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1941 - 1950

I’m an American!

As the U.S. enters World War II, Weill unreservedly joins the fight against Nazi Germany and continues to compose for Broadway and Hollywood. Between the end of the war and his untimely death, he is the driving force behind a series of innovative Broadway shows that re-envision the social role and artistic standing of the musical, and influence generations to come.

Read Text-Only Chronology
Read Text-Only Chronology


  • January

    Moss Hart gives Weill and Lenya a sheepdog, whom they name Wooly

  • 9 March

    Broadcast of interview with Weill, “I’m an American!,” over NBC radio

    The interview was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice; Weill was one of several immigrants invited to participate in the series.

  • 28 May

    Purchase of Brook House in New City, New York

    The house is very close to Maxwell Anderson’s residence. Weill and Lenya live there for the rest of their lives.

    • Weill and Lenya in front of their new home

    • Photo of Brook House from the back, taken in the late 1970s

    • Weill's study at Brook House

  • 5 October

    Premiere of Fun to be Free, a star-studded extravaganza intended to encourage Americans to resist fascism and Nazism, with incidental music by Weill; New York, Madison Square Garden


  • January

    Completes settings of three Walt Whitman poems: "O Captain! My Captain!,” “Beat! Beat! Drums!,” and “Dirge for Two Veterans”

    Weill’s interest in Whitman as a quintessential American poet goes back to the 1920s.

  • 14 February

    Registers for military draft

    Weill is not called to serve, but he finds other ways to support the war on Nazism.

  • 20 April

    Rejects a proposal to produce The Threepenny Opera in California with an all-Black cast because his rights as composer are not acknowledged

    Weill did not object to an all-Black cast (he had considered arranging such a performance as early as in 1939), but to the artists’ insistence on disregarding his score in favor of jazz improvisation based on his melodies.

  • 22 June

    Premiere of “Lunchtime Follies”

    Brooklyn, Todd Shipyards. A touring half-hour program of comedy, song, and dance that visited defense plants to entertain the workers. Some of Weill’s songs were used, but he worked intensively on the production side as well, traveling with the show to ensure it was set up correctly.

    • Organizers of "Lunchtime Follies," from left: Weill, Aline MacMahon, Harold Rome, Kermit Bloomgarden, Moss Hart, Sam Jaffe, James Proctor

    • "Song of the Inventory"

      Excerpt from demo recording of Weill's "Song of the Inventory" (lyrics by Lewis Allan), which was performed in "Lunchtime Follies"

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    • Brochure cover

  • 26 September

    Reviews the draft book and songs from what will become One Touch of Venus with Marlene Dietrich in Hollywood in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to recruit her for the lead role

    Casting Venus proves quite difficult, but the creative team finally settles on Mary Martin.


  • 9 March

    Premiere of pageant We Will Never Die

    New York, Madison Square Garden: Text by Ben Hecht; directed by Moss Hart; conducted by Isaac Van Grove. An attempt to document and publicize mass murder of European Jews by the Nazis. The show plays to sold-out crowds in New York and on tour.

  • 3 April

    Premiere of song, “Und was bekam des Soldaten Weib?” (text by Bertolt Brecht, sung by Lotte Lenya), at “We Fight Back!,” a concert in New York organized to sell war bonds to German expatriates

  • May

    Brecht visits Brook House with Ruth Berlau

  • 27 August

    Becomes U.S. citizen

  • 7 October

    Premiere of musical One Touch of Venus

    New York, Imperial Theater, 567 performances. Book by S.J. Perelman and Ogden Nash; lyrics by Nash; directed by Elia Kazan; choreographed by Agnes De Mille; conducted by Maurice Abravanel; starring Mary Martin. Weill’s longest-running Broadway show.

    • Mary Martin as Venus

    • "I'm A Stranger Here Myself"

      Opening excerpt sung by Mary Martin, 1943

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    • "Speak Low"

      Duet excerpt sung by Mary Martin and Kenny Baker, 1943

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    • Mary Martin, John Boles, Paula Laurence, Kenny Baker, and Weill at the piano rehearsing One Touch of Venus

  • November

    Visits Ira Gershwin in Beverly Hills to begin work on songs for a film, Where Do We Go from Here?


