Levant, Oscar

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Portrait of Oscar Levant (click to view image source)
Oscar Levant
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Name
Levant, Oscar Gender: M
born on 27 December 1906 at 23:45 (= 11:45 PM )
Place Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 40n26, 80w0
Timezone EST h5w (is standard time)
Data source
Quoted BC/BR
Rodden Rating AA
Collector: Rodden
Astrology data s_su.18.gif s_capcol.18.gif 05°33' s_mo.18.gif s_gemcol.18.gif 07°35 Asc.s_vircol.18.gif 27°37'



Biography

American composer, author, entertainer, pianist, film actor and radio and TV personality. A renaissance man with caustic wit and neurotic behavior. Gifted in many media outlets, he composed two string quartets, a piano concerto, a nocturne and a number of contemporary popular songs. Levant suffered under the shadows of his more successful friends and contemporaries George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Vladimir Horowitz. He achieved fame in the 1940s appearing in Hollywood films and recording classical albums for Columbia Records.

Levant was one of three sons raised in Pittsburgh by his strict orthodox Russian Jewish parents. Music filled his home when he was a kid and Oscar was able to showcase his piano talents at an early age. As a boy, he provided music for Al Jolson when he was visiting Pittsburgh, PA. At 12, Oscar smoked five-cent cigars and could sight-read music. At 15, he left for New York City to finish his piano studies.

In New York, he hit the ragtime and vaudeville stage while hearing Paderewski's judgment that his piano playing lacked soul and artistry. Levant played "flash" piano with dance bands and fell into the Tin Pan Alley set of brilliant composers. In the 1920s, Levant met his idol, George Gershwin. Gershwin used Levant as his rehearsal pianist and treated him as his all-licensed Jester with his witty repartee. Levant's cockiness and word play made him a favorite with New York newspaper columnists such as Walter Winchell who would call Levant and beg him for wonderful one-liners to use in his column. Levant's comedic abilities opened doors to Broadway's rich and powerful. Once he found his appreciative audience, Levant became the master in making people laugh.

Levant appeared regularly on the popular radio quiz show, "Information, Please." He soon became a household name in the 1930s with his one-liners. Upon Gershwin's death in 1937, Levant established his talents as the best interpreter of George Gershwin's music. He became America's highest paid concert pianist and the top seller for the Columbia Records label. His radio fame catapulted Levant into the movies as the hero's funny sidekick. He appeared in the films, "Rhapsody in Blue," 1945, "Humoresque," 1946 and as Gene Kelly's sidekick in "An American In Paris," 1951.

In 1940, Levant authored the book, "A Smattering of Ignorance." In the 1950s, he hosted his own local Los Angeles television show which was full of his funny and intellectual material. Levant had the ability to bring high and low culture together on the mass entertainment medium of television. However, he was suspended from his show after insulting a local sponsor. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright telegraphed Oscar to show him his support.

Levant was not above airing his family's dirty linen, referring to the latest dispute with his wife in front of the television camera. Music critics praised his musical compositions but Levant fell into artistic inertia. Deeply neurotic, his inertia filled the pianist with rage, regret and longing to be as prolific as his contemporaries like Berlin and Porter. Never a happy man, Levant wrote of his personal anguish, "My life is a morbid rondo...I am a throbbing wound waiting to be aggravated. Anger is my chief raison d'etre."

Levant first married and divorced in 1932. In 1939, he married his second wife, June Gale and they produced three daughters. He was knock-kneed and always looked disheveled with his rumpled, crumpled attire. Many women found Levant sexy with his limpid eyes, sensuous mouth, helpless demeanor, and devilishly wicked tongue. At home, his friends would find the pianist hunched over the piano smoking one of his countless cigarettes playing Bach, listening to Beethoven on the phonograph and reading Albert Camus at the same time.

Levant had an obsessive-compulsive disorder and eccentric personality. No one was to mention in his presence roses, death, the number 13, Sara Lee cakes, and Pittsburgh. He scowled if anyone wished him the best success before he walked out on stage before a concert. Levant appeared in public and in the studio wearing the same clothes, whether washed or not. He had a strong nicotine habit and was slightly homophobic. Levant downed the pills, Seconal, Nembutal, and Demerol like candy, luring him to the world of an unconsciousness paradise. Once while pilled up, Levant tried to beat up his devoted wife, Gale.

He died of a heart attack on 8/14/1972 in his home in Beverly Hills, CA.

Link to Wikipedia biography

Events

  • Family : Change residence 1922 (Moved to N.Y.)
  • Relationship : Divorce dates 1932 (From first wife)
  • Death of Significant person 1937 (Business assoc. George Gershwin)
  • Relationship : Marriage 1939 (Second marriage June Gale)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1940 (A Smattering of Ignorance)
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1945 (Appearance in "Rhapsody in Blue")
  • Work : Published/ Exhibited/ Released 1951 (Appeared in "An American in Paris")

Source Notes

Gene Lockhart quotes B.C. (Same in Contemporary American Horoscopes)

Categories

  • Traits : Mind : I.Q. high/ Mensa level (Mensa level: bright and talented)
  • Traits : Personality : Articulate
  • Traits : Personality : Eccentric
  • Traits : Personality : Humorous, Witty (Caustic wit)
  • Diagnoses : Body Part Problems : Heart (Terminal attack)
  • Diagnoses : Psychological : Abuse Drugs (Seconal, Demoral and Nembutol)
  • Diagnoses : Psychological : Anti-social Personality (Neurotic)
  • Family : Childhood : Sibling circumstances (One of three boys)
  • Family : Relationship : Number of Marriages (Two)
  • Family : Relationship : Stress - Domestic violence (Physically abusive while doped up)
  • Family : Parenting : Kids 1-3 (Three daughters)
  • Lifestyle : Work : Skills - Multi-faceted
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Actor/ Actress (Film, stage)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Comedy (One-liners)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Night Club/ Vaudeville (Vaudeville, flash piano)
  • Vocation : Entertainment : Radio/ D.J./ Announcer
  • Vocation : Entertainment : TV host/ Personality
  • Vocation : Entertain/Music : Composer/ Arranger
  • Vocation : Entertain/Music : Instrumentalist (Piano)
  • Vocation : Writers : Textbook/ Non-fiction
  • Notable : Book Collection : American Book

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