Born in New York City, Johnston was well known as Irving Berlin’s “personal music secretary.” Since Berlin couldn’t read or write music (like Chaplin), Johnston transcribe and arrange Berlin’s music, much as he did for Chaplin on CITY LIGHTS. He also arranged and conducted the first Music Box Revue at Berlin’s new Music Box Theatre in 1921, and he continued to serve those roles on subsequent Berlin musicals. When Berlin went west to Hollywood in 1929, he took Johnston with him, where he orchestrated the scores for PUTTING ON THE RITZ, MAMMY, and REACHING FOR THE MOON. Johnston was Berlin’s pianist for twenty years but when Berlin went back east, Johnston stayed out west.
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