Eric Maschwitz


Born: June 10, 1901; Birmingham, England   Died: October 27, 1969; Ascot, Berkshire, England  
Eric Maschwitz was a successful novelist, songwriter ("These Foolish Things," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square"), Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Goodbye, Mr. Chips), and playwright whose numerous musicals showed a curiously dated operetta influence. Born in England to a Lithuanian immigrant family in Edgbaston near Birmingham, he was writing plays from his teens onward. After graduating from Caius College, Cambridge, he embarked on a career Read more as a writer and published several novels (using the pseudonym "Holt Marvell"), but it was as a lyricist and librettist that he showed his most marked skill. His shows, mostly written in association with composer George Posford, were closer in spirit to old-style operetta than to the kind of musicals being generated at the time by the likes of Kern, Porter, Gershwin. Not surprisingly, Maschwitz also did translations and adapted new lyrics to works by Lehár and other operetta composers during this period. Most of his early theatrical works were conceived for broadcast on the BBC, where Maschwitz served as an executive from the mid-'20s onward; a few of these pieces took on lives of their own on provincial stages, while a tiny handful, such as Good Night Vienna, were considered substantial enough to find their way into film or to the London stage (or both); and one, The Gay Hussar (the title of which shows the sensibility behind it) aka Balalaika, was filmed in Hollywood with Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey. His later writing for the stage included the Chopin pastiche Waltz Without End (1941), which became a perennial regional theater revival; one West End success with Hans May entitled Carissima (1948); and his biggest hit, the musical comedy vehicle (authored with Posford) Zip Goes a Million (1951), which was also revived in 2001. Among Maschwitz's last and most critically acclaimed stage pieces was Summer Song (1956), a pastiche built on the music of Antonín Dvorák. In 1936, Maschwitz was awarded an OBE by the British crown for his service to music. Read less

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