Historical Markers
Victor Schertzinger Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Victor Schertzinger

Poconos / Endless Mountains


Marker Location:
115 W. Centre Street, Mahanoy City

Dedication Date:
September 1, 2006

Behind the Marker

Head and shoulders image of Victor Schertzinger, wearing a suit, cap, and smoking a cigarette.
Publicity photo of Victor Schertzinger, circa 1930.
That there was no available technology in 1916 to integrate sound with film was just a formality to Victor Schertzinger. The young composer had just been hired by famed silent film mogul Thomas Ince to score what Ince was convinced would be his masterpiece: Civilization, an epic parable about war and peace.

An original score matched scene by scene to a movie's story was a startlingly new idea; a significant leap beyond the dexterous pianist mixing and matching snippets of old melodies to enhance the mood of action on screen, which had been part of the silent film experience from its beginning. In larger cities, the more luxurious movie places might employ orchestral ensembles for the task, but what they performed was still a quilted patchwork of themes and variations. As resident composer for the Triangle Film Corporation, Schertzinger had already demonstrated to that he could do better than that.

Sheet Music cover
Sheet music for "Marcheta; Love song of old Mexico," by Victor Schertzinger,...
During production, Schertzinger also helped Ince arrange a scene in which a group of women appeared singing with full operatic gusto about their sons who had gone off to war. When the movie premiered at the plush Criterion Theater in New York, Schertzinger hid a choir of sixty sopranos and altos beneath the stage, synchronizing their performance to the women on screen; it was, in essence, the first overdub in the history of the movies. The audience was dazzled, but the experiment was short-lived; stuffed under the stage, the live singers found the heat unbearable. For Schertzinger, the pathbreaking musical arrangements were but one in a string of innovations that helped define the relationship of music and the movies.

Born on April 8, 1890, in Mahanoy City, a coal town in the southern part of eastern Pennsylvania's coal region, Victor Schertzinger seemed destined to make beautiful music. The family lived above his father's jewelry shop where his mother, once a court violinist to England's Queen Victoria, gave private music lessons when she wasn't directing the band at Mahanoy Township High School. There, she also began teaching the violin to her young son, who demonstrated prodigious talent.

By the age of eight, Schertzinger had appeared as a soloist with Victor Herbert's Symphony Orchestra, and toured with the band led by "The March King" John Philip Sousa. After the family moved to Philadelphia, Schertzinger studied violin with private tutors while enrolled at Philadelphia's prestigious Brown Preparatory School, dazzled concert audiences throughout North America and Europe, and then continued his study of music at the University of Brussels in Belgium.

Image of Victor Schertzinger with Jean Acker standing together.
Victor Schertzinger with Jean Acker, the first wife of Rudolph Valentino, late...
When Schertzinger returned to the United States, he settled in Los Angeles, and made a small name for himself as a conductor and songwriter. He wrote two pop hits in 1913 - Marcheta, which went on to sell an impressive four million copies of sheet music, and My Wonderful Dream Girl,. In 1915, Hollywood's three leading directors, Ince, D. W. Griffith, and Max Sennett, heard Schertzinger playing some of his own compositions as the orchestra leader in a Los Angeles hotel and invited him to write original scores for their new films. "I thought it was a marvelous idea," Schertzinger later recalled, "So I consented." Only later did he learn that he was to write the scores for thirty-six productions in the next year! These he completed on schedule.

In 1917, Schertzinger began to direct films, and in the decade that followed became one of the most successful directors of the silent film era. His more than fifty silent films included Redskin(1929),the first to be shot in color. In the late 1920s the wedding of sound to motion pictures gave Schertzinger a real showcase for his versatility. In one of the first talking pictures he directed,Love Parade starring Maurice Chevalier in 1929, Schertzinger not wrote both the orchestral score and the songs, including Dream Lover, which turned into a standard.

In the 1930s he directed more than twenty films, including Paramount on Parade, a revue hastily assembled to showcase some of the new potential of sound; One Night of Love(1934), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director and won an Oscar for his score, and Something to Sing About(1937), starring James Cagney as a New York bandleader. The first director to present opera in motion pictures, he also brought Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado to the silver screen in 1938. Schertzinger scored many of his own movies, stocking them with songs he either wrote or co-wrote, including Dream Lover, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, I Remember You, and Tangerine -which would enjoy to long afterlives on record and in other movies.

Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope playing ocarinas in a publicity still.
Dorothy Lamour, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope playing ocarinas in a publicity still...
Schertzinger directed his two most famous movies - Road to Singapore and Road to Zanzibar, the first two pictures in the popular "Road" series staring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour - in 1940 and 1941. He had never worked with anyone quite like the comic and the crooner before. Crosby later remembered that Schertzinger "was a quiet fellow, used to directing his pictures in a leisurely fashion. His awakening was rude. For a couple of days when Hope and I tore free-wheeling into a scene, ad-libbing and violating all the accepted rules of movie-making, Schertzinger stole bewildered looks at the script, then leafed rapidly through it, searching for lines we were saying."

Crosby and Schertzinger went on to work again in 1941 in the musical melodrama, The Birth of the Blues. Schertzinger died later that year, from a sudden heart attack, a few days short of completing The Fleet's In with Lamour, William Holden, Eddie Bracken, and Betty Hutton.

Two of his most lasting songs, co-written by lyricist Johnny Mercer, were introduced in that movie by the markerJimmy Dorsey Orchestra:Tangerine, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Music Charts after the film was released in 1942, and I Remember You. Tangerine, beyond its innumerable recordings, would also go on to grace the soundtracks of numerous movies, including Double Indemnity, Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Star Trek III, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

When the Hollywood Walk of Fame first debuted in the late 1950s, Victor Schertzinger was in one of the earliest groups given a star. His is implanted on the sidewalk at 1611 Vine Street, not far from Bing Crosby's.
Back to Top