TV & Radio
Ray Evans, 92; half of award-winning, prolific songwriting duo that created 'Mona Lisa,' 'Silver Bells,' 'Tammy'
By Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 17, 2007
Ray Evans, whose long collaboration with songwriting partner Jay Livingston produced a string of hits that included the Oscar-winning "Buttons and Bows," "Mona Lisa" and "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," has died. He was 92.
Evans, who teamed with Livingston in the late 1930s, died Thursday evening at UCLA Medical Center of an apparent heart attack, Frederick Nicholas, Evans' lawyer and the trustee of his estate, said Friday.
Considered among Hollywood's greatest songwriters, Livingston and Evans wrote songs for dozens of movies, most of them at Paramount, where they were under contract from 1945 to 1955.
With Livingston providing the melodies and Evans writing the lyrics, the team turned out 26 songs that reportedly sold more than 1 million copies each.
"Ray Evans, along with his late partner, Jay Livingston, gave us some of the most enduring songs in the Great American Songbook," lyricist Alan Bergman told The Times on Friday. "We will miss him but know that his songs will live on."
In addition to their three Oscar winners, Livingston and Evans earned Academy Award nominations for "The Cat and the Canary," from "Why Girls Leave Home" (1945); "Tammy," sung by Debbie Reynolds in "Tammy and the Bachelor" (1957); "Almost in Your Arms," from "Houseboat" (1958); and "Dear Heart," from the movie of the same name (1964).
"Dear Heart," with lyrics credited to Livingston and Evans and music by Henry Mancini, became a big hit for Andy Williams.
"I just loved the record I made of 'Dear Heart,' " Williams told The Times on Friday. "Livingston and Evans were really part of the generation of songwriters that I loved, and I sang a lot of their songs over the years. I wasn't as close to them like I was to Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini, but I certainly recognized their talent and how good they were at their craft of putting out great songs."
Among Livingston and Evans' songs, which have reportedly sold a total of nearly 500 million copies, is the Christmas standard "Silver Bells." Introduced in the 1951 Bob Hope-Marilyn Maxwell comedy "The Lemon Drop Kid," "Silver Bells" is said to have been recorded by nearly 150 artists and have sold more than 160 million copies.
The duo also wrote the memorable themes for the television series "Bonanza" and "Mr. Ed."
"Ray had a great ear for language, for the vernacular, which is something he had in common with many of the great lyricists," singer-pianist Michael Feinstein, who in 2002 released an album devoted to the Evans and Livingston songbook, told The Times a few years ago.
"He was able to distill a mood or a feeling into a song without it sounding cliched," Feinstein said. "He did not consider himself a sophisticated writer, but he knew how to express the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the common man in an eloquent way."
The son of a second-hand paper, string and burlap dealer, Evans was born in Salamanca, N.Y., south of Buffalo, on Feb. 4, 1915.
After graduating from high school, where he played clarinet in the band and was valedictorian, Evans earned a degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
While at the university, he met Livingston, a journalism major from Pennsylvania who had studied piano as a child. Evans joined Livingston's band, which performed at college dances and parties, and during school vacations they played together in cruise ship bands.
After graduating in 1937, Evans and Livingston continued to work on cruise ships before moving to New York City, where they began their songwriting collaboration.
They had their first success in 1941, when their song "G'Bye Now" was incorporated into John "Ole" Olsen and Chic Johnson's zany Broadway revue "Hellzapoppin' " and landed on "Your Hit Parade."
In 1944, the two songwriters came to Hollywood, where they had a hit with Betty Hutton's recording of "Stuff Like That There."
They earned their first Oscar nomination with "The Cat and the Canary."
Under contract to Paramount, the pair wrote one of the biggest hits of 1946: the title song for the Olivia de Havilland movie "To Each His Own," the basic framework of which began with Evans' phrase "two lips must insist on two more to be kissed."
For one week in 1946, five versions of "To Each His Own" were on Billboard's Top 10 list, with recordings by Eddy Howard (No. 1), Tony Martin, Freddy Martin, the Modernaires and the Ink Spots.
Livingston and Evans picked up their first Oscar for the bouncy "Buttons and Bows," which was introduced by Bob Hope in the 1948 comedy western "The Paleface" and recorded by Dinah Shore, among others.
While at Paramount, the songwriters even made a cameo appearance playing themselves in Billy Wilder's 1950 classic "Sunset Boulevard."
Although they were born only six weeks apart, Livingston and Evans were "not the least bit alike," Evans told The Times in 1985.
