(Julius Kerwin) (1905-1994) English-born US composer of songs, mainly for musicals and films. His work includes the score for the musicals Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1949, Gypsy 1959, and Funny Girl 1964, and he won an Academy Award for the theme song to the film Three Coins in the Fountain 1954.
Born in London, Styne was taken to the US at the age of eight, where he studied piano at the Chicago College of Music, but abandoned a career as a concert pianist to play in popular bands, and went on to become an arranger and a vocal coach in Hollywood. His first hit song was ‘Sunday’ 1926. Among those he taught as a voice coach was the singer Ethel Merman, who later became a big star on Broadway, and the child star Shirley Temple.
The lyricist Sammy Cahn was his most frequent collaborator, beginning with ‘I’ve Heard That Song Before’ for the film Youth on Parade 1942. Other films for which they wrote songs include Follow the Boys 1944, Anchors Aweigh 1945, and The Kid from Brooklyn 1946. In 1947 they turned to the Broadway stage with the musical High Button Shoes, which was to run for two years.
At one time, Styne played the piano in a strip club, and Gypsy, one of his biggest successes, was based on the autobiography of a stripper called Gypsy Rose Lee, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Funny Girl was based on the life of the vaudeville star Fanny Brice. Another notable musical for which Styne wrote the score was Bells Are Ringing 1956 by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.