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Oscar Levant

Biography

Levant wore many hats — most famously being a concert pianist from 1932 until 1958 — within a bizarre profession that began being a Broadway musician within the mid-1920s, segued to Hollywood in 1929, and ended in self-deprecating, chain-smoking eccentricity in radio and Television. The kid of Ukrainian-Jewish blue-collar parents, he was precocious young, but not a prodigy. After his father’s loss of life in 1922, his mom moved the family members to NY, where Oscar continuing his keyboard education with Zygmunt Stojowski, an esteemed countryman of Paderewski (for whom Levant performed privately). Although Broadway, booze, medications, and females preoccupied him, he were able to go to concerts and opera frequently. In 1928, Oscar transferred to Hollywood, duplicating a role within the Dance of Lifestyle that he previously performed on Broadway within the movie’s source-work, Burlesque. A calendar year later on, Levant was composing film music when he fulfilled, and became a bosom friend of, George Gershwin, probably the most important person in his lifestyle. Their shared cultural background alongside Levant’s innate shyness bonded them: he hardly ever attempted to upstage Gershwin, who likely to be the guts of interest wherever he made an appearance and invariably performed. In 1929 by itself, Levant have scored six movies, but tapered off after 1930, when his concert profession collected momentum. He do, however, compose a cameo opera in 1936 for Charlie Chan on the Opera, and another calendar year scored Nothing at all Sacred starring Carole Lombard. At that time Levant had examined composition for the calendar year with Joseph Schillinger at Gershwin’s urging, and in 1935-1937 with Arnold Schoenberg. Oscar began composing significantly in 1932 using a Piano Sonatina that Copland asked him to premiere at Yaddo, a Sinfonietta (1934), Nocturne for Orchestra (1936, “To Arnold Schoenberg”), along with a two-movement String Quartet. In 1937, pursuing Gershwin’s shockingly early loss of life, Levant began Collection for Orchestra. The middle-movement, Dirge-Andante, he devoted “In Storage of George Gershwin,” and executed the premiere himself in Pittsburgh at Fritz Reiner’s invitation in 1939. On a single program Levant performed the Gershwin Concerto in F, at that time his signature function, alongside Rhapsody in Blue and the next Rhapsody. In 1939 he wedded celebrity June Gale, mom of his three daughters, who survived him. In 1940, Levant resumed his film profession as Bing Crosby’s sidekick in Tempo over the River, and in addition debuted as a normal “panel professional” over the long-running radio present, Information Make sure you. He constructed Overture 1912 (alias Polka for Oscar Homolka) and Caprice for Orchestra, after that in 1941 the Piano Concerto, his magnum opus and last main composition, merging Gershwinesque changes and Schoenbergian atonalism. In 1942, Levant became a respected Columbia Masterworks musician (documenting with conductors Reiner, Ormandy, Mitropoulos, Morton Gould, and Kostelanetz) while he concertized broadly because the highest-paid soloist of his time. That calendar year he also released his first reserve, A Smattering of Ignorance. In 1945, Levant came back to films, you start with Rhapsody in Blue, a Gershwin biopic where he performed himself. The final was Cobweb in 1955, an crazy asylum melodrama wherein artwork imitated life. Currently within the 1940s, Levant’s chronic drug abuse accelerated to a spot how the American Federation of Music artists temporarily prohibited him from union phases for canceling shows. On television chat displays in the 1950s and after, you start with his personal, he became therefore unpredictably slanderous that another ban was threatened. non-etheless, between repeated hospitalizations, he made an appearance sporadically in concert as past due as August 1958. In his last years he had written two even more books, The Memoirs of the Amnesiac as well as the Unimportance to be Oscar.

