Harry Warren and the Music of Film

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Composer and lyricist Harry Warren was the first major American songwriter to write primarily for film. Born Salvatore Antonio Guaragna, in Brooklyn, in 1893, Warrens’ Italian immigrant parents changed the family’s name to Warren when Harry was young.

From an early age, Warren had a great love for music. His parents could not afford to get him music lessons, so he taught himself, learning to play his father’s accordion, the piano and the drums.

In 1915, he started working at the Vitagraph motion Pictures Studio doing a variety of jobs – administrative, props, playing mood music for actors and eventually becoming an assistant director. A few years later, he joined the U.S. Navy, and was there where he began writing songs.

Warren’s career spanned nearly four decades, with more than 800 songs, including such hits as “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” “That’s Amore,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” “The More I See You,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” which became the first gold record in history.

His music has appeared in over 300 films, including the first blockbuster film musical, 42nd Street, for which Warren wrote all the music. And the resume of talent Warren has worked with is legendary, with stars such as Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Jerry Lewis, and Busby Berkeley, Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, Dean Martin and Ginger Rogers, among the group.

On top of all of this, Warren has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song an astonishing eleven times and has won three – “Lullaby of Broadway,” “You’ll Never Know,” and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”

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