Martin & Blane

Martin & Blane



Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane were an American songwriting team. Martin (b. 1914; d. 2011) and Blane (b. 1914; d. 1995), who both wrote music and lyrics, worked together on stage and movie musicals for 48 years, beginning with the Broadway hit Best Foot Forward in 1941 and ending with the Broadway adaptation of their best-known film, the 1944 hit Meet Me in St. Louis, in 1989, a score that contained the standard “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and the Academy Award nominee “The Trolley Song.”

Martin began studying piano with Edna Gussen at the Birmingham Cons. at age 5; later he studied with Dorsey Whittington. After attending Birmingham Southern Coll., he went to N.Y. to pursue a career as a musician. Blane attended Northwestern Univ., then went to N.Y. to become a singer, studying with Estelle Liebling. He made his Broadway debut in the revue New Faces of 1936 (N.Y., May 19, 1936).

Martin and Blane first worked together in the cast of the Broadway musical Hooray for What! (N.Y, Dec. 1, 1937) as part of vocal arranger Kay Thompson’s singing group the Rhythm Boys. When Thompson left the show, they stepped in to finish the vocal arrangements and soon were doing the same work on other shows, together and separately. Martin was the vocal arranger for The Boys from Syracuse (N.Y., Nov. 23, 1938); Martin and Blane were the vocal arrangers for Stars in Your Eyes (N.Y., Feb. 9, 1939); and Martin was the vocal arranger for The Streets of Paris (N.Y, June 19, 1939) and appeared in the revue, along with comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

Martin organized a group, the Martins, with Blane as one of the singers. They performed on a bill with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney at the Capitol Theatre in N.Y. on Aug. 17, 1939, in connection with the opening of the Garland film The Wizard of Oz. But their main activity continued to be vocal arranging for musicals: Martin worked on Too Many Girls (N.Y., Oct. 18, 1939), and Martin and Blane did Very Warm for May (N.Y., Nov. 17, 1939), DuBarry Was a Lady (N.Y, Dec. 6, 1939), and Louisiana Purchase (N.Y., May 28, 1940). They also appeared in Louisiana Purchase as part of the Martins, by now a vocal quartet completed by the sisters Jo Jean and Phyllis Rogers. Over the next two years the Martins also performed on network radio and recorded for Columbia Records.

Martin was the vocal arranger for Walk with Music (N.Y., June 4, 1940), and Martin and Blane were the musical arrangers for Cabin in the Sky (N.Y., Oct. 25, 1940). In the fall of 1941 producer/director George Abbott, who had worked on several musicals with them, gave them the chance to write the songs for the musical Best Foot Forward, a romantic comedy set at a boys’ prep school. The songwriters took an unusual approach to their collaboration: they wrote songs separately, then polished them together. The show ran 326 performances; when MGM bought it to make a film adaptation, Martin and Blane were signed to the studio, and they moved to Calif. They wrote three new songs used in the movie version of Best Foot Forward, which was released in June 1943, then collaborated with Roger Edens on “The Joint Is Really Jumping” sung by Judy Garland in Thousands Cheer, released in September.