Quick Facts


Full Name Oscar Levant
Date Of Birth December 27, 1906
Died August 14, 1972, Beverly Hills, California, United States
Profession Actor, Author, Comedian, Pianist, Film Score Composer
Nationality American
Spouse June Gale, Barbara Woodell
Children Amanda Levant, Marcia Levant, Lorna Levant
Parents Annie Levant, Max Levant
Siblings Benjamin Levent
Awards Grammy Hall of Fame
Music Songs Tra-La-La, Second Rhapsody for Piano & Orchestra, Composer Bit, Variations on I Got Rhythm, Preludes For Piano: Prelude II: Andante con moto e poco rubato, Ah! Romantic Love Dream, King and Country Call, Third Prelude, Medley: We Would Get Married / I Don't Think I'll Fall in Love Today, Concerto in F Major for Piano & Orchestra: III. Allegro con brio, The Half-Of-It Dearie Blues, Tango in D Major, La Cathe'drale Engloutie, My Cousin In Milwaukee, Medley: My Cousin in Milwaukee / A Foggy Day / The Half-of-It Dearie Blues / But Not for Me, I Got Rhythm Variations, Preludes For Piano: Prelude I: Allegro ben ritmato e deciso, Gershwin: A Portrait by Levant, Third Movement, Piano Sonatina: Third Movement, Young in Heart, Piano Sonatina: First Movement, Piano Sonatina: Second Movement, Billy the Kid - Piano Arrangement: I. The Open Prairie, Piano Concerto, In the Good Ole Summer Time, Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight, Then Farewell, Concerto In F For Piano And Orchestra, Preludes for Piano, Prelude III: Allegro ben ritmato e deciso, Concerto in F, Suite for Orchestra No. 1 in D Major, Op. 43: II. Divertimento
Albums Plays Gershwin, Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, Rhapsody in Blue / An American in Paris / Concerto in Fa magg. per piano e orchestra, Oscar Levant Plays Levant & Gershwin, Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F (Mono Version), Khachaturian: Concerto pour piano, Op. 38 (Mono Version), Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight, Rubinstein, A.: Piano Concerto No. 4 (Levant, Mitropoulos) (1952), Levant Plays Gershwin, The Music of George Gershwin, Shine on Harvest Moon, Levant's Favourites, Khachaturian, A.I.: Piano Concerto (Levant, New York Philharmonic Symphony, Mitropoulos) (1950), Comedy and Songs, Levant Plays Gershwin (feat. piano: Oscar Levant), Gershwin: Piano Concerto in F & Rhapsody in Blue, Grieg: Concerto pour piano in A Minor, Op. 16 - Tchaikovsky: Concerto pour piano No. 1 in B-Flat Minor, Op. 23 (Mono Version), Tchaikovsky, P.: Piano Concerto No. 1 / Serenade in C Major / Rimsky-Korsakov, N.A.: Capriccio Espagnol (Levant, Ormandy) (1947-1953), Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Schumann: Piano Concerto in A Minor (Remastered), Gershwin: Concerto in F Major, Rhapsody in Blue & An American in Paris (Mono Version)
Movies An American in Paris, The Band Wagon, The Barkleys of Broadway, Humoresque, Rhythm on the River, Romance on the High Seas, O. Henry's Full House, The Cobweb, You Were Meant for Me, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, Nothing Sacred, The I Don't Care Girl, Made for Each Other, Leathernecking, Jazz Heaven, Tanned Legs, Street Girl, Half Marriage, Music Is Magic, The Delightful Rogue, Flaming Gold, Side Street, Information Please: Series 1, No. 1, Love Comes Along, Let's Try Again


  • Facts
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  • Awards
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#Fact
1 Near the end of his life, he became compulsive in his driving. According to his biography, if he had had bad service in a restaurant he would not drive past it. If a car had honked at him, he would not drive down that street again. At one point, he had to drive from the studio to his agent's office, which was only three miles away, with all his detours around streets he would not drive down he racked up over 25 miles.
2 He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording at 6728 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
3 The role of Cosmo Brown in Singin' in the Rain (1952) was written with him in mind, but was instead immortalized by Donald O'Connor.
4 Some of his last public appearances were on the television quiz show The Celebrity Game (1964) in 1964; he also appeared October 17, 1965 on What's My Line? (1950) as the mystery guest promoting his book "Memoirs of an Amnesiac". It was around this time that he increasingly withdrew from the public eye (although he continued to write and his book "The Unimportance of Being Oscar" was published in 1968) and lived the remainder of his life (he died in 1972) with his second wife June and their three daughters out of the limelight.
5 Recorded for Columbia and American Decca records.
6 Was a regular panelist on the popular radio quiz show "Information, Please" in the late 1930s and early 1940s, as well as a semi-regular on Al Jolson's radio program in the late 1940s.
7 At the time of his death in August, 1972, he had been off the entertainment scene for so long (almost a decade) that the police and ambulance attendants had to be told who he was.
8 A lifetime sufferer of real and imagined ailments, his frequent stays in mental hospitals provided grist for his frequently biting humor.
9 A composer as well as a pianist, he had more than fifty published songs to his credit, most notably the standard "Blame It on My Youth," and several short instrumental works, including the whimsically titled "A Polka for Oskar Homolka.".
10 A close personal friend of George Gershwin's, Levant's performances of Gershwin's piano works are still considered definitive by many.


