The academy award wining song "Thanks for the Memory" popularized by Bob Hope, "Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend", and "Blue Hawaii" are enduring tunes penned by lyricist Leo Robin, a Pittsburgher who is an honored member of the song writers hall of fame. Working with composers Ralph Rainger, Vincent Youmans, and others Leo wrote lyrics for Broadway shows and dozens of Hollywood films.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1900 to Max and Fannie (Finkespearl) Robin, a prominent Pittsburgh family, he wrote poetry and won honors in English at Forbes High School. His father Max, president of an Allegheny county political club, wanted Leo to become a lawyer and a judge. To satisfy his father Leo attended the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1915, but his heart was not into it. He left law school in 1916 taking a job as a cub reporter with the Pittsburgh Chronicle-Telegraph. He rose to become editor of the foreign news and the "Advice to the Lovelorn column. Leo said his romantic love song lyrics were influenced by his experience with the lovelorn column. After attending a theatrical production in Pittsburgh, he had a new ambition: the theater. He enrolled in Carnegie Tech to study drama at night from 1917 through 1918. While in night school, he left the newspaper for a stint as a social worker and then took a job as the publicity writer of Blaw-Knox Steel. He moved to New York in the early 1920's to pursue his dream of being a playwright.
In New York, Leo found work as a lyricist for several song writers. He first success was the song "Looking Around" co-written with Richard Myers. His first Broadway show hit was the 1926 production of “By the Way” followed by “Bubbling Over” (1926), “Hit
and “Hello Yourself” (1928). Working with Broadway composer Vincent Youmans Leo wrote lyrics for three productions that ran simultaneously: "Just Fancy", "Alley Oop" and "Hit the Deck". In 1930 he teamed with up with Ralph Ranger and wrote the hit song "Looking Around" from the musical "Tattle Tales". Robin and Rainger signed a contract with Paramount Studios in 1932 and headed for Hollywood.
Robin and Rainger, with over 50 hit songs, became the leading film songwriting duo of the '30s and early '40s. Together they wrote songs that were performed in fils by Bing Crosby, Maurice Chaveloite, Jeanette MacDonald, Shirley Temple, and more. In 1938, the duo won the Academy Award for Best Song for “Thanks For the Memory” that was sung by Bob Hope in the “Big Broadcast of 1938. Leo was nominated for 9 other Academy Awards. Moving to 20th Century Fox, the dynamic duo penned tunes for Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, and Alice Faye, and other stars. After Rainger's death in a plane crash in 1942, Robin went on to work at Universal, Warner Brothers, and MGM collaborating with Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Vincent Youmans, Sam Coslow, Richard Whiting, and Nacio Herb Brown.
Leo returned to Broadway writing two more successful shows: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949) and The Girl in Pink Tights (1954). Robin collaborated with July Styne writing the score for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that starred Carol Channing and included the
songs “Bye Bye, Baby,” “A Little Girl from Little Rock,” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” Marilyn Monroe starred in the 1953 movie version of the musical. Robin worked with Sigmund Romberg on the Broadway musical The Girl in Pink Tights.
Robin’s final film work was in 1955 with Jule Styne for the musical My Sister Eileen. Robin officially retired from the movie industry in 1955 after the score was completed. Over the years he turned down numerous requests for lyrics. Leo Robin died in California in 1984, at age 84 He is remembered as one of the wittiest and most literate Broadway and Hollywood lyricists.
Some of the best-known songs with lyrics by Robin are "Hallelujah" (1927), "Louise" (1929), "Beyond the Blue Horizon" (1930), "Prisoner of Love" (1931), "Please"
(1932), "Love in Bloom" (1934), "With Every Breath I Take," "If I Should Lose You" (1935), "Blue Hawaii" (1937), Academy Award winner "Thanks for the Memory" (1938), and "In Love in Vain" (1946). His lyrics are still being recorded and performed today.
Robin’s most memorable films scores include She Done Him Wrong, She Loves Me Not, Shoot the Works, Here is My Heart, The Big Broadcast of 1937, The Big Broadcast of 1938, Waikiki Wedding, Give Me A Sailor and Paris Honeymoon, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Your Eye” and “Blue Hawaii.