Johnny Mercer dies of brain cancer in Los Angeles, 1976. Aside from the three words of the title, “Hooray for Hollywood” often stumps people who try to remember the rest of Mercer’s clever and gently cynical lyrics. With music by Richard A. Whiting, the unofficial anthem of motion picture’s mecca was first heard in the Busby Berkeley-directed musical Hollywood Hotel (1937) as performed by Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Johnny Davis and Frances Langford.
The Savannah-born Mercer got his start with bandleader Paul Whitman as a singer and songwriter, eventually beginning his movie career in 1933 by composing “Lazy Bones” with Hoagy Carmichael for the Jean Harlow picture Bombshell. Over the following four decades, he co-wrote such standards as “Blues in the Night,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive" (all with music by Harold Arlen) and “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” (music by Harry Warren).
In terms of Academy recognition, he didn’t do half bad: 16 nominations and 4 wins for Best Song. His Oscars were earned for “On the Atcheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe” (music by Harry Warren) for The Harvey Girls (1946), “In the Cool, Cool of the Evening” (music by Hoagy Carmichael) for Here Comes the Groom (1951), “Moon River” (music by Henry Mancini) for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and “Days of Wine and Roses” (music by Mancini) for the 1962 film of the same name.