Philip Charig

A composer and occasional lyricist for the Broadway and London stage in the 1920s, '30s and '40s.
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography

b. 31 August 1902, New York, USA, d. 21 July 1960, New York, USA. A composer and occasional lyricist for the Broadway and London stage, in the early 20s Charig was a protégé of band leader Ben Bernie. In 1925 he served as rehearsal pianist for Jerome Kern’s Broadway musical, Sunny, and a year later collaborated with lyricist Ira Gershwin on the novel ‘Sunny Disposish’ for the first edition of Americana. For that same revue, Charig also wrote ‘Why Do Ya Roll Those Eyes?’ with Morrie Ryskind. It was introduced by Helen Morgan, Lyman Beck, Evelyn Bennett, and Betty Compton, and later popularized by Paul Whiteman And His Orchestra. Bolstered by that success, and his burgeoning friendship with the rapidly rising Gershwins, in 1927 Charig had his name on two book musicals, Yes, Yes, Yvette, (with Irving Caesar), a kind of riposte to No, No, Nanette of a couple of years earlier in which Caesar was also involved, and Just Fancy (Joseph Meyer - Leo Robin). Neither set Broadway alight, and Charig sought more satisfaction in the late 20s and early 30s in London’s West End. Lucky Girl (1928, with Douglas Furber -R.P. Weston-Bert Lee) and Lady Mary (1928, additional songs) showed promise, before That’s A Good Girl (1928) made Charig’s trip really worth while, running for 363 performances. A quartet of Meyer, Ira Gershwin, Desmond Carter, and Furber helped out with the songs, which included ‘The One I’m Looking For’, ‘Sweet So And So’, and ‘Fancy Our Meeting’. The latter number was memorably performed by Jack Buchanan and Elsie Randolph in London, and later by Buchanan and Jessie Matthews on Broadway in the 1929 revue Wake Up And Dream. Charig and Furber combined again in 1931 for another Buchanan offering, Stand Up And Sing, which pleased audiences for almost as long as That’s A Good Girl. Among the best songs were the lovely ballad ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’ sung by Buchanan and Anna Neagle, ‘It’s Not You’, and the title number, on which British composer Vivian Ellis received a third of the credit. In addition, Ellis composed a few of his own numbers for the show. In parallel with his West End diversion, Charig interpolated some material with Howard Dietz into the popular revue, Three’s A Crowd (1930), and was also represented on Broadway by Polly (1929, Caesar) and Nikki (1931). In among Charig and James Dyrenforth’s score for Nikki were ‘On Account Of I Love You’, ‘Taking Off’, and ‘Wonder Why’, and heading the cast was actress Fay Wray, just two years before she was carried to the top of the Empire State Building in the celebrated movie King Kong. Also present in Nikki were Archie Leach, who later changed his name to Cary Grant, and, in the chorus, the future stage and film star, Adele Dixon. It was more than a decade before Charig returned to the New York scene, firstly with some material for Artists And Models (1943), and then with the score for his most successful Broadway show, Follow The Girls (1944). In both cases his collaborators were Dan Shapiro and Milton Pascal, and for Follow The Girls they produced the slightly suggestive ‘I Wanna Get Married’, which was introduced by Gertrude Niesen. Jackie Gleason was also on board this goodtime musical which ran for over two years, considerably longer than Charig’s Broadway swan-song, Catch A Star!, which folded after three weeks in spite of the combined songwriting talents of Charig, Sammy Fain, Jerry Bock (later the co-composer of Fiddler On The Roof), and Larry Holofcener.