Friday, February 22, 2013

Nacio Herb Brown, 1896-1964

MGM should have done a promo shoot with Brown and Freed singing in the rain
Nacio Herb Brown (center, seated at the piano) flanked by Marion Davies and Arthur Freed

Today marks the birth anniversary of composer Nacio Herb Brown, who was born on this day in 1896. He started his career on Broadway in the 1920s, but when sound came to moving pictures, the studios needed not only people who could talk well on screen, but people who could make music for the screen. So Brown wound up at MGM in 1928, where he promptly wrote music for songs that showed up in MGM's two big hits of 1929, The Broadway Melody and The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (IMDb claims Brown shows up playing the piano in one number in this one); the lyrics, of course, were written by Arthur Freed. Probbaly the most famous song from The Broadway Melody might be "You Were Meant For Me", while from The Hollywood Revue of 1929 it's definitely "Singin' in the Rain".

Brown and Freed went on to write a whole bunch of songs together during the 1930s and 1940s. If I had to pick one song from this era that people might be most likely to remember, I think I'd pick "Good Morning", which premiered in 1939's Babes in Arms performed by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. "Good Morning", like "Singin' in the Rain" are remembered, of course, because of the Freed unit at MGM deciding to make the musical Singin' in the Rain, which was conceived as a way to reuse those great old songs by Brown and Freed.

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