George W. Lederer (1862-1938)

George Lederer, Broadway Producer

George Lederer

George W. Lederer started a collaboration with Thomas Canary in 1889 and leased the Casino Theater.  Shortly thereafter, they produced one of the first successful annual revues, called The Passing Show.  The initial Revue was in 1894, with music by Ludwig Englander, a composer born in Vienna.  Lederer would produce a number of Englander shows over the next few years.  

As a general note, European-trained composers who emigrated to the United States formed the nucleus of Broadway talent in the 1890’s, until American-born composers could be trained by European teachers to reach equality with or surpass their European counterparts.  It is worth noting this pattern, because it permeates our musical history.  We devote entire Sections of the website to this pattern of emigration and evolution (Cultural Influences/European Musical Training).

Lederer and Canary produced Victor Herbert’s operetta The Gold Bug (1896.30).  The show struggled; and, notwithstanding the composer’s interest in keeping the score intact, the producers adhered to a common practice of  interpolating other material or acts into the body of a failing show.  In the case of The Gold Bug, they brought vaudevillians Bert Williams and his partner, George Walker, to New York to try to save the show.  They were not successful, and The Gold Bug closed after only twenty-one performances.

Vocal Score from Broadway Show, Belle of New York

Belle of New York

Lederer performed additional collaborative tasks, such as staging and production for two shows in 1897, both with music by Gustave Kerker, another German-born composer who spent most of his life as a music director and composer in New York.  One of Kerker’s 1897 compositions is worth remembering.  Called The Belle of New York (1897.39), it ran for sixty-four performances in New York, before going to London, where it enjoyed a successful run of over two years.  It is well to remember that shows can be imported or exported; it was and is a two-way street.

Lederer produced a big hit for Karl Hoschna, Madame Sherry (1910.22), which ran for 231 performances.  Hoschna was born in Bohemia (present-day Czech Republic), studied at the Vienna Conservatory of Music, specializing in the oboe, emigrated to the United States in 1896 and joined the Herbert orchestra as an oboe soloist.

Madame Sherry was the first big hit for librettist Otto Harbach.  Harbach had been the lyricist for Hoschna’s first hit, Three Twins (1908.18), which ran for 289 performances.  

Popular songs came from these two successful shows: Three Twins (“Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine”) and Madame Sherry (“Every Little Movement”).  Both songs retained their freshness years later and were recorded by such stars as Doris Day, Judy Garland, Julie London and Vic Damone.

Here we have the WWII pin-up girl, Betty Grable, singing “Cuddle Up a Little Closer.”

As good as “Cuddle Up” was, the duet of “Every Little Movement” featuring Connie Gilchrist and Judy Garland is pure magic in the movie, Presenting Lily Mars (1943).  Gilchrist, the old star now mopping the stage floor, gives advice to the new girl, trying to make it good in the theatre.

Charles Lederer, Hollywood ScreenwriterIn his day, George Lederer achieved a good share of fame.  However, as a side note, George’s son, Charles, is probably the more famous of the two. Charles wrote or contributed to screenplays for movies such as
The Front Page (1931), His Girl Friday (1940), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), The Spirit of St. Louis (1957) and the original 1960 version of Ocean’s 11 with Frank Sinatra.