Soundtrack

Soundtrack

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Johnny Mercer: The Dream's on Me 2009 TV Movie documentary performer: "That's Entertainment"
Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History - The 1940s: Stars, Stripes and Singing 2009 Video documentary performer: "That's for Me" - uncredited
Sita Sings the Blues 2008 music: "If You Want the Rainbow, You Must Have the Rain"
Eyes Wide Shut 1999 music: "Blame It on My Youth" 1934
Let It Be Me 1995 writer: "Blame It On My Youth" - as O. Levant
The Rocketeer 1991 writer: "ALL DRESSED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO"
Great Performances 1991 TV Series performer - 1 episode
Let's Get Lost 1988 Documentary "Blame it on My Youth"
That's Entertainment, Part II 1976 Documentary performer: "That's Entertainment" 1953, "Concerto in F" 1925 - uncredited
Funny Lady 1975 music: "If You Want the Rainbow You Must Have the Rain" - uncredited
The Carol Burnett Show 1974 TV Series music - 1 episode
The Jack Benny Program TV Series performer - 1 episode, 1958 writer - 1 episode, 1958
The Band Wagon 1953 "That's Entertainment" 1953, uncredited / performer: "That's Entertainment" 1953, "I Love Louisa" 1931 - uncredited
The I Don't Care Girl 1953 performer: "Hello, Frisco!" - uncredited
An American in Paris 1951 performer: "By Strauss" 1936, "Fascinating Rhythm" 1924, "Tra-la-la This Time It's Really Love" 1922, "Third Movement from 'Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra'" 1925 - uncredited
The Barkleys of Broadway 1949 performer: "Sabre Dance" 1942, "Week-End in the Country" 1949, "Concerto in B-flat Minor for Piano" 1874 - uncredited
Romance on the High Seas 1948 music: "Brazilian Rhapsody" - uncredited / performer: "Brazilian Rhapsody" - uncredited
Humoresque 1946 performer: "Prelude II" uncredited, "Prelude III" uncredited, "Etude in G flat major, Op. 10, No. 5." uncredited, "Liebestod", "Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52" uncredited
Her Kind of Man 1946 music: "Lady, Play Your Mandolin" - uncredited
Rhapsody in Blue 1945 performer: "Rhapsody in Blue", "Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra", "Mine" - uncredited
Kiss the Boys Goodbye 1941 performer: "Kiss the Boys Goodbye", "Battle Hymn of The Republic" uncredited
Made for Each Other 1939 music: "Made For Each Other" 1939 - uncredited
Charlie Chan at the Opera 1936 music: "Carnival: March Funebre", "Carnival: Ah, Romantic Love Dream", "Carnival: King and Country Call", "Carnival: Carnival Marche", "Carnival: Carnival, Then Farewell"
In Person 1935 music: "Don't Mention Love to Me", "Got a New Lease on Life", "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"
Music Is Magic 1935 music: "Honey Chile", "Love is Smiling at Me"
Steamboat Round the Bend 1935 music: "Steamboat Round the Bend" 1935 - uncredited
Black Sheep 1935 music: "In Other Words, I'm in Love" 1935 - uncredited
A Peach of a Pair 1934 Short music: "Lady, Play Your Mandolin" - uncredited
The Right to Romance 1933 music: "With You, With Me" 1929 - uncredited
Nothing But the Tooth 1933 Short music: "Lady, Play Your Mandolin" - uncredited
Bosko in Dutch 1933 Short music: "Don't Go to Sleep" - uncredited
Woman in Bondage 1932 music: "Careless Kisses" - uncredited
Lady, Play Your Mandolin! 1931 Short music: "Lady, Play Your Mandolin" - uncredited
Big Business Girl 1931 music: "Lady, Play Your Mandolin" - uncredited
Leathernecking 1930 music: "Evening Star", "Careless Kisses", "Mighty Nice and So Particular"
Danger Lights 1930 music: "My DreamMemory", "With You With Me" - uncredited
The Runaway Bride 1930 music: "Lovable and Sweet" 1929 - uncredited
Beau Bandit 1930 music: "Lovable and Sweet" 1929 - uncredited
Love Comes Along 1930 music: "Night Winds", "Until Love Comes Along"
Tanned Legs 1929 music: "With You, With Me" 1929, "Come in the Water, the Water Is Fine" 1929, "You're Responsible" 1929, "Tanned Legs" 1929 - uncredited
Jazz Heaven 1929 music: "Someone" 1929 - uncredited
Half Marriage 1929 music: "After the Clouds Roll By", "You're Marvelous" - uncredited
The Delightful Rogue 1929 music: "Gay Love"
Side Street 1929 music: "Take a Look at Her Now" - uncredited
The Prince of Wails 1929 Short music: "If You Want the Rainbow You Must Have the Rain" - uncredited
Street Girl 1929 music: "Broken Up Tune" 1929, "Lovable and Sweet" 1929, "My Dream Memory" 1929 - uncredited
Why Be Good? 1929 music: "If You Want the Rainbow You Must Have the Rain" - uncredited
My Man 1928 music: "If You Want the Rainbow You Must Have the Rain" - uncredited
The Band Beautiful 1928 Short music: "Keep Sweeping the Cobwebs off the Moon" - uncredited
The Ham What Am 1928 Short music: "Keep Sweeping the Cobwebs off the Moon" - uncredited

