Oscar Levant
Oscar Levant was an American pianist
A pianist is a musician who plays the piano. A professional pianist can perform solo pieces, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers, solo instrumentalists, or other performers.-Choice of genres:...

, composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

, author
An author is broadly defined as "the person who originates or gives existence to anything" and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. Narrowly defined, an author is the originator of any written work.-Legal significance:...

, comedian
A comedian or comic is a person who seeks to entertain an audience, primarily by making them laugh. This might be through jokes or amusing situations, or acting a fool, as in slapstick, or employing prop comedy...

, and actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

. He was more famous for his mordant character and witticisms, on the radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 and in movies
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 and television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

, than for his music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, to an Orthodox Jewish
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 family from Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

, Levant moved to New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 with his mother, Annie, in 1922, following the death of his father, Max. He began studying under Zygmunt Stojowski
Zygmunt Stojowski
Zygmunt Denis Antoni Jordan de Stojowski was a Polish pianist and composer.-Life:Born near the city of Kielce, Stojowski began his musical training with his mother, and with Polish composer Władysław Żeleński. In Kraków, as a seventeen-year-old student, he made his debut as a concert pianist...

, a well-established piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 pedagogue. In 1924, aged 18, he appeared with Ben Bernie
Ben Bernie
Ben Bernie , born Bernard Anzelevitz, was an American jazz violinist and radio personality, often introduced as The Old Maestro. He was noted for his showmanship and memorable bits of snappy dialogue....

 in a short film, Ben Bernie and All the Lads
Ben Bernie and All the Lads
Ben Bernie and All the Lads is a short film made in 1923 by Lee De Forest in the DeForest Phonofilm sound-on-film process. The film features Ben Bernie conducting his band All The Lads, and features pianist Oscar Levant....

, made in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in the DeForest Phonofilm
In 1919, Lee De Forest, inventor of the audion tube, filed his first patent on a sound-on-film process, DeForest Phonofilm, which recorded sound directly onto film as parallel lines. These parallel lines photographically recorded electrical waveforms from a microphone, which were translated back...

Sound-on-film refers to a class of sound film processes where the sound accompanying picture is physically recorded onto photographic film, usually, but not always, the same strip of film carrying the picture. Sound-on-film processes can either record an analog sound track or digital sound track,...


In 1928, Levant traveled to Hollywood where his career took a turn for the better.

It's not a pretty face, I grant you. But underneath its flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.

Describing himself, in lines he contributed to An American In Paris (1951), although officially credited to Alan Jay Lerner|Alan Jay Lerner, as told in The Memoirs of an Amnesiac (1965); also quoted in The Dictionary of Biographical Quotation of British and American Subjects (1978) by Richard Kenin and Justin Wintle, p. 485

The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.

As quoted in The New Speaker's Treasury of Wit and Wisdom (1958) by Herbert Victor Prochnow, p. 322

I don't drink. I don't like it — It makes me feel good.

As quoted in TIME magazine (5 May 1958)

I'm a study of a man in chaos in search of frenzy.

As quoted in TIME (5 May 1958)

There is a thin line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.

As quoted in Celebrity Register : An Irreverent Compendium of American Quotable Notables (1959) by Cleveland Amory

Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you will find the real tinsel underneath.

As quoted in Jewish Wit (1962) by Theodor Reik, p. 104, also in Inquisition in Eden (1965) and Whatever It Is, I’m Against It (1984) by Nat Shapiro

I once said cynically of a politician, "He'll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it."

The Memoirs of an Amnesiac (1965), p. 13; also quoted in The Quotable Politician (2003) by William B. Whitman, p. 31

An epigram is only a wisecrack that's played at Carnegie Hall.

As quoted in Coronet Magazine (September 1968)

Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember.

As quoted in TIME (28 August 1972)

I knew Doris Day|Doris Day before she was a virgin.

As quoted in The Wit and Wisdom of Hollywood (1972) by Max Wilk