Irving Berlin Poster


Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (36)  | Personal Quotes (10)

Overview (3)

Born in Mogilev, Russian Empire [now Belarus]
Died in New York City, New York, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameIsrael Isidor Baline

Mini Bio (1)

Irving Berlin was born Israel Isidor Baline on May 11, 1888 in Mogilev, Belarus, Russian Empire. Towering composer, songwriter, ("God Bless America", "Always", "Blue Skies", "White Christmas") author and publisher, he came to the United States at age 5 and was educated in New York's public schools. His earliest musical education was from his father, a cantor. He earned Honorary degrees from Bucknell University and Temple University. Beginning his career as a song-plugger for publisher Harry von Tilzer, Berlin worked as a singing waiter in Chinatown. In 1909, he was hired as a staff lyricist by the Ted Snyder Company, and became a partner to that firm four years later.

In 1910, he began doing vaudeville appearances in the United States and abroad, and also appeared with Snyder in the Broadway musical "Up and Down Broadway", that ran for 72 performances. He joined ASCAP as a charter member in 1914, and served on its first board of directors between 1914-1918. Berlin enlisted the United States Army infantry in World War I, and was a sergeant at Camp Upton, New York. After the war, he established his own public-relations firm, and in 1921, he built the 1025-seat Music Box Theatre (at 239 W. 45th Street, New York) with Sam H. Harris. After Harris' death in 1941, Berlin assumed full ownership and the theatre remains a Broadway institution to this day.

Among his many awards was the Medal for Merit for his 1942 all-soldier show "This Is the Army", which toured the United States, Europe and South Pacific battle zones; all proceeds were assigned to Army Emergency Relief and other service agencies. Berlin was also a member of the French Legion of Honor and held the Congressional Medal of Honor for "God Bless America", the proceeds from which went to the God Bless America Fund. His songs were sung by Fred Astaire, Al Jolson, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Dick Powell, Alice Faye and many others. Irving Berlin died at the age of 101 of natural causes on September 22, 1989 in New York City.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet

Spouse (2)

Ellin Blanca Mackay (4 January 1926 - 29 July 1988) ( her death) ( 4 children)
Dorothy Goetz (28 February 1912 - 17 July 1912) ( her death)

Trivia (36)

Died of natural causes at age 101.
When Berlin married Ellin Mackay, the Comstock Lode heiress, the bride's father wrote her out of his will for marrying a Jew. Berlin then assigned the copyright of his popular song, "Always", to her, which yielded very handsome royalties as the years went by. And true to the sentiments of the song, Berlin devoted himself to his lovely wife for the rest of her long life.
Could not read music.
Only played on the set of black keys. He had a special piano built with pedals that could change the set from F sharp into other keys.
First met lifelong best friend Fred Astaire on the set of Top Hat (1935).
Interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, USA.
Sent a letter to major radio stations requesting that they not play Elvis Presley's version of "White Christmas" because it had been drastically revamped.
During the filming of his singing his composition "Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning" in This Is the Army (1943), one of the backstage crew was heard to have whispered to another crew worker, "If the guy who wrote this song could hear this guy singing it, he'd roll over in his grave!".
Was denied a Kennedy Center Honor. By the time he was considered for one, he was too ill to fulfill the requirement that an honoree must attend the award ceremony.
Although he wrote what is arguably the most popular secular Christmas song ever written, "White Christmas", Christmas was always a bittersweet time for the Berlin family. Irving and Eileen Berlin's only son, Irving Jr., died at only a few weeks old, of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, on Christmas Day, 1928. Every year, on Christmas Day, the Berlins would lay a Christmas wreath on his grave, a tradition their heirs carry on today.
Despite the fact that he was one of America's most prolific songwriters, he suffered frequent attacks of writer's block, which could last anywhere from several days to several months.
Wrote his first ballad hit, "When I Lost You", in his grief over the death of his first wife, Dorothy Goetz. She had died of typhoid, contracted on her honeymoon, just four months after their marriage in 1912.
One of the few classic pop songwriters of his era to serve as both composer and lyricist of his songs. Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer were among the others who shared this rare talent.
Brother-in-law of E. Ray Goetz.
Stepson-in-law of Anna Case.
In 1963, won a Special Tony Award "for his distinguished contribution to the musical theatre for these many years."
Father of Mary Ellen Barrett.
First artist to actually present himself with an Oscar when he won for song "White Christmas" from Holiday Inn (1942).
Inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 87-91. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
One of his most popular songs "Easter Parade" (1933) had been published earlier as "Smile and Show Your Dimple".
Daughter, Linda, was named after Cole Porter's wife.
Is a character in the musical "Turn of the Century.".
He had nine grandchildren: Edward Watson Emmet (born circa 1968), Ellin Emmet, and Caroline Emmet from daughter Linda; Elizabeth Matson (born in 1954), Irving Barrett (born in 1955), Mary Ellin Barrett Lerner (born in 1956), and Katherine Swett (born in 1960), from daughter Mary Ellin; and Emily Anstice Fisher (born circa 1966) and Rachel, from daughter Elizabeth.
His first wife, Dorothy, was born in March, 1892. She died of typhoid fever and pneumonia.
His second wife, Ellin, was born March 22, 1903. Her father, Clarence H. Mackay, was the son of John W. Mackay (1831-1902), one of the principal owner/operators of the Comstock Lode (Consolidated Virginia and California Mine in Nevada, also Bonanza Firm--a four-way partnership worth some $190 million by 1877), one of the major silver discoveries in the 1870s. A devout conservative Roman Catholic Irishman, Clarence was horrified that his daughter was engaged to a Jew, and he disowned her. They would reconcile in the early 1930s.
He had four children: Mary Ellin Berlin (born November 25, 1926), Irving Berlin, Jr. (December 1-December 25, 1928), Linda Louise Berlin (born February 21, 1932), and Elizabeth Iris Berlin (born June 16, 1936).
His daughter Elizabeth married Edmund Boyd Fisher in London in September, 1963. They later divorced.
His infant son, Irving Berlin, Jr., died Christmas morning, 1928. He was suffering from typhoid fever at the time of his death. Berlin's wife, Ellin, who was estranged from her father, heard from him for the first time when he sent her a letter of condolence. They fully reconciled in 1931.
Daughter Linda lives in Paris with husband Edouard C. Emmet.
Daughter Elizabeth married second husband Alton E. Peters and now goes by Elizabeth Irving Peters.
His great-grandchildren include: Peter and James Matson; Benjamin Lerner; Rachel, Nicholas and William Swett; and granddaughter Emily's daughters Madeleine and Isobel Fletcher.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 7095 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
Won a 1963 Special Tony Award (New York City) for his many years of distinguished contribution to the American musical.
Won a 1978 Lawrence Langner Tony Award (New York City) and for a distinguished life in the American theater.