Actor

Actor

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Jack Benny Program 1958 TV Series Oscar Levant
The Cobweb 1955 Mr. Capp
The Band Wagon 1953 Lester Marton
The I Don't Care Girl 1953 Charles Bennett
O. Henry's Full House 1952 Bill Peoria (segment "The Ransom of Red Chief")
An American in Paris 1951 Adam Cook
The Barkleys of Broadway 1949 Ezra Millar
Romance on the High Seas 1948 Oscar Farrar
You Were Meant for Me 1948 Oscar Hoffman
Humoresque 1946 Sid Jeffers
Rhapsody in Blue 1945 Oscar Levant
Kiss the Boys Goodbye 1941 Dick Rayburn aka Oscar
Rhythm on the River 1940 Billy Starbuck
Night Parade 1929 Ann Pennington's Piano Accompanist (uncredited)
The Dance of Life 1929 Jerry Evans

Music Department

Music Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Fight for Your Lady 1937 composer: stock music - uncredited
Black Sheep 1935 music
Lightning Strikes Twice 1934 composer: stock music - uncredited
Gambling Ship 1933 composer: stock music - uncredited
The Woman Accused 1933 composer: stock music - uncredited
Flaming Gold 1932 composer: stock music - uncredited
The Age of Consent 1932 composer: stock music - uncredited
Bachelor Apartment 1931 composer: stock music - uncredited
Leathernecking 1930 composer: additional music
Tanned Legs 1929 music and lyrics by
Street Girl 1929 musical numbers

Composer

Composer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Romance on the High Seas 1948
Fellow Americans 1942 Short documentary
Made for Each Other 1939 uncredited
Nothing Sacred 1937
Crime Without Passion 1934 uncredited
Let's Try Again 1934 uncredited

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Humoresque 1946 technical adviser - uncredited