"I'm nuts about sports, play baseball and tennis every weekend; Jay couldn't care less. He's restrained and quiet; I'm more outward going. Jay is a marvelous musician; I have a tin ear."
But, he said, "our tastes are similar, and we both like good music and song."
"Mona Lisa," which they wrote for "Captain Carey, U.S.A.," a 1950 drama starring Alan Ladd, remained Evans' favorite song.
It was originally called "Prima Donna," but they changed the title at the suggestion of Evans' wife, Wyn, who thought "Mona Lisa" sounded much nicer.
In the movie, the song is sung by a blind Italian street singer to send a signal to Italian partisans during World War II and is heard only in fragments.
But Evans and Livingston thought that if they could play the song for Nat King Cole, they might be able to persuade him to record it.
"So Paramount Studio, who owned the song, pulled some strings, and [Cole] allowed us to come to his home and play it for him, in 1950," Evans recalled in a 1993 interview with the Buffalo News. "He recorded it, and in 1951 Capitol Records decided not to release it. They said it wouldn't ever be a hit."
Capitol eventually used the song, but only as the flip side of a Cole single the record company felt would become a hit, "The Greatest Inventor of Them All."
"Eventually, we had the last laugh," Evans said. "Mona Lisa" became an enormous hit. "It was so different and so unusual," he said. "It's hardly ever dropped in popularity … and it's given me a lot of credit and ego."
After leaving Paramount to work as freelancers in 1955, Livingston and Evans won their third Oscar for "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)," which was sung by Doris Day in Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 thriller, "The Man Who Knew Too Much."
The duo also wrote the music and lyrics for two Broadway musicals: "Oh Captain!" in 1958 (a Tony nominee for best musical) and "Let It Ride!" in 1961. And in 1979, two of their songs were included in the hit Broadway revue "Sugar Babies."
In later years, they provided special material for Bob Hope and charity shows.
In 1993, Evans returned to Salamanca, which renamed a Main Street theater in his honor. Then 78, he told the Buffalo News that he no longer wrote songs. Popular tastes had changed drastically since his and Livingston's heyday, he acknowledged. "There's no way we are going to be heard," he said.
Still, there was no denying the staying power of their songs. The year before, Evans and Livingston and their publisher each made $400,000 off royalties from past hits.
But although they no longer had the "economic pressure" to continue writing, he said, "you don't live on bread alone. There's the excitement and fun that you miss."
After Livingston died in 2001 at the age of 86, Evans wrote a few songs with other collaborators. But, according to Feinstein, "he said it was a strange experience after being teamed with Jay for over 60 years."
Evans, whose wife died in 2003, is survived by his sister, Doris Feinberg.
February 17, 2007
Ray Evans, Lyricist of Hit Songs From Movies, Dies at 92
By RICHARD SEVERO
The New York Times
Ray Evans, a pop lyricist who teamed up with the composer and lyricist Jay Livingston to write three Academy Award-winning songs and one of Nat King Cole’s best-known classics, as well as the Christmas standard “Silver Bells,” died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 92.
Jim Steinblatt, a spokesman for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, announced the death.
In their heyday, in the 1940s and ’50s, the team of Evans and Livingston was much in demand in Hollywood, turning out songs for film after film that often became big jukebox hits. The team was formed after Mr. Evans met Mr. Livingston at the University of Pennsylvania, survived separation during the war years and enjoyed decades of success until the emergence of rock ’n’ roll.
Evans and Livingston received their first best- song Oscar for “Buttons and Bows,” a bouncy tune from the 1948 comedy-western “The Paleface.” It was introduced by Bob Hope, playing the timid dentist “Painless” Peter Potter, who sang it to Jane Russell. Dinah Shore had a hit record with it, and the song spent 19 weeks on the “Hit Parade” radio program.
“Mona Lisa” was written in 1950 for a forgettable Alan Ladd film called “Captain Carey, U.S.A.” In the movie, the song is used to send a signal to Italian partisans during World War II. Originally, it was called “Prima Donna,” but Mr. Evans’s wife, Wyn, preferred “Mona Lisa.” The songwriting team agreed.
Before the release of the film, Mr. Livingston and Mr. Evans went to see Nat King Cole to interest him in recording it. That day, Mr. Cole’s baby daughter Natalie was making such a fuss that Mr. Cole had trouble hearing it, but agreed to record it, even though he was not sure a song about a da Vinci painting was commercially promising. Capitol Records had so little faith in the song that it was put on the B side of a single, paired with something called “The Greatest Inventor of Them All.”