  • 10 February

    Premiere of film version of Lady in the Dark

    Paramount Pictures; directed by Mitchell Leisen; starring Ginger Rogers and Ray Milland

  • March - April

    Works on a secret film project for the Office of War Information

    Maxwell Anderson (script), Burgess Meredith (star), and Jean Renoir (director): Salute to France is shown to U.S. soldiers to educate them about French and British allies.

    • Still from Salute to France: Joe Doakes (Burgess Meredith) with his mess kit

    • Excerpt from letter to Ira Gershwin, 27 February 1944

  • 17 March

    Premiere of film version of Knickerbocker Holiday

    United Artists; directed by Harry Joe Brown; starring Nelson Eddy, Constance Dowling, Charles Coburn

  • 26 June

    Arrives in Beverly Hills to work with Ira Gershwin and dramatist Edwin Justus Mayer on a musical version of Mayer’s play based on the life of Benvenuto Cellini

    Weill relaxes by taking tennis lessons and swimming. Lenya joins him in September.


  • 22 March

    Premiere of Broadway operetta The Firebrand of Florence

    New York, Alvin Theatre, 43 performances: book by Edwin Justus Mayer; lyrics by Ira Gershwin; directed by John Murray Anderson; conducted by Maurice Abravanel. Lenya has a prominent role as the Duchess of Florence, but the show is a flop anyway.

    • Cellini (Earl Wrightson), Angela (Beverly Tyler), Duke (Melville Cooper), Duchess (Lotte Lenya)

    • From left: Weill, Ira Gershwin, Edwin Justus Mayer, and choreographer Catherine Littlefield

    • Flyer from the Boston tryout (February 1945) when the show still bore its working title, Much Ado About Love

  • 23 May

    Premiere of film Where Do We Go from Here?

    20th Century Fox: directed by Gregory Ratoff; lyrics by Ira Gershwin; starring Fred MacMurray, June Haver, Joan Leslie. A wartime comedy, the film’s release is delayed until after the end of the war in Europe, which damages its box-office prospects.

  • 15 August

    First post-war performance in Berlin of Die Dreigroschenoper, at the Hebbel-Theater

  • Late-August

    Weill and playwright Elmer Rice invite Langston Hughes to write lyrics for a musical version of Rice’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Street Scene

  • Autumn

    Writes radio version of Down in the Valley, a short opera based on folk songs, with librettist Arnold Sundgaard

    Intended to inaugurate a series of radio dramas, the work does not attract a sponsor.


  • 10 May

    Premiere of Kiddush, Weill’s setting of a Hebrew blessing on the Sabbath wine, at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York, sung by Cantor David Putterman

  • 31 July

    Elected a member of the Playwrights’ Company, a producing organization formed in 1938 by Maxwell Anderson, Elmer Rice, and others; Weill is the first non-playwright member

  • 5 September

    Premiere of pageant A Flag Is Born

    New York, Alvin Theatre: Text by Ben Hecht; directed by Luther Adler; conducted by Isaac Van Grove; starring Marlon Brando. An attempt to encourage the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. The show plays to sold-out crowds in New York and on tour.

    • Broadway marquee for A Flag Is Born

    • From left: Marlon Brando (who replaced Sidney Lumet) as David, Celia Adler as Zelda, and Paul Muni (who replaced Luther Adler) as Tevya

    • Program cover

  • 8 September

    Photographed by Yousuf Karsh at Brook House


  • 9 January

    Premiere of dramatic musical, later called Broadway opera, Street Scene

    New York, Adelphi Theatre, 148 performances: book by Elmer Rice; lyrics by Langston Hughes and Elmer Rice; directed by Charles Friedman; conducted by Maurice Abravanel. Early and influential contribution to a movement to introduce opera to Broadway theaters that flourished for the next ten years or so.

