Composer, Conductor, Arranger, Pianist, Musical Director
Johnny Green was a man of many talents who, unfortunately, is best remembered as co-composer of “Body and Soul” which was interpolated into the score of Three’s a Crowd in 1930 and stole the show. While a student at Harvard, Green wrote arrangements for Guy Lombardo and composed “Coquette” with Carmen Lombardo and Gus Kahn. He graduated in 1928 and worked for a year on Wall Street before pursuing a musical career.
In 1930 he wrote, “I’m Yours” with “Yip” Harburg and worked as a conductor/arranger for Paramount Studios where he wrote the theme song for the Betty Boop cartoon. He was also piano accompanist to Gertrude Lawrence and Ethel Merman. After a stint in London in 1933, where he built a reputation as a pianist and recorded on two pianos with Carroll Gibbon, he toured with his dance band and conducted radio bands for prestigious shows until 1940. His band also recorded some soundtracks of the Astaire/Rogers musicals. He was four times the musical director of the Academy Awards ceremonies beginning in 1945.
In 1949 he became MGM’s musical director and oversaw such films as An American in Paris, The Great Caruso, Brigadoon, Meet Me in Las Vegas (for which he wrote Cyd Charisse’s ballet) and High Society. In 1958 he left to produce TV specials.
Green was also a serious composer. In 1933 his commissioned work for orchestra and three pianos was performed by Paul Whiteman. In the ‘60s he wrote a symphonic suite adapted from his music for the film Raintree County (1956). He also directed a concert series for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Some of his other well-known songs are: “Out of Nowhere” (1931) and “I Cover the Waterfront” (1933) with Edward Heyman, and “I Wanna Be Loved” (1932) with Heyman and Billy Rose.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com