The 'Heart and Soul' of Frank Loesser A documentary on the life of composer and lyricist Frank Loesser is about to debut on many PBS stations. Heart & Soul: The Life and Music of Frank Loesser highlights the creative genius behind Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

The 'Heart and Soul' of Frank Loesser

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Unidentified Man: (Singing) They call you Lady Luck but there is room for doubt. At times you have a very unladylike way of running out.


Frank Loesser was once called Cole Porter without the martini in his hand. He wrote some of the most enduring American music of the mid-20th century in stage and movie musicals - strong, spirited, funny and moving songs and colorful American speech that continue to make people laugh, tear and hum along today.


L: (Singing) Luck be a lady tonight. Luck be a lady tonight. Luck if you've ever been a lady to begin with, luck be a lady tonight.


A: (Singing) A secretary is not a toy, no my boy, not a toy.


SIMON: (Singing) I simply must go.

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) But baby it's cold outside.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) The answer is no.

Man #3: (Singing) But baby it's cold outside.


R: (Singing) I've got the horse right here. The name is Paul Revere and there's a guy that says that the weather's clear, can do, can do.


Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) It's got me loving you madly, that little kiss you stole, held all my heart and soul.

SIMON: You recognize each and every one of those songs, don't you? A documentary about Frank Loesser will debut on many PBS stations. It's called "Heart and Soul: The Life and Music of Frank Loesser". It's the first documentary about the man who wrote "Guys and Dolls," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," and scores of movie musicals. Joining us now from New York is Frank Loesser's daughter, Susan Loesser. Thanks so much for being with us.

SUSAN LOESSER: My pleasure.

SIMON: Your father died in 1969. He was just 59.


SIMON: He had a lot of music left in him.

LOESSER: He did.

SIMON: Do you find that people are sometimes surprised to learn that one man wrote all those songs that they hum?

LOESSER: Yeah, including me. I wrote a book about my father and my working title was "He Wrote That Too?"

SIMON: Yeah. What was it like to grow up with him? I almost said with a songwriter, but you'd only - probably only know that one, so...


SIMON: What was it like?

LOESSER: Well, I thought it was a perfectly normal childhood, which I found out when I grew up that it wasn't at all. I never saw people work the way people work who aren't in the entertainment business. My father's way of working was to pace and smoke and drink coffee and play some things on the piano and pace some more and write down some stuff. And it looked kind of like play to me.

SIMON: Your father's family wasn't wild about his becoming a songwriter, were they?

LOESSER: No, they weren't. They were very snobbish, German, lovers of classical music. They thought that popular music was trash, and that's probably one reason that my father was smitten with it and wanted to become a popular songwriter. His father was a piano teacher but did not teach my father how to play the piano. His brother was a prodigy pianist, toured all over the world and then became a musicologist.

SIMON: How did they feel when he went to Hollywood?

LOESSER: My grandmother, I have a letter from her to him saying, please, please, please, Frankie, come back and get a real job.

SIMON: So there was never the point in life where they said, you know, that's our son who won the Pulitzer Prize for musical theater?

LOESSER: No. They were not - they did not...

SIMON: Which he did with "How to Succeed in Business".

LOESSER: Yes. Uh-huh. They were always pretty condescending. And yet they really did love him and he was very - he loved his mother, of course, and was deeply fond of his brother.

SIMON: I want to ask you about one of his many signature songs, "Baby, It's Cold Outside". The story is that this was first sung by your mother and father at a dinner party?

LOESSER: Yes. The entertainment business on both coasts had parties at which if you were invited you had to bring an act. And they went to a party, or they had a party, and their act was "Baby, It's Cold Outside", which my father wrote in 1944. They were a huge hit. My mother used to say it kept us in caviar and truffles for years. They were invited to all the parties because they sang the song so charmingly, and it was their song. And then when he sold it to the movies in 1948, my mother was really devastated because it was going to be in "Neptune's Daughter" with Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban. And my mother was really, really upset about that. However, it won the Oscar that year and she got over it.

