This Week in History


Lyricist Betty Comden's first hit, "On the Town," opens on Broadway

December 28, 1944
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Betty Comden.
Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

On the Town, which was lyricist Betty Comden's first hit when it opened on December 28, 1944, was also the first big success for her three collaborators: her co-lyricist Adolph Green, Leonard Bernstein, and Jerome Robbins. Comden and Green also acted in the show, which featured the hit song "New York, New York." The musical, which followed a day in the lives of three sailors on leave in New York, ran for 462 performances on Broadway before going on tour.

This success marked the beginning of Comden and Green's long career working together on Broadway and in Hollywood. When MGM turned On the Town into a movie with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in 1949, it was the first feature-length musical to be filmed on location.

In 1953, Comden and Green worked again with Bernstein, creating the show Wonderful Town, which won a Tony Award for Outstanding Musical. Collaborating in a decades-long partnership, Comden and Green wrote lyrics and librettos for numerous additional Broadway musicals and movies, including Singin' in the Rain (1952), Peter Pan (1953), Auntie Mame (1958), Say Darling (1958), and The Will Rogers Follies (1991). Their work garnered five more Tony Awards and two Academy Award nominations. In 1991, Comden and Green were awarded Kennedy Center Honors.

Adolph Green died in 2002, and Betty Comden died on November 24, 2006, at the age of 89, but musicals defined by the Green/Comden collaboration remain in continuous production in local productions and off and on Broadway.

Learn more about Betty Comden in Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia and We Remember.

See also: This Week in History for March 29, 1951, "Judy Holliday wins Academy Award for best actress"; Film Industry in the United States; Theater in the United States; Autobiography in the United States; Jewish Women and Jewish Music in America.

Sources: Internet Movie Database,; Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 269-270;; New York Times, January 11, 1946;

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Lyricist Betty Comden's first hit, "On the Town," opens on Broadway." (Viewed on April 23, 2014) <>.