Dorothy Fields was born on July 15, 1905 and died on Mar. 28, 1974), lyricist and librettist, was born in Allenhurst, N.J., the daughter of Lew M. Fields and Rose Harris. Her father, born Lewis Maurice Schoenfeld, was famous as a member of the comedy duo Weber and Fields, but left performing in the year of Dorothy’s birth to become a successful Broadway impressario. Although Lew Fields cautioned his children against pursuing careers in the theater, Dorothy’s two older brothers, Joseph and Herbert, also became successful on Broadway, the former as a writer and producer, and the latter as a writer and Dorothy’s sometime collaborator.
Dorothy Fields graduated in 1923 from the Benjamin Franklin School for Girls in New York City, where she excelled at English, drama, and basketball, and had her poems published in the school’s literary magazine. After her father quashed her attempt to land an acting job with a stock company in Yonkers, she worked as a teacher and laboratory assistant, while continuing to submit her verses to magazines.
During her 48-year career Fields cowrote more than 400 songs and worked on 15 musicals and at least 26 movies. Her lyrics were noted for their strong characterization, clarity of language, and middlebrow humor. An amateur pianist and lifelong lover of classical music, she was highly conscious of the melodic line, and tailored her lyrics to float freely over it. Fields’ professional longevity, rare for a songwriter in the popular field, may be attributed to her undimming imagination and her willingness to adapt to changing trends in the musical theater.