Adolph Green

The news could not be more sad (even for me, and I have little interest in the Broadway musical form), unless it had included an announcement of the death of Betty Comden as well. In fact, Comden and Green were so much of a partnership it has always been more difficult to imagine either of them as one than as the two that even they insisted they were.

Mr. Green was artistically incomplete without Ms. Comden, and vice versa. They knew it and acknowledged it frequently. "Alone, nothing," Mr. Green once told The Washington Post. "Together, a household word, a legend, Romulus and Remus, Damon and Pythias, Loeb and Leopold — Mr. Words and Miss Words."

Mr. Words and Miss Words were so professionally inseparable, so committed to each other, so pleased to have their relationship and so happy to talk about it, that many people thought they were married. In 1954 a writer for The New York Times mistakenly referred to them as a "husband-wife" writing team.

... Throughout his career, Mr. Green deferred to Ms. Comden and attributed the team's success to her. She was always "unforgivably responsible," he told The New York Herald Tribune in 1961. "She is always on time for everything, while I am late for anything. To make matters worse, she invariably appears at, say, producers' conferences, with our latest work of dialogue or lyrics neatly typed and arranged in readable form." He added that "without directly confronting me with my inadequacies, she has always humiliated me fair to distraction. You see, I have lived for years in the shadow of an overwhelming suspicion that all our collaborations have, in reality, been solo efforts, written in toto by Betty alone — an untenable position for me."

Ms. Comden said she was not the secret to the team's triumphs; they were. "Everything is together," she explained. "We don't divide the work up. We develop a mental radar, bounce lines off each other." She said that she could not envision a life without the collaboration. Years after it all started, she confessed that "we can still be delighted by something the other says or does."


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Published on October 25, 2002 4:26 PM.

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