Hoagy Carmichael - Writer

Composer. Nationality: American. Born: Hoagland Howard Carmichael in Bloomington, Indiana, 22 November 1899. Education: Studied Law at Indiana University, Bloomington. Family: Married Ruth Mary Meinardi, 1936; two sons. Career: Law practice; then band leader, songwriter, and arranger; 1924—first recorded

Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
song; 1936—songs for first film, Anything Goes ; also composer for Broadway, and performer on radio from 1944, and in films and TV. Award: Academy Award for song "In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening," 1951. Died: 27 December 1981.

Films as Composer:


Anything Goes (Milestone)


Every Day's a Holiday (Sutherland); College Swing (Walsh); Sing , You Sinners (Ruggles)


Road Show (Roach Jr., and Douglas)


Mr. Bug Goes to Town (Fleischer)


True to Life (Marshall)


To Have and Have Not (Hawks) (+ ro)


Johnny Angel (Martin) (+ ro); The Stork Club (Walker) (+ ro)


Canyon Passage (Tourneur) (+ ro); The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler) (+ ro)


Night Song (Cromwell) (+ ro)


Johnny Holiday (Holdbeck) (+ ro)


Here Comes the Groom (Capra)


Belles on Their Toes (Levin) (+ ro); The Las Vegas Story (Stevenson) (+ ro)


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks)


Timberjack (Kane) (+ ro); Three for the Show (Potter)

Film as Actor:


Young Man with a Horn (Curtiz)



The Stardust Road , New York, 1948.

With Stephen Longstreet, Sometimes I Wonder , New York, 1965.


Hoagy Carmichael: Stardust Memories , Miami, 1985.

Hasse, John E., The Classic Hoagy Carmichael , Indianapolis, 1988.

Bradley, Arthur, Silver Threads , El Paso, 1994.

On CARMICHAEL: articles—

Picturegoer (London), 18 January 1947.

The Listener (London), 11 December 1975.

Obituary in Films & Filming , March 1982.

Furness, Adrian, in TV Times (London), 14–20 August 1982.

Hemming, Roy, in The Melody Lingers On : The Great Songwriters and Their Movie Musicals , New York, 1986.

Zinsser, William, "From Natchez to Mobile, from Memphis to St. Joe," in American Scholar , Spring 1994.

* * *

Born in Bloomington, Indiana, into a rich and privileged background, Hoagy Carmichael first studied law and even undertook a law practice for a brief period until a chance meeting with the legendary jazz pianist and cornet player, Bix Beiderbecke, completely bowled him over. He took up his musical career then and there, playing piano with Jean Goldkette's band. He never had a formal music lesson in his life—he simply played by ear. Carmichael went on to compose great classics like "Stardust," "Rockin' Chair," "Georgia on My Mind," "Old Buttermilk Sky," "Skylark" and "Lazy Bones." Carmichael's drawling style of singing derived from a black jazz tradition. His phrasing was so very effortless, so lazy, that when he sang, it was Beale Street or Bourbon Street come to bluesy life.

In the 1940s Hoagy Carmichael went to Hollywood where he wrote film tunes as well as making screen appearances (often as a piano-playing character complete with hat over his eyes, a match stuck between his lips and sitting slouched at the keyboard—an image as memorable as that of Dooley Wilson, ("Sam" in Casablanca ) in such films as To Have and Have Not , Johnny Angel , The Best Years of Our Lives and Young Man with a Horn (inspired by Beiderbecke), Night Song , The Las Vegas Story , Belles on Their Toes and Timberjack . His role in the movie Canyon Passage made his lean face familiar to millions. In the film he wore a top hat while singing his own composition "Old Buttermilk Sky." He wrote the memorable "In the Cool Cool Cool of the Evening" performed by Bing Crosby for Here Comes the Groom which won an Academy Award in 1951.

Carmichael, like Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and Cole Porter, has become a household name in the English-speaking world. He had a knack for writing songs which were both memorable and fresh-sounding and on the occasions when he did collaborate with lyricists, his choice was always impeccable—Johnny Mercer and Sammy Lerner were among his partners. His most famous song was the heavenly "Stardust" which he wrote while still a struggling lawyer. He scribbled the song on the front pages of a lawbook while waiting for business in Florida but he did not get it recorded till several years later. "I figured there ought to be work for a good lawyer because there was all that selling and reselling going on. There probably was too—only I wasn't a good lawyer. A note, to me, was something that belonged on a musical staff. . . ." His death in 1981 was a great loss to American popular music and film.

—Sylvia Paskin

User Contributions:

Denis Cox
Report this comment as inappropriate
Aug 4, 2008 @ 9:09 am
I must take issue with the article's opening paragraph when it says Hoagy was "born into a rich and privileged background". Not so.

His father was eking out a living as a horse-drawn cabbie, supplemented with odd jobs............................. electrician, builder etc. His Ma,a talented pianist, was playing the accompaniment to silent films at the local cinema among other things.

No, the Carmichael family were a long way short of rich and privileged.

Otherwise an excellent article, thank you. Best regards, Den Cox. (UK's) no.1 Hoagy Fan!!!!

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:

Other articles you might like: