VINCENT YOUMANS (1898-1946) : Biography

Vincent Youmans was born in New York, attended Yale University for a short period of time, was a runner on Wall Street and was inducted into the Navy during WWI.

After the war, Youmans served as a song-plugger for Jerome H. Remick Music Publishers and then a rehearsal pianist for Victor Herbert productions.  In 1921, he contributed a number of songs, along with Paul Lannin, to a show called Two Little Girls in Blue (1921.10); Youmans’ lyricist was Ira Gershwin, writing under the name Arthur Francis.  One of their songs became popular (“Oh Me! Oh My!”) and was subsequently published by T.B. Harms.  Youmans accepted a composing contract with Harms and stayed with the firm until 1927, when he started to publish his own scores.

While he was with Harms, his two shows with Herbert Stothart were Wildflower (1923.05) and Mary Jane McKane (1923.45), and his three shows by himself  were Lollipop (1924.02), No, No, Nanette (1925.30) and Oh, Please! (1926.46).

Although Youmans wrote some beautiful music after he left Harms, other than Hit the Deck! (1927.16), his shows never achieved any success:  Rainbow (1928.44, closed after 29 performances); Great Day (1929.37, closed after 36 performances); Smiles (1930.39, closed after 63 performances); and Through the Years (1932.03, closed after 20 performances).

It is somewhat difficult to understand why Rainbow and Smiles did not succeed; Rainbow had a book by Laurence Stallings and Oscar Hammerstein II; the musical numbers were staged by Busby Berkeley; Max Steiner was the orchestrator and music director; and the cast included Libby Holman, Harland Dixon and Charles Ruggles.  Smiles had a cast that included Fred and Adele Astaire, Eddie Foy, Jr. and Marilyn Miller.

In 1933, Youmans started to write for the movies; his first film, Flying Down to Rio (1933) united Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for the first time and had four excellent songs:  “Orchids in the Moonlight,” “The Carioca,” “Music Makes Me” and the title song.