Meredith Willson

MEREDITH WILLSON DIES

Following his work on THE GREAT DICTATOR, Willson scored one more film, William Wyler’s pungent adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s THE LITTLE FOXES starring Bette Davis, receiving his second Oscar nomination. During the war, Willson worked for the Armed Forces Radio Service and played a regular character on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio program. He also wrote hit songs like “You and I,” a number one hit for Glenn Miller, “Two in Love,” and “May the Lord Bless You and Keep You.” In 1957, he performed a Broadway hat trick as composer, lyricist, and librettist of the phenomenally successful The Music Man, which beat West Side Story for the Best Musical Tony Award. His follow-up, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, ran for two seasons, but Here’s Love, his 1963 adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street, flopped, and his fourth musical, 1491, about Columbus’s attempts to finance his famous voyage, never made it to Broadway. Willson died of heart failure in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 82. In 1991, his third wife, Rosemary Willson, donated $5 million to The Juilliard School in memory of her late husband. The school’s first residence hall bears his name to this day.

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