Today is the birthday of songwriter Louis Alter (1902-1980). Alter started out as a silent film accompanist at the age of 13. In time he worked his way up from nickelodeons to accompanying headliners in vaudeville and on Broadway, including Irene Bordoni, Helen Morgan, Beatrice Lillie and Nora Bayes, whom he played for the last four years of her life.
Trained at the New England Conservatory of Music, he had also written special material for his singers. His first hit song had been “Hugs and Kisses” (1926) and his first Broadway show A La Carte (1927). From here he became primarily a songwriter, supplying tunes for both Broadway and Hollywood. He contributed the song “Paris” for the otherwise Cole Porter dominated show of the same name in 1928, and also wrote the songs for the 1928 edition of Earl Carroll’s Vanities, Sweet and Low (1930), Ballyhoo of 1930, and Hold Your Horses (1933). From 1927 to 1949 he wrote original songs for dozens of movies. Among the better known tunes from these years were “Dolores” (nominated for an Oscar), “Manhattan Serenade”, “My Kinda Love”, and “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?”
Here’s a recording of “Manhattan Serenade”:
To find out about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc