Best-known for his work on the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, composer/arranger Arthur Johnston was born in New York City on January 10, 1898. At 15, he began playing piano at local movie houses, two years later landing work as a vocal arranger with a Big Apple publishing firm; Johnston later tenured as the personal pianist and assistant to Irving Berlin, additionally serving as musical director on most of Berlin's early stage shows. In 1924, Johnston composed the score to the musical Dixie to Broadway, which generated the songs "Mandy, Make Up Your Mind" and "I'm a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird." He relocated to Hollywood five years later, in 1931, arranging the score to the Charlie Chaplin landmark City Lights; in 1933, Johnston scored his first of several Bing Crosby pictures, College Humor, yielding "Learn to Croon," "Down the Old Ox Road," and "Moonstruck." The following year's Murder at the Vanities arguably featured his most famous tune, "Cocktails for Two," co-written with Sam Coslow. Belle of the Nineties, meanwhile, generated "My Old Flame," sung in the film by the legendary Mae West. Other Johnston notables: "Sitting High on a Hilltop," "Sing, Brother, Sing," "Pennies From Heaven," "It's the Natural Thing to Do," "All You Want to Do Is Dance," and "Song of the South." A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, he died in Corona del Mar, CA, on May 1, 1954.
Arthur Johnston Biography
by Jason Ankeny