Broadway librettist dies

Comden tuners won 7 Tonys

Betty Comden, one half of the legendary lyricist-librettist duo Comden & Green, died Thursday of heart failure. She was 89.

With Adolph Green, her partner of more than 60 years, she contributed the words to Broadway tuners such as “On the Town” (1944), “Peter Pan” (1954), “Bells Are Ringing” (1956), “Applause” (1970), “On the Twentieth Century” (1978) and “The Will Rogers Follies” (1991). They worked with composers Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne and Cy Coleman, among others, and collaborated with helmer Jerome Robbins.

Screen credits include “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), “The Band Wagon” (1953), “It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955) “Auntie Mame” (1958) and “Good News” (1947). Comden & Green were Oscar-nominated for writing “Band Wagon” and “It’s Always Fair Weather.”

Born Elizabeth Cohen in Brooklyn in 1917, Comden attended NYU, where she met Green in 1938.

Comden and Green first teamed with Judy Holliday (who won a Tony for “Bells Are Ringing,” which they created for her) in the Revuers, a sketch-comedy troupe that first performed at the Village Vanguard in 1939. Bernstein (“On the Town,” “Wonderful Town”) frequently appeared at their perfs as well.

It was Bernstein who invited them to work on their first tuner, “On the Town,” which includes the song “New York, New York.”

Comden & Green tuners won seven Tonys throughout the pair’s career. They took home trophies for score with “Hallelujah, Baby!” (1968), “Twentieth Century” and “Will Rogers,” and won the award for book with “Twentieth Century.”

Green died in 2002 at the age of 87.

In 1942, Comden married designer Steven Kyle, who died in 1979. They had two children, Susanna and Alan. Alan died in 1990.

Recent Rialto revivals of Comden & Green’s work include “Wonderful Town” (2003), starring Donna Murphy, and “Bells Are Ringing” (2001), starring Faith Prince. Most recently, the Actors’ Fund produced a one-night concert version of “On the Twentieth Century” for its 2005 fund-raiser.

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