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 evening honors singer and music historian/preservationist Michael Feinstein, and his recent book "The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs" about his time as Ira Gershwin's archivist. Host Pat Mitchell (president and CEO, The Paley Center for Media) offers opening remarks and comments on Feinstein's vast knowledge of musical history, and then welcomes Feinstein to the stage.

Feinstein's comments and stories touch upon such topics as: his isolated childhood and beginnings in music, starting when he began playing the piano by ear at age five; his early love of the Gershwins' music, particularly "Rhapsody in Blue"; George Gershwin's notable ego and friendship with the quick-witted Oscar Levant; the "life-changing moment" in 1977 in which he met Ira Gershwin; cataloging Ira's many phonograph records and rare recordings; Ira and Ethel Merman's mutual dislike of one another; George's work and close friendship with Fred Astaire, as well as sister Adele; their song "The Man I Love" from the 1924 musical "Lady Be Good," eventually popularized by singer Helen Morgan; Feinstein's memories of working with the "outrageous" Martha Raye, who also performed Gershwin tunes; Ira's habit of quizzing Feinstein about his musical knowledge over their six-year working relationship; Ira's particularity about the spelling of his song " 'S Wonderful" from the 1927 musical "Funny Face"; Ira's inspiration for the song "They All Laughed," written for the 1937 film "Shall We Dance" starring Ginger Rogers; the strict and specific publishing-house rules about altering song lyrics for use in commercials and parodies, to which Ira generally agreed, for a price; Ira's friendship with Frank Sinatra, who popularized his song "I've Got a Crush On You" in a slowed-down ballad style; the brothers' "diverse personalities" and George as a "street urchin" initially disinterested in music; Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern's uneasy sense of intimidation from the rising ingénue; George's love of Art Tatum and his improvisational style, contrasted with Ira's "less liberal" musical preferences; Vic Damone's memorable rendition of "Embraceable You" from "Girl Crazy" (1930); the political commentary in their show "Of Thee I Sing" (1931) and a rare dispute between the brothers over Ira's acceptance of a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for "Of Thee I Sing"; a 1972 television version starring Cloris Leachman and Carroll O'Connor; Ira's two-year process of writing the opera "Porgy and Bess" (1935) in the face of general discouragement from others; his accurate prediction that it would be appreciated later, despite its tepid initial reception; Astaire's important role in introducing Gershwin songs to the world and his public radio statement upon Ira's death in 1983; and Ira's struggle to complete the song "Our Love is Here to Stay" after George's premature death in 1937.

Questions from the audience then lead to a discussion of the following topics among others: Vernon Duke's claims of assisting the brothers in songwriting; his surprise at Ira's powerful shyness during his childhood; their song "Home Blues" from the musical "Show Girl" (1929); George's initial doubt about Ira's suggestion to add a "sentimental" slow theme in "Rhapsody in Blue"; George's memorable fondness for being the center of attention; and the brothers' "simpatico" relationship and use of intimate shorthand in the creation of their music.

Clips featuring the Gershwins' work performed by many different artists are interspersed throughout the program, including: Ethel Merman on "The General Electric Theater: The Gershwin Years" (1961); Eydie Gormé on "Steve and Eydie: Our Love is Here to Stay" (1975); Martha Raye on "The Martha Raye Show" (1956); Rosemary Clooney on "Texaco Star Theater" (1951); Dolores Gray on "The Bell Telephone Hour" (1965); Frank Sinatra on "The General Electric Theater: The Gershwin Years" (1961); Dorothy Kirsten on "Camera Three: An Occasion with Dorothy Kirsten" (1971); Vic Damone on "Ira Gershwin at 100" (1997); the television production of "Of Thee I Sing" (1972); Judy Garland on "The Judy Garland Show" (1963); Willard White on "Fascinatin' Rhythm: The Music of George Gershwin" (1987); Fred Astaire on " 'S Wonderful, 'S Marvelous, 'S Gershwin" (1972); Ethel Merman on "Texaco Star Theater" (1949); and Rosemary Clooney on "Ira Gershwin at 100" (1997).


  • DATE: December 10, 2012 6:30 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:23:38
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: 108975
  • GENRE: Seminars


  • Pat Mitchell … Host
  • Michael Feinstein … Guest
  • Adele Astaire
  • Fred Astaire
  • Irving Berlin
  • Rosemary Clooney
  • Vic Damone
  • Vernon Duke
  • Judy Garland
  • George Gershwin
  • Ira Gershwin
  • Eydie Gormé
  • Dolores Gray
  • Jerome Kern
  • Dorothy Kirsten
  • Cloris Leachman
  • Ethel Merman
  • Helen Morgan
  • Carroll O'Connor
  • Martha Raye
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Art Tatum
  • Willard White