Thursday, August 14, 2014


When they talk about the great golden-age songwriters like Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins, they sometimes leave out Jimmy Van Heusen.

This delightful hour proves that’s a mistake.

Van Heusen, who borrowed his name from an ad for men’s dress shirts, wrote the likes of “Swinging on a Star,” “All the Way,” “High Hopes,” “Love & Marriage,” “Call Me Irresponsible,” “Come Fly With Me” and “Here’s That Rainy Day."

As that list suggests, he wrote a lot of songs that were scarfed up by his pal Frank Sinatra. Earlier he wrote a lot of songs that were recorded by another pretty good singer, Bing Crosby. Van Heusen composed “Moonlight Becomes You,” not to mention the songs for six of Crosby’s seven “Road” pictures with Bob Hope.

The special also touches on his reputation, apparently well earned, as what used to be called “a ladies’ man.” Specifically, someone cracks that Sinatra wanted to be Van Heusen.

For the record, Van Heusen eventually settled down, married and bought a horse ranch.

Most of the special focuses, though, on the music. As a composer, Van Heusen had a gift for irresistible melodies, plus the good sense, reputation and connections to work with lyricists like Sammy Cahn.

They often turned out songs on demand, which is how movie musicals, or movies with songs, used to work.

A childhood prodigy, Van Heusen switched coasts a couple of times, spending part of the ’50s with the New York nightclub crowd and eventually ending up closer to the film biz in L.A.

“Jimmy Van Heusen” leaves a clear impression, strongly supported by multiple clips of singers performing his songs, that no “great composers” sentence should omit his name.

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