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Edens, Roger (1905-1970)  
page: 1  2  

Hollywood honored Edens with three Academy Awards. His first, for Easter Parade, was followed in rapid succession by Oscars for Donen's On the Town (1949) and George Sidney's Annie Get Your Gun (1950).

Edens played an important part in the career of gay icon Judy Garland. The two met in 1935 when Edens was called in to replace Garland's father, Frank Gumm, an amateur pianist, at Garland's audition at MGM. Edens was quick to appreciate her talent and became not only her musical mentor but also a lifelong friend.

Edens wrote a song for Garland to sing at Clark Gable's birthday party in 1937. It not only delighted Gable but also favorably impressed the producer of Del Ruth's Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937), who had Garland sing it in the film.

After working with Garland on a couple of other projects Edens served as musical director for The Wizard of Oz and also as rehearsal pianist for Garland. Garland's daughter Lorna Luft credits Edens with teaching her mother to have the courage to show her vulnerability in her performances. "Without Roger," she commented, "we might never have had 'Over the Rainbow,' at least not the way we remember it."

Edens continued to contribute to Garland's professional success. He provided her "Born in a Trunk" number for A Star Is Born--uncredited because he was under exclusive contract to MGM and the film was a Warner Brothers production.

Edens and Charles Walters were also key in arranging Garland's 1951 triumphant vaudeville act at the RKO Palace Theatre, which won rave reviews from the critics.

Edens' professional star continued to rise. Freed chose him as producer of two movies, Donen's Deep in My Heart (1954), featuring the music of Sigmund Romberg, and Funny Face (1957).

By this time the heyday of the movie musical was coming to an end and various members of the Freed unit had moved on. Edens worked on a few more films, notably Walters' The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) and Kelly's Hello, Dolly! (1969), but also pursued other opportunities. During the 1960s he renewed his professional association with both Garland and Merman, penning material for their nightclub acts. He also coached Katharine Hepburn for her performance in Alan Jay Lerner and André Previn's stage musical Coco in 1969.

Edens succumbed to cancer on July 13, 1970 in Hollywood.

Edens' career is a stunning success story, the more remarkable because his achievements came in an era of widespread . Gay performers sometimes resorted to "lavender marriages" or invented fictitious wives to conceal their sexual orientation. Even working behind the scenes and in the congenial atmosphere of the Freed unit, Edens, according to Mann, kept a photo of his ex-wife on his desk for years although he was living openly with another man.

Mann also recounts the touching recollection of Frank Lysinger, an MGM messenger boy whom Edens had befriended around 1939. Edens often invited him to dinner along with Lena Horne and musical director Lennie Hayton, gatherings of "two officially unsanctioned" couples since studio head Louis B. Mayer had forbidden Horne, an African-American, and Hayton, who was white, to date each other. Edens, who championed Horne at the studio, also tried to bring happiness to her personal life.

This kindness and compassion were typical of Edens' character. His collaborator and long-time friend Kay Thompson described him as "a darling man," and Michael Morrison, another friend and the business partner of gay actor William Haines, commented that "all sorts of people were drawn to him."

Edens was a model of professional success and personal dignity.

Linda Rapp

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arts >> Minnelli, Vincente

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arts >> Porter, Cole

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Eder, Bruce. "Roger Edens."

Fricke, John. Judy Garland: The World's Greatest Entertainer. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992.

Kenrick, John. "Edens, Roger."

Mann, William J. Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Viking, 2001.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Edens, Roger  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated May 2, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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