Billy Rose

From Academic Kids

Billy Rose (September 6, 1899February 10, 1966) was an American theatrical showman.

Born William Samuel Rosenberg in New York City, he began his career as a lyricist, best known writing or cowriting the lyrics to "Me and My Shadow", "Great Day" (with Edward Eliscu), "Does the Spearmint Lose Its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight" (with Marty Bloom), "I Found a Million Dollar Baby" (with Mort Dixon) and "It's Only a Paper Moon" (with E. Y. Harburg).

Most of his Rose's lyrics credits were collaborations. Biographer Earl Conrad says "Nobody clearly knew what he wrote or didn't write...Publisher tend to credit him with writing the songs known to bear his name as a lyricist...But tales rumble on...that Billy could feed and toss in a remark and monkey around, but that others did most of the writing." Lyricists might have been willing to tolerate a Rose credit grab because Rose was very successful at promoting "his" songs.

He went on to become a Broadway producer, and a theatre/nightclub owner. He produced "Jumbo," starring Jimmy Durante at the New York Hippodrome Theatre. For Fort Worth Frontier Days, he constructed the huge elaborate dinner theatre, "Casa Manana," featuring stripper Sally Rand and the world's largest revolving stage. He presented a show at the Great Lakes Exhibition in Cleveland, Ohio in 1936.

At the 1939 New York World's Fair, "Billy Rose's Aquacade" starred Olympian Eleanor Holm in what the fair program called "a brilliant 'girl' show of spectacular size and content." He married Holm shortly thereafter, divorcing his first wife, comedienne Fanny Brice. Future MGM star Esther Williams and future Tarzan Johnny Weissmuller were both Aquacade stars.

In 1943, he produced Carmen Jones with an all-black cast. An adaptation of George Bizet's opera Carmen, the story was transplanted to World War II America by lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. It was an instant hit. The Telegraph called it "far and away the best show in New York," the Times said it was "beautifully done...just call it wonderful" and the Herald Tribune said that Oscar Hammerstein II "must be considered one of the greatest librettists of our day" and that Carmen Jones was "a masterly tour de force." It was made into a motion picture in 1954, for which Dorothy Dandridge received an Academy Award nomination.

Billy Rose founded the Billy Rose Sculpture Garden in Jerusalem.


  • Billy Rose, Manhattan Primitive, Earl Conrad; World Publishing Company, 1968
  • Billy Rose Presents Casa Maņana, Jan Jones; TCU Press, 1999

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