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Dominic Harlan

Lyricist, Actor, Violinist

Gordon Clifford was born and educated in Rhode Island, studied violin as a child, and later wrote lyrics for Hollywood films: The Public Enemy, Woman Commands, The Gangster, and A Woman's Secret.

Clifford contributed lyrics to Harry Barris’ “It Must Be True” (1930) and, with Gus Arnheim, to Barris’ “I Surrender Dear” (1931). Both were popularized by Bing Crosby with Arnheim’s orchestra. “I Surrender Dear” continues to be covered by contemporary musicians such as pianists Thelonious Monk and, Nat “King” Cole, and guitarists Howard Alden and George Van Eps. His collaboration with Alfred Newman in 1931 produced, “Who Am I?” which was picked up by Jacques Renard and other singers. This should not be confused with the Jule Styne/Walter Bulloch hit from 1941 of the same name.

In 1931, Clifford and Nacio Herb Brown penned “Paradise.” It was sung by Polish-born actress and silent film star Pola Negri in her first American talkie, A Woman Commands. Despite the presence of the famous vamp herself (who was also a star of German film), Roland Young, and Basil Rathbone in the 1932 film, it was unsuccessful. Nonetheless, Crosby had a hit with the song and the “Paradise” sequence was significant enough that it survives in the film and separately at MoMA and at St Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.

-- Sandra Burlingame


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