Nancy Hamilton

b. 27 July 1908, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 18 February 1985, New York City, New York, USA. After attended Smith College and the Sorbonne in Paris, France, Hamilton decided on a career in the theatre.…
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Artist Biography

b. 27 July 1908, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 18 February 1985, New York City, New York, USA. After attended Smith College and the Sorbonne in Paris, France, Hamilton decided on a career in the theatre. She had a small role in The Warrior’s Husband (1932) and was then in New Faces Of 1934 with Imogene Coca and Henry Fonda. Hamilton was one of several lyricists and among the composers was Morgan Lewis with whom she began a fruitful working relationship. Hamilton appeared in and wrote material and lyrics for three revues. The first was One For The Money (1939), which featured Alfred Drake, Gene Kelly and Keenan Wynn, with vocal arrangements by Hugh Martin. Next came Two For The Show (1940), with Eve Arden, Drake, Betty Hutton and Wynn, while the third, Three To Make Ready (1946), featured Ray Bolger, Carleton Carpenter, Arthur Godfrey, Harold Lang, Gordon MacRae and Bibi Osterwald.

Among the Hamilton-Lewis songs in these shows were ‘The Old Soft Shoe’, ‘In My Kenosha Canoe’, ‘The House With A Little Red Barn’, ‘Lovely, Lazy Kind Of Day’, ‘Barnaby Beach’, ‘The Shoe On The Other Foot’, ‘There’s Something On My Program’, ‘The Sad Sack’, ‘My Day’, ‘If It’s Love’, ‘I Only Know’ and ‘I Hate Spring’. It was in the second show that their most lasting composition was first heard. Sung as a slow ballad by Drake, ‘How High The Moon’ was soon picked up by jazz musicians working in the then newly emerging bebop scene. Many jazz artists recorded the song, although best remembered is Ella Fitzgerald. Outside the jazz fold, a multi-tracked version was a big 50s hit for Les Paul and Mary Ford. Additionally, Hamilton wrote material for several noted performers, among them Kaye Ballard, Billie Burke, Kitty Carlisle, Beatrice Lillie, Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard.

Although she worked little in films, Hamilton did so with élan, producing the Oscar-winning documentary The Unconquered (1954). She also co-wrote the film, with James L. Shute, which tells the story of the remarkable Helen Keller. The film was narrated by Katharine Cornell, one of the leading figures in American theatre, with whom Hamilton had an intimate personal relationship although this was veiled from view at the time because of public prejudice.