Ronell, Ann

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Ann Ronell was active in Hollywood as composer, musician, lyricist, and translator; as lyricist she collaborated with Weill.

Products of their collaboration include the scores for the films The river is blue (1937; Weill's score eventually replaced by Werner Janssen's) and One touch of Venus (released in 1948), and the song Your technique [from 1938?].

From the description of Papers relating to Kurt Weill, [1938?]-1979. (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). WorldCat record id: 86164808

Ann Ronell, songwriter, lyricist and musical director for films, was born Ann Rosenblatt in Omaha Nebraska on 25 December 1905, the child of a coal dealer, Morris Rosenblatt and Mollie Rosenblatt . After graduating from Central High School in 1923, she enrolled at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. She spent two years there and then transferred to Radcliffe College where her music teachers included Edward Burlingame Hill, Edward Ballantine, Archibald T. Davison and Walter Piston . Her first compositions date to this period, but her work for the college newspaper was to be the primary launching pad for her career as a commercial songwriter. Through writing reviews and interviews, Ronell was to make the acquaintance of many of that era’s prominent musical figures. An assigment involving George Gershwin had a decisive impact which lead to her decision to choose the path of music despite the prevailing odds against the likely success of would-be songwriters in general and women in particular. Gershwin offered to connect her with some of his contacts in the music business and she was soon working as a coach and rehearsal pianist for Broadway shows. In 1932 she was to show her gratitude for his efforts on her behalf by dedicating what turned out to be her most acclaimed and widely covered song “ Willow, Weep for Me ” to him.

The period between her graduation from Radcliffe in 1927 and her departure for Hollywood in 1933 was spent mostly in New York City where she was able to place a number of her songs in shows. Now recognized as her first popular success, the song “ Let’s go out in the open air ” appeared in Shoot the works in 1931. Despite a good deal of resistance to the very idea of a female songwriter, she was able to persevere and establish a growing catalog of works published by Irving Berlin and others.

The Walt Disney Studios provided Ronell’s first employment in the Hollywood film music industry. While there she had a hand in the creation of “ Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? ” derived from a “Three Little Pigs” animated short. Around this time, she met the producer Lester Cowan who became her husband in November 1935. The majority of Ronell’s work from this point on was centered on film music, though she was to collaborate with Nicolai Berezowsky on a ballet Ship South, compose her own “operetta/ballet” The Magic of spring (1935) and write lyrics and music for the show Count me in, produced on Broadway in 1942 . Additionally, Ronell created Oh! Susanna in 1947, a quasi-biographical folk operetta based on the life and music of Stephen Foster which was suited for performance by student and amateur groups. From the late 1940s onward, muchof her time was also spent translating and adapting opera and operetta libretti in an attempt to bring these genres to wider audiences. Her versions of Johann Strauss ’ Gypsy Baron and Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha were performed by the Los Angeles Civic Opera, the St. Louis Municipal Opera, the Metropolitan Opera (N.Y.) and elsewhere.

Over a span of more than three decades, Ronell contributed to the soundtrack scores of numerous films, including Down to their Last Yacht (1935), The River so Blue (1938), Blockade (1938), Algiers (1938), The Story of G.I. Joe (1945), One Touch of Venus (1948), Love Happy (1949), Main Street to Boadway (1953), and Meeting at a Far Meridian (1964). She was also partially or solely responsible for aspects of the musical direction for a number of these films. Ronell was a pioneer in several areas of soundtrack recording and is sometimes given credit for introducing, in The Story of G.I. Joe, the concept of the theme song sung over the title credits of a film.

Following her return to New York in the 1960s, Ronell served on the boards of several musical and theatrical associations and she was inducted into the National Academy of Popular Music’s Song Writer’s Hall of Fame in 1991.

Ann Ronell died on her 88th birthday, 25 December 1993.

From the guide to the Ann Ronell papers, 1914-1999, (The New York Public Library. Music Division.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Ann Ronell papers, 1914-1999 The New York Public Library. Music Division.
creatorOf Ronell, Ann, 1908-1993. Salute to the sun; South American ballet. New York Public Libraries for the Performing Arts, Dance Collection
creatorOf Ronell, Ann, 1908-1993. Music sources for Kurt Weill's River is blue in the collection of the Weill-Lenya Research Center, 1937-[ongoing]. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
referencedIn Nicolai Berezowsky scores, ca. 1916 - ca. 1953 The New York Public Library. Music Division.
creatorOf Gruenberg, Louis, 1884-1964. Prod. 996, Commandos / [music] by Louis Gruenberg ; orch. by J. Nussbaum. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Lucille Lortel papers, 1902-2000 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Christopher A. Reynolds Collection of Women's Song, circa 1800-1985 University of California, Davis. General Library. . Dept. of Special Collections
referencedIn Vernon Duke Collection, 1918-1968 Library of Congress. Music Division
creatorOf Berezowsky, Nicolai T., 1900-1953. [Selections] / Nicolai Berezowsky. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Ronell, Ann, 1908-1993. Papers relating to Kurt Weill, [1938?]-1979. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
referencedIn 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
associatedWith American Music Collection corporateBody
associatedWith Berezowsky, Nicolai T., 1900-1953. person
associatedWith Bernstein, Leonard person
associatedWith Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-1990 person
associatedWith Cowan, Lester person
correspondedWith Duke, Vernon, 1903-1969 person
associatedWith Frances Ryerson person
associatedWith F. Scott Fitzgerald person
associatedWith George Gershwin person
associatedWith George Platt Lynes person
associatedWith Gershwin, George, 1898-1937 person
associatedWith Gruenberg, Louis, 1884-1964. person
associatedWith Kurt Weill person
correspondedWith Lester Cowan and Ann Ronell Trial of Billie Holiday Collection corporateBody
associatedWith Lorin Maazel person
associatedWith Lortel, Lucille person
associatedWith Lotte Lenya person
associatedWith Nicolai Berezowsky person
associatedWith Reynolds, Christopher A. person
associatedWith Ryerson, Florence person
associatedWith Saddler, Donald person
associatedWith Weill, Kurt, 1900-1950. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
Motion picture producers and directors--United States
Composers--United States
Women lyricists--United States
Women composers--United States
Lyricists--United States


Birth 1908-12-28

Death 1993-12-25





Ark ID: w6vx8d1b

SNAC ID: 64033223