E. Y. (Yip) Harburg papers

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Collection Data

E.Y. "Yip" Harburg, Academy Award winning lyricist created the lyrics for the Academy Award winning film The Wizard of Oz, as well as the Broadway shows Finian's Rainbow, Bloomer Girl, and Flahooley . Among his principal collaborators were Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Burton Lane, Arthur Schwartz and Jerome Kern. He died in Los Angeles in 1981. The collection is primarily business papers, scripts, research notes, notes for lyrics and production ideas from 1929 to 1981. Papers deal mainly with the professional life of Harburg. His political ideology and opinions can be seen in his lyrics, research notes and clippings files. Though there is little mention of his being blacklisted in 1945, his attitudes on government and politics indicates how he may have fallen victim to the McCarthyites and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Harburg, E. Y. (Edgar Yipsel), 1896-1981 (Creator)
Saidy, Fred (Author)
Seeger, Pete, 1919-2014 (Correspondent)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1913 - 1985
Library locations
Billy Rose Theatre Division
Shelf locator: *T-Mss 1990-002
Musical films
Musical theater
Theater -- Political aspects
Theater -- United States
Myers, Henry, 1893-1975
writings (documents)
Content: 11.3 linear feet (28 boxes)
Biographical/historical: E. Y. "Yip" Harburg, academy award winning lyricist, was born in New York City on April 8, 1898. He received his nickname "Yipsel" (Yiddish for squirrel) during his youth on the Lower East Side. Harburg received his education in the New York City Public School System, eventually graduating from City College. While in college he collaborated with Ira Gershwin, a fellow student, on a light verse column in the school newspaper. It was during this time that Harburg was introduced to the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and was greatly influenced by the lyrical style of W. S. Gilbert. After graduating from college he went into the electrical supply business which went bankrupt in the stock market crash in 1929. It was the experience of being unemployed in the Depression which led to the beginning of his career as a lyricist, writing the lyrics for the song Brother Can You Spare a Dime with Jay Gorney for the review Americana. From there his career as a lyricist took off with shows such as Garrick Gaieties, Ziegfeld Follies, Life Begins at 8:40, and Hooray For What? Among his early film credits are The Singing Kid, Gold Diggers of 1937, Cabin in the Sky, Can't Help Singing, Centennial Summer and the academy award winning, The Wizard of Oz. His Hollywood career came to abrupt end however, when he was blacklisted by the film industry after World War II. His outspoken political views and his affiliation with the Hollywood Democratic Committee made him a prime candidate for McCarthyites of the post-war era resulting in his absence from the Hollywood film scene for 12 years and the revoking of his passport. Banned by the Hollywood studios, Harburg returned to the New York theater where he continued writing lyrics for musicals, including Finian's Rainbow, Flahooley, Jamaica, The Happiest Girl in the World, and Darling of the Day. Of these productions, Finian's Rainbow and Flahooley show marked political and social views. Harburg returned to Hollywood in 1962 with the film Gay Purr-ee, an animated feature film with Judy Garland as the voice of the main character. In 1968 his Broadway musical, Finian's Rainbow was recreated on the screen with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark in starring roles. Harburg's musical collaborators were numerous. Among them were: Harold Arlen, Vernon Duke, Jay Gorney, Jerome Kern, Burton Lane and Arthur Schwartz. He also wrote plays and among his playwriting credits are Flahooley and Finian's Rainbow, co-authored by Fred Saidy, and What a Day For A Miracle, co-authored by Henry Myers. He also wrote a book of light verse entitled Rhymes for the Irreverent. Harburg wrote lyrics up until his death. He also lectured and made personal appearances throughout his career. He was a guest speaker in the successful Lyrics and Lyricists Series of the 92nd Street YMHA. He died on March 5, 1981 in Los Angeles, California days before he was scheduled to receive the Johnny Mercer Award of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Content: The papers of "Yip" Harburg consist of scripts, speeches, research notes, clippings, interviews and photographs dealing exclusively with his professional career as a lyricist, writer and playwright. The collection is divided into 7 series and encompasses his entire professional life. There are however, very little correspondence and personal materials among the papers. Most of his productions are included in the papers. Among them are Finian's Rainbow, Flahooley, Bloomer Girl, The Happiest Girl in the World and Darling of the Day. Documentation on these include marginalia and handwritten research notes. One major omission is the scarcity of materials on the academy award winning, The Wizard of Oz. The files on this production include very little and there are no personal notes or marginalia. Insight into Harburg's attitudes and feelings concerning his Hollywood blacklisting are revealed through his handwritten notes and speeches. The papers reflect Harburg the writer and entertainer. Those looking to research the professional aspects of Harburg's career will find a wealth of materials, however the personal man is obscure and researchers looking for Harburg the individual may have a more difficult task with these sources.
Ownership: The E.Y. "Yip" Harburg Papers were transferred to the Billy Rose Theatre Division from New York University on May 18, 1990 at the behest of the donor Ernest Harburg, president of the Harburg Foundation.
Ownership: THE19900518
Physical Description
Extent: 9.5 lin. ft. (27 boxes and 1 portfolio)
Type of Resource
Still image
Notated music
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b11524068
MSS Unit ID: 21281
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 19167ac0-2c27-0134-0940-00505686d14e
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