Ray Evans, who with his partner Jay Livingston wrote some of the best-known movie songs of the 1940s and ’50s and won three Oscars, died Thursday at UCLA Medical Center after suffering an apparent heart attack at his Bel-Air home. He was 92.
Evans and Livingston won song Oscars for “Buttons and Bows,” from the 1948 Bob Hope film “The Paleface”; “Mona Lisa,” from 1950’s “Captain Carey, USA” (a No. 1 hit for Nat King Cole); and “Que Sera, Sera,” from the 1956 Hitchcock film “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (which became Doris Day’s signature song).
They received four other Oscar nominations starting in 1945 for “The Cat and the Canary,” from “Why Girls Leave Home”; “Tammy,” a No. 1 hit for Debbie Reynolds in 1957, from “Tammy and the Bachelor”; “Almost in Your Arms,” from the 1958 film “Houseboat”; and for writing the lyrics to Henry Mancini’s “Dear Heart,” which became a major hit for Andy Williams in 1964.
The duo also wrote “Silver Bells” for Bob Hope in 1951’s “The Lemon Drop Kid,” which became a Christmas perennial that Hope regularly sang on his TV specials. “Silver Bells” was written during a 10-year period while they were under contract at Paramount, a period that also produced the movie songs “To Each His Own” and “Golden Earrings.”
They also wrote two classic TV themes, “Bonanza” in 1959 and “Mister Ed” in 1961, and the lesser-known “To Rome With Love” in 1969. They composed the scores for television musicals, including “Satins and Spurs,” a live 90-minute special starring Betty Hutton in 1954, and “No Man Can Tame Me,” for a “General Electric Theater” with Gisele MacKenzie in 1959.
Evans was born in Salamanca, N.Y., and met his future songwriting partner Livingston while they were attending the U. of Pennsylvania during the 1930s. Both musicians, they sailed the world as part of an orchestra that played Cunard Line steamships, and began writing songs in New York around 1940.
Their first big break came when their song “G’bye Now,” written for Olsen & Johnson’s Broadway revue “Hellzapoppin’,” became a major hit in 1941. They moved to Los Angeles in 1944 and went under contract to Paramount in 1945. Their title song for the Par film “To Each His Own” generated several top 10 records in 1946.
They also wrote for Broadway, including the score for Tony Randall’s musical comedy “Oh Captain!” in 1958 and a George Gobel show, “Let It Ride,” in 1961.
Evans and Livingston were named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977. They contributed songs to the Mickey Rooney-Ann Miller show “Sugar Babies” in 1979.
They continued to write special material for Hope and charity events and, in later years, performed their best-known songs in a two-man show called “And Then I Wrote.”
Livingston died in 2001. A resurgence of interest in the Livingston and Evans catalog has been spurred by albums from Michael Feinstein and the cabaret duo of Karen Benjamin and Alan Chapman.
Evans’ wife, Wyn, died in 2003. He is survived by a sister.