Hal Borne

Hal Borne (December 26, 1911, Chicago, Illinois - February 25, 2000, Tarzana, California) was an American popular song composer, orchestra leader, music arranger and musical director, who studied music at the University of Illinois. He wrote most frequently with the lyricists Sid Kuller and Ray Golden, including songs for the Marx Brothers ("Sing While You Sell") and Tony Martin ("Tenement Symphony").

At the beginning of his career he worked for RKO studios as the rehearsal pianist for Fred Astaire. In 1941 he collaborated with Duke Ellington, Paul Francis Webster and Kuller on the progressive all-black revue Jump for Joy which was supported by many Hollywood liberals of the time, such as Groucho Marx, Mickey Rooney and Orson Welles. Borne became a big-band orchestra leader and in February 1942 signed as the music director for RCM's soundies (musical shorts filmed for jukeboxes) for which his trio often provided backings.[1] For many years Borne was associated with Tony Martin and became his regular music director for live appearances throughout the 1950s and 60s.

Borne joined ASCAP in 1942 and was one of the composers for Ray Golden's 1950 revue Alive and Kicking, featuring Jack Cassidy, Bobby Van and Carl Reiner and the debut of Gwen Verdon. In 1963 he composed most of the songs for the infamous first topless mainstream movie Promises! Promises!, starring Jayne Mansfield and Marie (the Body) McDonald—not to be confused with the subsequent Neil Simon, Burt Bacharach musical Promises, Promises. His other film work included the scores to The Explosive Generation (1961), Flight of the Lost Balloon (1961) and Hillbillys in a Haunted House (1967).

He was celebrated for his piano improvisations and often jammed in duets with Ellington on the spinet.[2] Among his many albums, he supported Marie McDonald for her 1957 musical foray "The Body Sings". In Hollywood Borne worked on some famous swing arrangements of Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin standards and claims to have come up with the well-known musical refrain "dah-dah-dee" to the line of "Heaven - I'm in heaven" in the 1935 film Top Hat.[3]


  1. Billboard, February 28, 1942.
  2. Lax, David, One Man Show, Washington Irving Gallery, 1976, p. 158
  3. Croce, Arlen, The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book, Outerbridge & Lazard, 1972, p. 67 ISBN 0-88365-099-1
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