Personal Quotes (10)

Never hate a song that's sold a half million copies
The song has ended, but the melody lingers on.
The toughest thing about success is that you've got to keep on being a success.
[to his daughter, about his wife's lavish Christmas spending] I gave up trying to get your mother to economize. It was easier just to make more money.
[on Fred Astaire] Fred knew the value of a song and his heart was in it before his feet took over.
[on Alice Faye] I'd rather have Alice Faye introduce my songs than anyone else.
[on facing a hostile public's reaction to his controversial marriage] For nearly two weeks I have had to protect my wife from insults too bitter for me to speak of. We have lived in a nightmare of lies. When we were going to board a train one reporter was so insulting that my poor wife burst out crying. Then a Chicago newspaper printed in large type 'Berlin's bride in tears regrets step'. If you see an interview printed, except this one, it will be lies.
[on writing songs for Ethel Merman] I guess it's like a dress designer getting that extra kick when when he dreams up a gown for a beautiful woman with a perfect figure. You give her a bad song and she'll make it sound good. You give her a good song and she'll make it sound great. And you better write her a good lyric because, when she sings a word, the guy up in the last row of the second balcony is going to hear every syllable of it.
Seldom does a song writer or any other creator meet a person interested in his particular field who doesn't firmly believe that composing a song isn't a snap, something that's dashed off in a moment, or that's dreamed up during a peaceful slumber. So many people seem to think that there's a stirring melodramatic story behind each song. That's not so. I'm sorry if this spoils any illusions, but the simple truth is that most songs are composed like stories, novels, paintings, sculpture, or anything else in the field of art. Some fellow who has a burning desire to do that particular thing, coupled with sufficient patience and industry, sits down and works until an idea comes, takes shape, and is polished into a finished product. There is no set time it takes to compose a song. They come easy sometimes, but more often they are stubborn, difficult things to drag out of the mind. It's impossible to say, too, which is the most important - the words or the music. In "Alexander's Ragtime Band", for instance, the words are without meaning unless they are with the music, and the melody is equally meaningless without the lyrics. A hit song is a combination of both. A song success must have easy phrasing and it must be within the range - one octave - of the average singer's voice. A hit, too, must have one haunting, unforgettable phrase. "Come on and hear, come on and hear" made "Alexander's Ragtime Band" popular over the world. I don't think the name of a song has anything whatever to do with its ultimate success unless, of course, it's a comedy song and then the title plays a big part.
[on his song, "White Christmas] It came out at a time when we were at war, and it became a peace song in wartime - nothing I ever intended.

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