It became one of Cole’s greatest and most enduring hits, and Mr. Evans was especially pleased when Natalie Cole revived it on a hit record of her own.
“Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be”),” which won a third Oscar for the team, was sung by Doris Day in “The Man Who Knew Too Much”(1956), Alfred Hitchcock’s remake of his own1934 film. A little improbably, Ms. Day belts it out to signal to her kidnapped child that she and her husband (James Stewart) have come to the rescue.
Ms. Day’s recording was a hit, and it, too, survived in other recordings and even a television commercial.
Other Livingston-Evans movie songs were nominated for Oscars, among them “The Cat and the Canary,” from “Why Girls Leave Home” (1945); “Tammy,” from “Tammy and the Bachelor” (1957), which became a best-selling record for Debbie Reynolds; “Almost in Your Arms,” from “Houseboat” (1958); and “Dear Heart,” from the 1964 movie of the same name, starring Glenn Ford and Geraldine Page. Andy Williams had a hit with “Dear Heart,” singing the Livingston-Evans lyrics to music by Henry Mancini.
Mr. Livingston and Mr. Evans also wrote the lyrics for a 1947 tune that Victor Young adapted from a Hungarian folk song to serve as the theme for the movie “Golden Earrings.” Sung in the movie by the basso Murvyn Vye, it became a hit record by Peggy Lee.
“To Each His Own” was a big hit in 1946 for several performers: Eddy Howard, the Ink Spots, Tony Martin, Freddie Martin and the Modernaires.Perhaps the team’s biggest commercial success was a Christmas song they first called “Tinkle Bell” until Lynne Livingston, Jay’s wife, objected to the title. The song became “Silver Bells,” and it was first sung by Bob Hope in “The Lemon Drop Kid” (1951). “Silver Bells” is one of the most popular Christmas songs ever written, selling millions of records.
Mr. Evans and Mr. Livingston were both small-town guys, Mr. Livingston from McDonald, Pa., and Mr. Evans from Salamanca, in the middle of a Seneca Indian reservation in western New York.
Mr. Evans was born there on Feb. 4, 1915, the son of Philip Evans and Frances Lipsitz Evans. The elder Evans was a scrap dealer from Latvia. Neither parent was musical.
Ray Evans learned to play clarinet and saxophone in high school and organized a dance band there, which he said “wasn’t very good.”
While he was at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, he met Mr. Livingston, who was studying journalism at the university and was the organizer of a dance band. Mr. Evans tried out for the band and made it, and the two became partners for more than 60 years.
After graduation, they moved to New York to try their hand at Tin Pan Alley songwriting. They had a hit with “G‘Bye Now” in 1941, but World War II intervened, and Mr. Livingston was inducted into the Army. Mr. Evans took a bookkeeping job at an aircraft plant on Long Island.
In 1944, they reunited and, after some work in New York, including writing special material for the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson, they attracted the attention of Johnny Mercer, who liked their work and opened doors for them in Hollywood.
In the years that followed, they wrote 600 to 700 songs, of which 300 were published. They also contributed songs to more than 80 movies, including “My Favorite Brunette” (1947); “Whispering Smith” (1948); “Sorrowful Jones” (1949); ; “Fancy Pants” (1950); “Here Comes the Groom” (1951); “Aaron Slick From Punkin Crick” (1952); “That’s My Boy” (1951); ; “Lucy Gallant” (1955); “Istanbul” (1957); ; “The James Dean Story” (1957); “This Happy Feeling” (1958); ; and “Wait Until Dark” (1967).
For some of these films they worked with the great names in movie music, like Percy Faith, Max Steiner, Neal Hefti, David Rose, Jimmy McHugh, Franz Waxman and Sammy Cahn.
The team tried the theater without much success and found little demand in Hollywood for their kind of music once rock arrived. In later years the pair turned their attention to television and wrote the theme music for long-running series like “Bonanza” and “Mr. Ed.” Mr. Livingston died in 2001.
Mr. Evans, who had no children and is survived by his sister, Doris Feinberg of Salamanca, was a self-deprecating fellow who liked to call himself a “sounding board” for his partner. But he was much honored in Salamanca, which renamed its movie house the Ray Evans Seneca Theater.
A. ヒッチコック監督の映画「知りすぎていた男 (The Man Who Knew Too Much)の中で、「ケ・セラ・セラ」を歌うドリス・デイ (YouTube)