THE great American composer and lyricist Irving Berlin arrived in Glasgow in the September of 1946 for a trade screening of the film Blue Skies, for which he had written the music.

After the film, which starred Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and John Caulfield, had been shown at a city cinema, Berlin attended a reception at the Central Hotel, accompanied by Sir Harry Lauder and the Scottish film actress, Mary Gordon, who was visiting her native Glasgow for the first time since she left Scotland in 1919. Berlin was photographed shaking hands with Glasgow’s Lord Provost, Sir Hector McNeill.

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Herald Diary

Berlin was widely described as the ‘greatest songwriter who ever lived’, his songs being said to have become part of the fabric of American life. He died, aged 101, in September 1989. Jerome Kern, asked to describe Berlin’s place in American music, replied: “Irving Berlin is American music”. Cole Porter paid tribute using one of his own songs, Anything Goes: “You’re the top, you’re a Waldorf salad; You’re the top, you’re a Berlin ballad.”

Berlin had his first major hit, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, in 1911. Over the course of his lifetime he wrote 1,500 songs, including White Christmas, Anything You Can Do, There’s No Business Like Show Business, Puttin’ on the Ritz, Easter Parade, Let’s Face the Music and Dance, and God Bless America. He wrote 17 scores for Broadway musicals and revues, contributed material to six others, and also wrote the scores for 18 Hollywood films. His solitary Oscar was for White Christmas, from the film Holiday Inn. He was actually the presenter for that category at the 1943 Oscars. Spotting his name on the card inside the envelope, he quipped: “I’m glad to present the awards. I’ve known him for a long time.”