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Obituaries

Doris Fisher, 87; Co-Wrote String of 1940s Hits Recorded by Bing Crosby, Many Others

January 25, 2003|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Doris Fisher, who with lyricist Allan Roberts wrote "Put the Blame on Mame," "You Always Hurt the One You Love," "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall," "Tampico" and a string of other 1940s hits, has died. She was 87.

Fisher, whose songs were recorded by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby to Gene Autry and the Ink Spots, died Jan. 15 of causes associated with old age at Century City Hospital.

"I think she really was the most successful woman composer of Tin Pan Alley," said Harold Jacobs, president of the National Sheet Music Society and a friend of Fisher's.

Indeed, in the mid-1940s the prolific Fisher was known as the "Queen of the Juke Box."

In 1944 alone, Jacobs said, Fisher and Roberts wrote "Angelina (the Waitress at the Pizzeria)," which was recorded by Louis Prima; "Good, Good, Good," sung by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters; "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall," a hit for Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots; "Invitation to the Blues," introduced by Ella Mae Morse with Harry James; "That Ole Devil Called Love," for Billie Holiday; and "You Always Hurt the One You Love," a hit for the Mills Brothers and later for Spike Jones.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday January 31, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 14 inches; 513 words Type of Material: Correction
Doris Fisher obituary -- The obituary of songwriter Doris Fisher in Saturday's California section incorrectly identified her song "Put the Blame on Mame" in a second reference as "Who Put the Blame on Mame."

A year later, Fisher and Roberts moved to Hollywood to write for the movies.

"Doris was feisty, tenacious and talented," said singer-pianist Michael Feinstein, another friend. "She was a strong go-getter, which is what she needed to be in those days in order to succeed in a man's profession, because talent wasn't enough in those days."

Except for acclaimed Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields, whose many songs written for movies include "I'm in the Mood for Love," Feinstein said, Fisher "was probably the most visible woman on the Hollywood music scene."

Born in New York City in 1915, Fisher was the daughter of songwriter Fred Fisher, the composer of "Peg O' My Heart," "Dardanella," "Chicago" and many other popular songs. Her two brothers also were songwriters: Dan Fisher ("Good Morning Heartache") and Marvin Fisher ("When Sunny Gets Blue").

"Oh, You Beautiful Doll," a 1949 20th Century Fox film, was based on Fred Fisher's life, with S.Z. Sakall playing Fred and June Haver as Doris.

Doris Fisher had her first hit, "Tutti Frutti," written with Slim Gaillard, in 1938. Two years later, "Whispering Grass," which she wrote with her father, became an early hit for the Ink Spots.

In the late 1930s, Fisher had her own radio show on WOR, singing from the Plaza Hotel in New York with the Eddy Duchin band. She also sang with Count Basie and other big bands and had a recording career. Not wanting to trade on her father's name, she recorded under the name Penny Wise and Her Wise Guys.

In 1943, Fisher met Roberts in an elevator in the Brill Building in New York, the legendary home to many of New York's music publishers and workplace of her father and brothers.

The team wrote special numbers for Broadway producer Mike Todd's "Star and Garter," songs and comedy routines for Joe E. Lewis and Henny Youngman, and singing commercials.

But they quickly developed a reputation as fast and prolific writers of hit songs.

"Allan is the tear-jerker of the team, and I specialize in light stuff," Fisher said in a 1947 interview.

When they were writing "You Always Hurt the One You Love," she said, Roberts "kept yelling, 'Schmaltz it up, kid. Schmaltz it up.'

"After it was finished, I burst out crying and moaned, 'This is corn. You can have my share for $5.' He gave me the money. Then we sold it, and before I knew what hit me, we had made $25,000. Needless to say, the $5 deal was called off, and I got my share of the number back in a hurry."

After coming out to Hollywood in 1945 to write music under contract to Columbia Pictures, Fisher and Roberts were given their first assignment: "Gilda," starring Rita Hayworth, for which they wrote "Who Put the Blame on Mame" and "Amado Mio."

Among the many other movies they wrote music for were "Down to Earth," "The Lady from Shanghai," "Singing in the Corn," "Dead Reckoning" and "Strawberry Roan."

In 1947, Fisher married wealthy Detroit real estate developer Charles Gershenson and walked away from show business.

But Fisher had an equally satisfying and successful life after giving up songwriting, said her daughter, Frederica Thea of New York City.

She became an authority on American furniture, architecture and design, helping President John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, find period furniture for the White House.

She also amassed an important collection of her own. After she and Gershenson divorced in the late 1960s, the collection went to the U.S. State Department.

In the early 1970s, after moving back to Los Angeles, Fisher opened the Cookstores, two popular shops that sold items for the kitchen and dining room.

In addition to her daughter, Fisher is survived by her son, Ned Gershenson of Henderson, Nev.; and two grandsons.

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