b. 1891, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 14 March 1943, Beverly Hills, California, USA. The son of producer and composer Alfred E. Aarons, Alex A. Aarons mounted a number of fondly remembered Broadway musicals during the 20s. Most of his success came in partnership with the actor-turned-producer Vinton Freedley (b. 5 November 1891, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 5 June 1969, New York, USA). The two men came together in 1923, after Aarons had presented La, La Lucille (1919), which contained George Gershwin’s first complete Broadway score, and For Goodness Sake (1922). The latter show, in which Fred Astaire and his sister Adele Astaire introduced their famous ‘runaround’ routine, also had some Gershwin numbers (from this time forward, mostly with lyrics by Ira Gershwin), and was revised for London in 1923 where it ran for 418 performances under the title of Stop Flirting! Vinton Freedley was in the Broadway cast of For Goodness Sake, and he and Aarons subsequently collaborated on seven shows with Gershwin scores: Lady, Be Good! (1924), Tip-Toes (1925), Oh, Kay! (1926), Funny Face (1927), Treasure Girl (1928), Girl Crazy (1930) and Pardon My English (1933).
They were also responsible for staging Here’s Howe (1928), in which Ben Bernie, Peggy Chamberlain and June O’Dea introduced Roger Wolfe Kahn, Joseph Meyer and Irving Caesar’s lively ‘Crazy Rhythm’; De Sylva, Brown And Henderson’s prize-fighting musical, Hold Everything! (1929); and two shows with scores by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, Spring Is Here and Heads Up! (both 1929). Aarons produced another Gershwin show, Tell Me More! (1925), on his own account. At the peak of their careers, Aarons and Freedley built the Alvin Theatre in New York (titled by the initial letters of their first names, Alex and Vincent), which opened in November 1927. Several of their hit productions were staged there, but by 1933 and the flop Pardon My English, from which the UK star, Jack Buchanan, made a speedy departure, the Alvin had been sold and the partners were in deep financial trouble. They split up, and Aarons was subsequently associated with a number of stage productions that never materialized, as well as working in various capacities in the film business.
While Aarons failed to recover his previous prestigious position in the business, Freedley flourished through to the early 40s, producing four successful shows with music and lyrics by Cole Porter: Anything Goes (1934), Red, Hot And Blue! (1936), Leave It To Me! (1938) and Let’s Face It! (1941), along with Cabin In The Sky (1940), which contained a top-class Vernon Duke score. However, another of Duke’s shows, Jackpot (1944), failed to hit, as did Memphis Bound (1945), with its Gilbert and Sullivan excerpts, and Great To Be Alive! (1950), which starred Vivienne Segal making her penultimate appearance in a Broadway musical.