    • Brian Sullivan (Sam) and Anne Jeffreys (Rose), center, with the full cast, 1947

    • Flyer for Broadway production

    • "Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed"

      Orchestral excerpt from original cast recording conducted by Maurice Abravanel

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    • Mae (Sheila Bond) and Dick (Danny Daniels) during "Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed"

  • 1 March

    Hans Weill, Kurt’s brother, dies of kidney disease in New York

  • 6 April

    Receives Special Tony Award for Street Scene

  • 6 May

    Departs on trip to Europe and Palestine, where he sees his parents and brother Nathan for the first time since the mid-1930s

  • August

    Begins work on a new show with Alan Jay Lerner that will become Love Life

  • 25 November

    Premiere of Weill’s orchestration of Hatikvah, which becomes the Israeli national anthem

    New York, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel: Boston Symphony conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. Chaim Weizmann, who has asked Weill to orchestrate the song, is in attendance.


  • 2 March

    Agrees to collaborate with Maxwell Anderson on a stage adaptation of Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country

  • 15 July

    Premiere of folk opera Down in the Valley

    Indiana University: libretto by Arnold Sundgaard; directed by Hans Busch; conducted by Ernst Hoffmann; starring Marion Bell. Expanded version of the radio opera composed in 1945. Within two years, both RCA and Decca issue complete recordings. Down in the Valley is produced thousands of times in American high schools and colleges over the next decade.

    • Original poster

    • "Down in the Valley"

      Opening excerpt, probably from radio broadcast of performance at University of Michigan shortly after the world premiere

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    • Marion Bell, Weill, and Hans Busch

  • 7 August

    Broadcast of Down in the Valley from University of Michigan on NBC Radio

  • 7 October

    Premiere of “vaudeville” Love Life

    New York, Forty-Sixth Street Theatre, 252 performances: Book by Alan Jay Lerner; music and lyrics by Weill and Lerner; directed by Elia Kazan; conducted by Joseph Littau; starring Nanette Fabray and Ray Middleton. The daring show explores a number of formal innovations, particularly in contrasting conventional book scenes with vaudeville acts that comment on the plot. Now considered the primary ancestor of the concept musical popularized by Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Harold Prince, and others.

    • A satirical ballet scene in commedia dell'arte style depicts the main characters getting a divorce

    • Broadway poster

    • Green-Up Time

      Nanette Fabray on The Ed Sullivan Show, December 12, 1948

    • Here I'll Stay

      Weill plays piano on The Swift Show in 1949 as host Lanny Ross and Martha Wright sing “Here I’ll Stay”

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  • November

    Travels to Hollywood with Alan Jay Lerner hoping to interest studios in original treatments, without success


  • 17 January

    Writes to Bertolt Brecht, objecting to changes in song lyrics for a forthcoming production of Die Dreigroschenoper in Munich on the grounds that the work would suffer from attempts to update it

  • 31 March

    Appears on The Swift Show, a variety program

    Weill plays piano as Lanny Ross and Martha Wright sing “Here I’ll Stay” from Love Life.

  • 30 July

    Concert performance of Street Scene at Lewisohn Stadium in New York, conducted by Maurice Abravanel

  • 21 August

    Concert performance of Street Scene at the Hollywood Bowl, conducted by Izler Solomon

  • 30 October

    Premiere of musical tragedy Lost in the Stars

    New York, Music Box Theatre, 281 performances: book and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson; directed by Rouben Mamoulian; conducted by Maurice Levine; adapted from Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country. One of the first Broadway shows with a cast roughly evenly divided between Black and white actors.

    • Broadway poster

    • Scene from the production: Reverend Stephen Kumalo (Todd Duncan) marries his imprisoned son (Julian Mayfield) to Irina (Inez Matthews)

    • "Stay Well"

      Excerpt sung by Inez Matthews from the original cast recording

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    • From left: Maxwell Anderson, Rouben Mamoulian, Weill at piano


  • 14 January

    Broadcast of television adaptation of Down in the Valley on NBC

    Weill supervises the production, one of the first attempts to produce an opera for television. He notes that the technique is “quite primitive,” but the broadcast is “impressive.”

  • 13 February

    Sketches first song for a proposed stage adaptation of Huckleberry Finn with Maxwell Anderson

    The song was “Come in, Mornin’.” Altogether Weill drafts five songs for the show but does not complete any.

  • 17 March

    Suffers heart attack at home and is hospitalized two days later

  • 3 April

    Dies at Flower Hospital in New York City

  • 5 April

    Buried at Mount Repose Cemetery, Haverstraw, NY

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