Betty Comden along with Adolph Green (1914 – 2002), was one-half of the musical duo Comden and Green, the writing team that penned the screenplays and songs for some of the most beloved movie musicals. They also collaborated on numerous Broadway productions. The pair were not married, although many thought they were. They did share a unique comic genius and sophisticated wit that enabled them to forge a six-decades-long partnership that produced some of Hollywood and Broadway's greatest hits.
Betty Comden was born Elizabeth Cohen in New York City. After high school, Green worked as a runner on Wall Street while he tried to make it as an actor. He met Comden through mutual friends in 1938 while she was studying drama at New York University. They formed a troupe called the Revuers, which performed at the Village Vanguard, a club in Greenwich Village.
Among the members of the company was a young comedian named Judy Tuvim, who later changed her name to Judy Holliday, and Green's good friend, a young musician named Leonard Bernstein, frequently accompanied them on the piano.
Comden and Green's first Broadway effort joined them with Bernstein for On the Town, a musical romp about three sailors on leave in New York City. Comden and Green wrote the lyrics and book, which included sizeable parts for themselves. Their next two musicals, Billion Dollar Baby (1945) and Bonanza Bound (1947) were not successful, and once again they headed to California, where they immediately found work at MGM.
They wrote the screenplay for Good News, The Barkleys of Broadway and then adapted On the Town for Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly. Comden and Green reunited with Kelly for their most successful project, the classic Singin' in the Rain.
They received Oscar nominations twice for their screenplays The Band Wagon and It's Always Fair Weather, both of which earned them a Screen Writers Guild Award, as did On the Town.
In 1958, they appeared on Broadway in A Party with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, a revue that included some of their early sketches. It was a critical and commercial success, and they brought an updated version back to Broadway in 1977.
Among their other credits are the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan for both Broadway and television, a streamlined Die Fledermaus for the Metropolitan Opera, and stage musicals for Carol Burnett, Leslie Uggams, and Lauren Bacall, among others.
In 1982, A Doll's Life ran for only five performances, although the Comden Green team received Tony Award nominations for the show's book and score.
Comden and Green received Kennedy Center Honors in 1991.
Comden married Steven Kyle, a designer and businessman, in 1942. He died in 1979 and she never remarried. They had two children, a daughter, Susanna, and a son, Alan, who died in 1990.
Betty Comden died of heart failure following an undisclosed illness of several months at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006, aged 89.