An unforgettable portrait of an exuberant yet troubled artist who so enriched the American songbook
“Blue Moon, ” “Where or When, ” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “My Funny Valentine,” “Isn’t It Romantic?,” “My Romance,” “There’s a Small Hotel,” “Falling in Love with Love,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”—lyricist Lorenz Hart, together with composer Richard Rodgers, wrote some of the most memorable songs ever created. More than half a century after their collaboration ended, Rodgers & Hart songs are indispensable to the repertoire of nightclub singers everywhere. A Ship Without a Sail is the story of the complicated man who was Lorenz Hart.
His lyrics spin with brilliance and sophistication, yet at their core is an unmistakable wistfulness. The sweetness of “My Romance” and “Isn’t It Romantic?” is unsurpassed in American song, but Hart’s lyrics could also be cynical, funny, ironic. He brought a unique wit and elegance to popular music.
Larry Hart and Richard Rodgers wrote approximately thirty Broadway musicals and dozens of songs for Hollywood films. At least four of their musicals—On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, The Boys from Syracuse, and Pal Joey— have become classics. But despite their prodigious collaboration, Rodgers and Hart were an odd couple. Rodgers was precise, punctual, heterosexual, handsome, and eager to be accepted by Society. Hart was barely five feet tall, alcoholic, homosexual, and more comfortable in a bar or restaurant than anywhere else. Terrified of solitude, he invariably threw the party and picked up the check. His lyrics are all the more remarkable considering that he never sustained a romantic relationship, living his entire life with his mother, who died only months before he died at age forty-eight.
Gary Marmorstein’s revelatory biography includes many of the lyrics that define Hart’s legacy—those clever, touching stanzas that still move us or make us laugh.
Gary Marmorstein has written about film, theater, and popular music for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Stagebill, among other publications, and is the author of two previous books. He lives in New Jersey.
“The whole story, joyful and unflinching, of an astounding talent. This biography really has Hart.” —Laurence Bergreen, author of As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin and Columbus: The Four Voyages
“Sophisticated, engaging, elegant, and packed with absorbing detail, A Ship Without A Sail is the definitive biography of Larry Hart for which all of us who love his work have been waiting. That Gary Marmorstein has captured the soaring highs and the crushing lows of that short, unhappy life so completely and so sympathetically is a truly remarkable—even enviable—achievement. And I speak of what I know.” —Frederick Nolan, author of The Sound of Their Music: The Story of Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway
"Marmorstein brings to the task just the right precision instruments for dissecting Larry Hart -- panache, sympathy and smarts. The very title of his book goes to the heart of the tortured story he tells so well. . . . He knows the period and its players inside out and along the way offers wonderful cameos of many minor figures in the story..." —J. D. McClatchy, The Wall Street Journal
“Readers will be grateful that Gary Marmorstein, who writes about film, theater and popular music, has resuscitated Hart, also known as Larry, in riveting detail in his A Ship Without a Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart."
– Sam Roberts, The New York Times
"A fine new biography of Lorenz Hart by Gary Marmorstein, A Ship Without a Sail, makes clear that Hart, over the years since his early death at age 48 in 1943, has been taken up the very society he set out, in his lyrics, to unsettle." —David Hadju, The New Republic
"Hart has his shining hour in a new biography. . . . It's the absorbing story of a sparkling but tormented artist and a rich slice of show business history. . . . A Ship Without a Sail quotes liberally from Hart's lyrics, and Marmorstein's analysis is always interesting and often revelatory." —John Fleming, Tampa Bay Tribune
"Marmorstein bolsters the story of Hart's rocketlike career with a wealth of factual detail. . . . [Marmorstein's] biographer's sense, his dogged researches, and his fair-mindedness constantly lead him in good directions. His account of Rodgers's controversial involvement in Hart's business affairs at his death is the best-balanced I've encountered." —Michael Feingold, the Village Voice
"Smart and sympathetic. . . . Marmorstein brings to life the Manhattan of Hart's youth."