann/Kaper songs included Richard Tauber, Jan Kiepura, Greta Keller, Dajos Béla, Benjamino Gigli and the well-known singing group Comedian Harmonists. With the advent of the sound film, Jurmann and Kaper became involved with the German film industry, and as a consequence of their association with several German-French and Austrian-French film co-productions (Hochzeitsreise zu dritt/Voyage de noces, 1932, Ein Lied fuür Dich/Tout pour l'amour, 1933, among others) they went to Paris in 1933. Here they wrote for a number of French films as well as revues, publishing mostly with the Parisian firm Edition Coda (during this time they seem occasionally to have used the name Pierre Candell). In 1934 Louis B. Mayer of MGM heard of Jurmann and Kaper and persuaded the team to come to Hollywood.

Their work there -- in 1935 songs for "A Night at the Opera", "The Mutiny on the Bounty", "Escapade" and one year later the big hit song "San Francisco", in the film of the same name starring Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy -- quickly won acclaim. However, as the film industry in Hollywood gradually changed and ever fewer films required specially composed "theme" songs, Jurmann began to loosen his ties to MGM, and in 1938 the Jurmann/Kaper collaboration was amicably dissolved. As of the early 1940s Jurmann turned to freelance composing and eventually retired from professional song-composing altogether. During the last years of his life, as the Collection shows, there was a renewed vigorous output of songs, including many love songs for his second wife, whom he married in 1953, as well as songs written specifically for the cities San Antonio, Houston and Los Angeles.

From the guide to the Walter Jurmann Collection, 1910-1988, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Performing Arts Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Jurmann, Walter, 1903-1971. Windy city; a musical play, by Philip Yordan, with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Johnny Green additional papers, 1923-1989. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Music -- San Antonio (Song). Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library
creatorOf Walter Jurmann Collection, 1910-1988 University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Performing Arts Special Collections.
creatorOf Jurmann, Walter, 1903-1971. Collection, 1910-1988. University of California, Los Angeles
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Green, Johnny, 1908-1989 person
associatedWith Webster, Paul Francis. person
associatedWith Yordan, Philip. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Musical comedies--Librettos. Windy city
Musical shows
Composers--Archival resources
Popular music
Motion picture music
Songs with piano


Birth 1903-10-12

Death 1971-06-24




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