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Burton Lane
Burton Lane.jpg
Background information
Birth nameBurton Levy
Born(1912-02-02)February 2, 1912
New York City, New York
DiedJanuary 5, 1997(1997-01-05) (aged 84)
New York City, New York
Occupation(s)Lyricist, composer

Burton Lane ( Levy; February 2, 1912 – January 5, 1997) was an American composer and lyricist primarily known for his theatre and film scores. His most popular and successful works include Finian's Rainbow in 1947 and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever in 1965.


He was born Burton Levy, in New York City;[1] his father was Lazarus Levy.[2] At some later time he became known as Burton Lane. One source erroneously gives his birth name as "Morris Hyman Kushner".[3]

Burton Lane studied classical piano as a child. At age 14 the theatrical producers the Shuberts commissioned him to write songs for a revue, Greenwich Village Follies. At the age of 18, he contributed the music for at least two songs for the revue, Three's A Crowd: "Forget All Your Books" and "Out in the Open Air."

He was known for his Broadway musicals, Finian's Rainbow (1947)[4] and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965). He also wrote the music for the less remembered Broadway shows, Hold On to Your Hats (1940), Laffing Room Only (1944), and Carmelina (1979), the latter with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, who had also written lyrics to Lane's music for On a Clear Day and the film Royal Wedding (1951). Lane mainly wrote music for films, such as Dancing Lady (1933), and Babes on Broadway (1941), writing for more than 30 movies.[5][6]

He was president of the American Guild of Authors and Composers from 1957 and for the next 10 terms, during which period he campaigned against music piracy. He also served three terms on the board of directors of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).[5]

Lane's best-known songs include "Old Devil Moon," "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?," "Too Late Now," "How About You?," and the title song from "On a Clear Day." He shared a Grammy Award in 1965 for Best Broadway Cast Album of the year (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever).[5]

Finian's Rainbow has had four major revivals (1955, 1960, 1967, and 2009),[7][8] and was also made into a film starring Fred Astaire and Petula Clark, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, in 1968.[9] In 2004 and 2016 the Irish Repertory Theatre staged an Off-Broadway production.[10] New York's City Center Encores! series performed a critically acclaimed concert version of the musical in March 2009. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, it starred Jim Norton and Kate Baldwin as Finian and Sharon, with Cheyenne Jackson as Woody and Jeremy Bobb as Og, the leprechaun.[11] The most recent Broadway revival opened on October 29, 2009 at the St. James Theatre with most of the Encores! cast. Newly added to the Broadway cast are Christopher Fitzgerald as Og and Chuck Cooper as Billboard; Jim Norton, Kate Baldwin and Cheyenne Jackson all reprise their roles.[8]

Discovery of Judy Garland

Lane is credited [5] with discovering the 13-year-old Frances Gumm (Judy Garland).[12] He caught her sisters' act at the Paramount theater in Hollywood which featured a movie and a live stage show. The sisters, Virginia and Mary Jane, brought on their younger sister, Frances, who sang "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." Lane immediately called Jack Robbins, head of the music department at MGM, and told him he'd just heard a great new talent.

Robbins told him to bring her in next day for an audition which Lane did. Robbins was knocked out by the little girl's voice (Lane played the audition piano for her), rushed upstairs and dragged Louis B. Mayer down to listen to her belt out some songs. Mayer was so impressed he ordered every writer, director and producer on the lot to hear her with the result that the audition, which began at 9 am, finished at 7:30 pm. Frances (Judy) was signed, and that was the start of her career. Because of circumstance, and contractual arrangements, Burton Lane didn't work with her again for seven years (Babes on Broadway), but it was definitely he who discovered her.[5][12]

Stage credits

Selected songs

Artists and Models (1930)
Three's a Crowd (1930)
The Third Little Show (1931)
Earl Carroll's Vanities (1931)

(lyrics by Harold Adamson)

Dancing Lady (1933) (new songs only)

(lyrics by Harold Adamson)

College Swing (1938)

(lyrics by Frank Loesser)

Some Like It Hot (1939)
Hold on to Your Hats (1940)

(lyrics by E. Y. Harburg)

Dancing on a Dime (1941)

(lyrics by Frank Loesser)

Babes on Broadway (1941)
Ship Ahoy (1942)
DuBarry Was a Lady (1943)
Laffing Room Only (1944)
Finian's Rainbow (1947)

(lyrics by E. Y. Harburg)

Royal Wedding (1951)

(lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner)

Jupiter's Darling (1955)

(lyrics by Harold Adamnson)

Junior Miss (1947)
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965)

(lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner)

We Bombed in New Haven (1968)
Carmelina (1979)

(lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner)

The 1940's Radio Hour (1979)
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (2011)

[Listing only additional songs]


  1. ^ Vallance, Tom. Obituary: Burton Lane" The Independent, 8 January 1997
  2. ^ Severo, Richard. "Burton Lane, Composer for 'Finian's Rainbow' and 'Clear Day,' Is Dead at 84" The New York Times, January 7, 1997
  3. ^ Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music. Retrieved 8 December 2013
  4. ^ " Finian's Rainbow 1947" Playbill, retrieved July 28, 2018
  5. ^ a b c d e "Burton Lane", retrieved July 28, 2018
  6. ^ "Burton Lane Filmography", retrieved July 28, 2018
  7. ^ "Finian's Rainbow 1960" Playbill, retrieved July 28, 2018
  8. ^ a b " Finian's Rainbow 2009" Playbill, retrieved July 28, 2018
  9. ^ " 'Finian's Rainbow' Film", retrieved July 28, 2018
  10. ^ Clement, Olivia. " 'Finian’s Rainbow' Opens Off-Broadway Tonight" Playbill, November 6, 2016
  11. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "An Irish Immigrant in Missitucky With the Lowdown on High Finance" The New York Times, March 27, 2009
  12. ^ a b Lane biography, retrieved December 8, 2009
  13. ^ "'Earl Carroll's Vanities' Broadway", retrieved July 28, 2018
  14. ^ " 'On a Clear Day You Can See Forever' Broadway", retrieved July 28, 2018
  15. ^ " 'We Bombed in New Haven' Broadway", retrieved July 28, 2018
  16. ^ " 'Carmelina' Broadway", retrieved July 28, 2018