Jack Lawrence, Songwriter, Theatre Owner and Producer, Dies

News   Jack Lawrence, Songwriter, Theatre Owner and Producer, Dies
Jack Lawrence, a songwriter whose hits included "If I Didn't Care," "All or Nothing at All" and "Tenderly," and who produced a series of plays on Broadway in the 1980s, died March 15 in Danbury, CT. He was 96 and lived in West Redding, CT.
Jack Lawrence
Jack Lawrence

Rejecting his parents' dream that he become a foot doctor, the Brooklyn-bred Mr. Lawrence — who was born Jack Lawrence Schwartz — began writing lyrics straight out of school, hitting it big with "Play, Fiddle, Play" in 1932, his first published song. He went on to write words, and sometimes music, for several number one hits. His songs were recorded by Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Harry James, Bobby Darin and the Ink Spots, who had their first hit in 1939 with "If I Didn't Care," perhaps Mr. Lawrence's most memorable composition. In 1948, he had one of his biggest successes when he put English words to the French hit song "La Mer." The result was "Beyond the Sea," a smash for Darin and now a standard.

The 1941 Broadway revue Crazy With the Heat featured his song "Yes, My Darling Daughter." He wrote the entire score for 1951's Courtin' Time, which was directed by Alfred Drake and lasted a month, and I Had a Ball, the 1964 Buddy Hackett vehicle. His "Bring on the Girls" and "Music for Madame" were heard in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1957.

An early attempt at producing, the 1958 comedy Maybe Tuesday, did not go well, but Mr. Lawrence had more success with Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music and Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean in the early '80s. In 1983, he bought the Playhouse Theatre on W. 48th Street and renamed it the Jack Lawrence Theatre. Mr. Lawrence's son, Richard, redesigned the space to include a 199-seat theatre, the Audrey Wood, named for the late writers' agent. It played host to The Golden Age, Quilters, So Long on Lonely Street and Asinamali!, before Mr. Lawrence sold it to developers in 1987.

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