Self

Self

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Merv Griffin Show 1965 TV Series Himself
What's My Line? 1951-1965 TV Series Himself - Mystery Guest
The Jack Paar Program 1962-1964 TV Series Himself
The Joey Bishop Show 1964 TV Series Himself
The Oscar Levant Show 1958-1960 TV Series Himself - Host
The Jack Paar Tonight Show 1958-1960 TV Series Himself
The Steve Allen Plymouth Show 1958 TV Series Himself - Pianist
The Eddie Fisher Show 1958 TV Series Himself
1955 Motion Picture Theatre Celebration 1955 Short documentary Himself (uncredited)
Music 55 1955 TV Series documentary Himself
General Electric Guest House 1951 TV Series Himself - Host
Inside U.S.A. with Chevrolet 1949 TV Series Himself
Information Please: Series 3, No. 5 1942 Short Himself - Resident Panelist
Information Please: Series 3, No. 4 1942 Short Himself - Resident Panel Expert
Information Please: Series 3, No. 1 1941 Short Himself - Panel Member
Information Please: Series 2, No. 12 1941 Documentary short Himself - Panelist
Information Please: Series 2, No. 2 1940 Short Himself - Resident Expert
Information Please: Series 1, No. 11 1940 Short Himself - Resident Panel Expert
Information Please: Series 1, No. 10 1940 Short Himself - Resident Panel Expert
Information Please: Series 1, No. 9 1940 Short Himself - Resident Panelist
Information Please: Series 1, No. 8 1940 Documentary short Himself - Panelist
Information Please: Series 1, No. 1 1939 Short Himself - Panelist
Ben Bernie and All the Lads 1923 Short Himself

Archive Footage

Archive Footage

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Public Speaking 2010 Documentary
Pioneers of Television 2008 TV Mini-Series documentary Himself
Great Performances 1991-2003 TV Series Himself
Jack Paar: Smart Television 2003 TV Movie documentary Himself
American Masters 1997 TV Series documentary Himself
That's Entertainment! III 1994 Documentary Performer in Clip from 'The Band Wagon' (uncredited)
Jack Paar Comes Home 1986 TV Movie documentary Himself
That's Entertainment, Part II 1976 Documentary Clip from 'The Band Wagon'
The Jack Paar Tonight Show 1958 TV Series Himself
The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Story 1951 Documentary

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#Quote
1 An evening with George [Gershwin] was a Gershwin evening. There were recurrent lengthy references to his piano playing, his composing, his conducting, his painting - marcato monologues in alla breve, which George's audiences absorbed with the fascinating attentiveness of a Storm-trooper listening to one of Hitler's well-modulated firehouse chats.
2 What the world needs is more geniuses with humility. There are so few of us left.
3 Schizophrenia beats dining alone.
4 I have given up reading books. I find it takes my mind off myself.
5 [about his first meeting with Marilyn Monroe] I said something to her and Jean Peters questioned my grammar. That was one of the nadir points of my career, to have my grammar corrected in front of Marilyn Monroe.
6 [on his role in Rhythm on the River (1940)] I played an unsympathetic part--myself.
7 [on Orson Welles] Sometimes he was inaudible--those were his best moments.
8 Today I'm a neurotic basket case. My health is so bad that I might as well be the next Premier of India.
9 When I was young, I looked like Al Capone but I lacked his compassion.
10 I smile so seldom that I wonder at Arlene Francis, who smiles persistently. Like the Sorceror's Apprentice, once she turns it on can she turn it off?
11 [on Steve Allen] When I can't sleep, I read a book by Steve Allen.
12 It's not what you are but what you don't become that hurts.
13 [o Perry Como] I'm convinced that his voice comes out of his eyelids.
14 I knew Doris Day before she was a virgin.
15 I admire Leonard Bernstein, but not as much as he does. Lennie has no humor about his egomania. I do.
16 There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.
17 The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too.
18 I envy people who drink. At least they have something to blame everything on.
19 I am no more humble than my talents require.
20 Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember.
21 [to his friend George Gershwin] Tell me, George, if you had it to do over, would you fall in love with yourself again?
22 I hate cold showers. They stimulate me, and then I don't know what to do.
23 I'm a controversial figure. My friends either dislike me or hate me.
24 In some situations I was difficult, in odd moments impossible, in rare moments loathsome, but at my best unapproachably great.
25 A musical is a series of catastrophes ending with a floor show.
26 My psychiatrist once said to me, "Maybe life isn't for everyone".
27 I made a comment to a newspaper about therapists saying that people should not become dependent on them and it got printed as, "The rapists say . . . "
28 Strip the phony tinsel off Hollywood and you'll find the real tinsel underneath.


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