SIMON: It kept you in chocolate and truffles for a few more years, I would say.

LOESSER: Yeah, then they had more chocolate and truffles.

SIMON: Let me raise something about your father that - it's not as if it happened just once or there's just one account of this. Your father had a temper.

LOESSER: Uh-huh.

SIMON: And if we could listen to a clip from the documentary. Isabelle Bigley, who died just, I believe, a couple months ago, not from what we're about to hear.

LOESSER: Not from her war wounds, no.

SIMON: She was, God bless, advanced in age. We interviewed her a number of years ago about "Guys and Dolls." She has this story about your father. She played Sarah Brown in "Guys and Dolls" and they were in rehearsal.


ISABEL BIGLEY: For some reason or other I just couldn't get what Frank wanted me to do. And he started screaming and hollering at me. And I got very, very nervous, and I started to giggle because I was nervous. And he just hauled off and smacked me right across. And there was dead silence in the room, and I think Frank was as shocked as I was.

SIMON: You got to know that temper too?

LOESSER: Oh yes. That's a famous Frank Loesser story. It really did happen. Yes, I was certainly aware of his temper, as everyone was who got to know him. The thing was, it would dissipate as quickly as it arose. There would be this terrible storm of temper and then he'd be over it. You might be in a puddle on the floor, but he was fine.

SIMON: Do you have a favorite show of your father's?

LOESSER: Well, I guess "The Most Happy Fella" would be my favorite show. It was quite a watershed period. My parents were getting divorced. We moved to New York. Life changed in every way. And it was the first show of my father's that I really observed closely. I went to it hundreds of times, I guess. It was quite a time, and the music was so rich that altogether there's nothing else in his creative life that means as much to me, even though I think "Guys and Dolls" is a more perfect musical.

SIMON: When the documentary's over, how do you hope people will see your father, or what they'll feel for him?

LOESSER: I hope that they will say, oh, he wrote that too? And look up his music. You know when "Guys and Dolls" is put on, anywhere, and especially by school kids, who do a great job of it, I'm always impressed that the kids just love the music. And it turns on generation after generation. And I hope that this contributes to that, because he really was a genius and a very beautiful composer. People should keep listening to him. It's good for them.

SIMON: What's a song you want to make certain people hear that was your father's?

LOESSER: Oh well, "Baby, It's Cold Outside," and certainly the version that he and my mother sang together. How about that?

SIMON: Ms. Loesser, thanks so much for speaking with us.

LOESSER: Thank you.


FRANK LOESSER: (Singing) Hey baby, where you going?

JO SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) I really can't stay.

LOESSER: (Singing) But baby it's cold outside.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) I've got to go away.

LOESSER: (Singing) But baby it's cold outside.

SIMON: Susan Loesser. She's the daughter of Frank Loesser. A new documentary called "Heart and Soul: The Life and Music of Frank Loesser" debuts this month on many PBS stations.


SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing)...start to worry.

LOESSER: (Singing) But beautiful what's your hurry?

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) My father will be pacing the floor.

LOESSER: (Singing) Listen to the fireplace roar.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) So really I'd better scurry.

LOESSER: (Singing) Beautiful please don't hurry.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) Well maybe just a half a drink more.

LOESSER: (Singing) Put some records on while I pour.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) The neighbors might think.

LOESSER: (Singing) But baby it's bad out there.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) Say what's in this drink?

LOESSER: (Singing) No cabs to be had out there.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) I seem to be in...

LOESSER: (Singing) Your eyes are like starlit sin.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) ...some crazy spell.

LOESSER: (Singing) I'll take your hat. Your hair looks swell.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) I ought to say no, no, no.

LOESSER: (Singing) You mind if I move in closer?

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) At least I'm gonna say that I tried.

LOESSER: (Singing) Baby make my conscience your guide.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) I really can't stay.

LOESSER: (Singing) Baby don't hold out.

SULLIVAN LOESSER: (Singing) But it's cold outside.

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