Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lennie Hayton: No Dice For Who's Almost Who

I knew Lena was married to Lennie Hayton and I figured he might have been a New York boy. Sure enough, he was, but he lived first in the Bronx at the address above and then later moved to the upper west side. It was sort of a reverse of the usual nyc migration pattern, except the upper west side was perhaps a step up from other parts of Manhattan. Maybe the family started out on the LES before going to the Bronx. It's interesting that he lived just a few blocks away from famed cartoonist Wil Eisner and great actor David Opatoshu. btw the X marks the spot where the picture was taen. Hayton lived a few blocks NE on Fulton Avenue, which bordered the west side of Crotona Park
Leonard George (Lennie) Hayton (13 February 1908 – 24 April 1971) was an American Jewish composer, conductor and arranger. He was initially a pianist in jazz groups led by Frankie Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols, Joe Venuti and others. He also played with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Hayton composed "Apple Blossoms" with Joe Venuti, Frankie Trumbauer, and Eddie Lang. His other compositions included "Flying Fingers", "The Stage is Set", "Mood Hollywood" with Jimmy Dorsey, and "Midnight Mood".
He became musical director for MGM in 1940 and guided it through its prime years as forerunner of the movie musical. Up until his retirement from the post in 1953, he racked up four Academy Award nominations: for the Judy Garland musicals The Harvey Girls (1946) and The Pirate (1948), and two of the all-time classic musicals, On the Town (1949 - for which he won the Academy Award) and Singin' in the Rain (1952).
Hayton notched up two more nominations—one in 1968 for the flop Julie Andrews musical Star! and his last the following year for the Barbra Streisand vehicle Hello, Dolly!, which brought him his second Oscar.
In 1970, Hayton arranged Frank Sinatra's first attempt at the George Harrison composition Something. However, Sinatra later began using a Nelson Riddle arrangement of the song in concert performances and in 1979 he put the Riddle version on record. Hayton's only work with Sinatra was thus cast into comparative obscurity.
Hayton also had the distinction of enjoying one of Hollywood’s rare long-lasting marriages, with Lena Horne. Despite facing the stresses and pressures of an interracial relationship, which was still relatively rare in that time period, their marriage lasted from 1947 until his death in 1971. Throughout the marriage, Hayton also acted as Horne’s music director.
His trademark was the wearing of a captain’s hat, which he always wore at a rakish angle.

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