One in a series of evenings and special screenings presented as part of The Paley Center for Media’s Inside Media events. Held at the Paley Center in New York, this seminar features a centennial celebration of Johnny Mercer, the lyricist/songwriter/singer who penned over sixteen hundred songs and earned four Academy Awards for Best Original Song. Pat Mitchell (president and CEO, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks before introducing moderator Barry Day, co-author of the book “The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer.”

Day then introduces the performers: Anna Bergman; Klea Blackhurst and Steve Ross, who perform many of Mercer’s songs in between Day’s commentary about his work and life. Day’s discussion touches on such topics as: Mercer’s birth and childhood in Georgia; his many awards and accolades; details about his unpublished autobiography; comments from other notable composers, including songwriter Edgar “Yip” Harburg of "The Wizard of Oz" fame, who called Mercer “America’s folk poet”; his experiences performing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra and with bandleader Benny Goodman; his friendship and collaboration with Fred Astaire; his fondness for love songs, both positive and negative; and his death in 1976 and consequent interment in Georgia.

Midway through the program, Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne takes the stage with Robert Kimball, who co-wrote the “Complete Lyrics” book. Their conversation touches on such topics as: surprising facts unearthed by Kimball during his research for the book; Mercer’s work with 230 collaborators, including Duke Ellington; his creation of the California-based Capitol Records company in 1942; his unusual writing style, and how he often “took songs away” from collaborators so he could finish the piece alone; the image of him as “a man possessed” because of his drive and work ethic; his early desire to be an actor; Kimball and Day's use of Georgia State University’s Johnny Mercer collection in their research; problems in writing the book caused by Mercer not putting dates on his work; Kimball being “constantly scared” about not being able to complete the book; Mercer's depression at the change in popular music in the 1960s and the decrease in Hollywood musicals; and Mercer and other writers’ sense of “desertion” at the consequent lack of opportunities for classical songwriters.

Video clips of Mercer’s work are interspersed throughout the program, including: Mercer singing “The Pleasure of Your Company”; Mercer performing "Mr. Meadowlark" with Bing Crosby on “The Bing Crosby Show” (1960); Frank Sinatra singing "One More for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" on “The Frank Sinatra Show” (1958); Judy Garland singing "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" on “The Judy Garland Show” (1964); Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon singing "I Wanna Be a Dancin' Man" on “The Garry Moore Show” (1962); Fred Astaire singing "Something's Gotta Give" on “The Dick Cavett Show” (1971); Dorothy Lamour singing "I Remember You" from the 1942 film “The Fleet’s In”; and Julie Andrews singing "I'm Old Fashioned" to a Muppet --Rowlf the Dog -- on “Julie Andrews: One Step Into Spring” (1978).

Mercer numbers are also performed live to Ross's accompaniment, including: Bergman, Blackhurst, and Ross singing “Too Marvelous For Words”; Ross singing “Skylark”; Bergman singing “I Thought About You”; Ross singing “Hooray For Hollywood”; Blackhurst singing “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening”; Bergman singing “Fools Rush In”; Blackhurst singing “How Little We Know”; Ross singing “My Shining Hour”; Ross singing “You Were Never Lovelier”; Blackhurst singing “Goody Goody”; Bergman singing "I Wanna Be Around"; Bergman, Blackhurst, and Ross singing “Moon River”; and a recording of Mercer singing “Pardon My Southern Accent” with Peggy Healy and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.

Cataloging of this program has been made possible by Verizon Communications.


  • DATE: December 2, 2009 6:30 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:04:25
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 100485
  • GENRE: Seminars


    • Pat Mitchell … Host
    • Barry Day … Moderator
    • Robert Kimball … Guest
    • Robert Osborne … Guest
    • Anna Bergman … Performer
    • Klea Blackhurst … Performer
    • Steve Ross … Performer
    • Julie Andrews
    • Fred Astaire
    • Bing Crosby
    • Duke Ellington
    • Bob Fosse
    • Judy Garland
    • Benny Goodman
    • Edgar "Yip" Harburg
    • Peggy Healy
    • Dorothy Lamour
    • Johnny Mercer
    • Frank Sinatra
    • Gwen Verdon
    • Paul Whiteman