Irving Berlin (1888-1989)


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Donald Macleod explores Irving Berlin's contribution to Hollywood musicals in the 1930s.

Donald Macleod explores Berlin's experiences in Hollywood in the mid 1930s, where he worked with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on films that were seen as finally mastering the art of musical comedy. While Top Hat and Follow the Fleet found a formula that was hugely successful with audiences, he would also provide the music for some ambitious misfires, and ultimately found the process of working in the movies frustrating.

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Donald Macleod explores Irving Berlin's songs from the 1940s, including White Christmas.

In the run up to the Second World War Berlin once again judged the mood of the American people perfectly by writing the patriotic song God Bless America, and similarly, once the war had begun, the songs he wrote for the film Holiday Inn affirmed the values of hearth, home and country. These included White Christmas, which Berlin considered the best song he ever wrote, and it was particularly popular with soldiers posted overseas. During the war Berlin led his own military troupe around the world with a revue, This is the Army, which 2.5 million soldiers saw between its Broadway debut in 1942 and the Hawaiian finale in 1945. Donald Macleod looks at Berlin's role as national minstrel during the 1940s.

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Donald Macleod explores Irving Berlin's final years.

Donald Macleod looks at Berlin's final years and projects, including his last Broadway musical Mr President, and an intended swansong to the cinema, Say it with Music. After several attempts at one last big hit show, he became a recluse as he entered the final phase of his life, fighting off any attempt to document his life or examine his music, and becoming a prisoner of himself.