Words and Music
Words and Music (1948 film) poster.jpg
Lobby card
Directed byNorman Taurog
Written byBen Feiner Jr. (adaptation)
Fred F. Finklehoffe (writer)
Story byGuy Bolton
Jean Holloway
Produced byArthur Freed
StarringTom Drake
Mickey Rooney
CinematographyCharles Rosher
Harry Stradling
Edited byAlbert Akst
Ferris Webster
Music byRichard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart
Distributed byLoew's Inc.
Release date
  • December 31, 1948 (1948-12-31)
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4,552,000[1]

Words and Music is a 1948 American biographical musical film loosely based on the creative partnership of the composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Lorenz Hart. The film stars Mickey Rooney as Hart and Tom Drake as Rodgers, along with Janet Leigh, Betty Garrett, Ann Sothern and numerous musical stars. It was the second in a series of MGM biopics about Broadway composers; it was preceded by Till the Clouds Roll By (Jerome Kern, 1946) and followed by Three Little Words (Kalmar and Ruby, 1950) and Deep in My Heart (Sigmund Romberg, 1954).

The film is best remembered for featuring the final screen pairing of Rooney and Judy Garland, and for the lavish showcasing of the Rodgers and Hart catalogue of songs. The script, as in many similar films of the era, was heavily fictionalized. It sanitized Hart's complex psychological problems and self-destructive behavior, which led to the break-up of the writing partnership and contributed to Hart's early death. In keeping with cultural taboos of the time, the film also completely ignored Hart's homosexuality. (Thanks to the same taboos, The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther ridiculed the film's inaccurate portrayal of Hart but did not specify what was inaccurate.)

The introduction to the film is staged as if composer Richard Rodgers were actually playing himself. Actor Tom Drake appears alone in character, identifies himself as Rodgers and tells the audience it is about to see the story of his collaboration with Lorenz Hart. (Contemporary posters from the film featured the faces of most major cast members, including Rooney, but did not show the face of Drake, and his name was in smaller type than those of the other main stars.)

Though the film performed very well at the box office, it proved to be quite an expensive production and, as a result, failed to recoup its cost in its first release.[2] The film was issued on DVD in 2007 by Warner Bros. and extras included video and audio outtakes.[3] Among these were two songs deleted from the film sung by Perry Como - "Lover" and "You're Nearer".[4]


Aspiring lyricist Lorenz "Larry" Hart needs a composer for his music, so Herb Fields introduces him to Richard "Dick" Rodgers and a partnership is born in 1919. They struggle to achieve success, however, and Dick ultimately leaves the business to sell children's apparel.

Larry becomes impressed with singer Peggy Lorgan McNeil, personally and professionally. But when a show by him and Dick is finally bound for Broadway, his promise to Peggy to play the starring role is ruined because Joyce Harmon is hired to play the part. Dick is attracted to Joyce, but is judged too young to be involved with her, then too old for another woman he meets, Dorothy Feiner. A string of hit songs and shows follows, but Larry seems unable to enjoy the success.

After fighting depression, things begin looking up for Larry as soon as Judy Garland agrees to do a movie with Rodgers and Hart music in it. Larry buys a home in California but can't shake his sorrow, even after Dorothy marries Dick and invites Larry to share their home. Larry attends a last show of theirs in New York City, then collapses and dies outside the theater. Dick later leads a tribute to Larry's career.




The film was originally budgeted at $2,659,065.[5]


The film earned $3,453,000 in the US and Canada and $1,099,000 overseas but because of its high cost recorded a loss of $371,000.[1][6]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. ^ H. Mark Glancy, 'MGM Film Grosses, 1924–28: The Eddie Mannix Ledger', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 12 No. 2 1992 p127-144 at p140
  3. ^ "DVD Talk". dvdtalk.com. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  4. ^ Macfarlane, Malcolm (2009). Perry Como - A Biography and Complete Career Record. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company. pp. 43–44. ISBN 978-0-7864-3701-6.
  5. ^ Michael A. Hoey, Elvis' Favorite Director: The Amazing 52-Film Career of Norman Taurog, Bear Manor Media 2013
  6. ^ "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
  7. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  8. ^ "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.