Leo Robin: Thanks for the Memory

Looks a little like Irving Berlin, eh?

April 6 is the birthday of Tin Pan Alley lyricist Leo Robin (1900-1984), best known for his collaborations with tunesmith Ralph Grainger. He is chiefly remembered today for having written the words to Bob Hope’s theme song “Thanks for the Memory” (from The Big Broadcast of 1938) and the songs in the 1949 musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (tunes by Jule Styne), which of course contains the immortal “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”.

One has to wonder if Samson Raphaelson based the name of the hero of The Jazz Singer “Jack Robin” on his (it’s sort of an unusual name, yes?) but Raphaelson’s original story was published in 1922, when Robin was not yet famous, but merely a journalist and p.r. man. Still, Raphaelson, was in advertising at the time; it’s possible he knew him. The Merry World (1926) was Robin’s first Broadway show, followed by Judy (1927) with Queenie Smith; Hit the Deck (1927) with Brian Donlevy, Stella Mayhew, and Charles King; Allez-Oop (1927) with Charles Butterworth, Victor Moore, and Bobby Watson; Just Fancy (1927) with Eric Blore, Raymond Hitchcock, and Joseph Santley; Hello Yourself (1928) with Fred Waring; Shoot the Works (1931) with Heywood Broun, Imogene Coca, Percy Helton, and George Murphy; and Tattle Tales (1933) with Frank Fay, Edith Evans, and a young Barbara Stanwyck.

Meantime, Robin has gotten his foot in the door at Paramount, supplying lyrics to songs in three dozen films, including One Hour with You (1932), Trouble in Paradise (1932), International House (1933), Poppy (1936), The Big Broadcast of 1937, The Big Broadcast of 1938, St. Louis Blues (1939), Gulliver’s Travels (1939), Riding High (1943) and Kasbah (1948). He returned to Broadway for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949, filmed in 1953), The Girl in Pink Tights (1954), and Wake Up Darling (1955), and then returned to Hollywood for My Sister Eileen (1955, again with Styne). He retired after this, although his older songs were often recycled on stage and screen thereafter.

Robin was originally from Pittsburgh and had studied at Carnegie Tech as well as the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

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For more on vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.