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Published: 08/27/92 Category: Obit

Sammy Timberg, a resident of the Hotel Jermyn who was a well- known
Hollywood entertainer and composer who wrote everything from the theme for
"Superman'' to cartoon and motion picture musical scores, died Wednesday
night at Mercy Hospital after a short illness. He was 89.

His death came just five months after Mayor Jim Connors proclaimed
"Sammy Timberg Day'' in Scranton.

"Sammy Timberg's music flows and surges and revolves with... sweet
inevitability,'' Connors said at the time. "The harmonies are rich, the
melodic lines clear and tuneful.''

Timberg was born in New York City on May 21, 1903, the youngest of seven
children of the late Israel and Mary Timberg, who emigrated from Austria
before the turn of the century.

He was 16 and training as a concert pianist when his father died,
forcing him for financial reasons to join his brother, Herman, an
established comedian and comedy writer, on the vaudeville circuit.
At the time, Timberg was studying piano and theory under Rubin Goldmark,
whose best-known pupils were Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.

For the next decade or so, Timberg served as a straight man for his
brother, at the same time conducting the band for the show. In those days he
was known as ``Fancy Pants'' and was on the road 40 weeks per year.
At the time, Timberg, Herman, and their sister, Hattie, were involved
with the early career of the Marx brothers. Herman wrote the act, Sammy was
the musical director while Hattie, under the stage name Hattie Darling,
performed with them and served as their business manager.

During that same period, Timberg wrote songs for Broadway musicals. He
also performed with Benny Leonard, the lightweight boxing champion, who
between bouts did a vaudeville routine written and produced by Herman. Some
years later, the brothers produced an act featuring an aspiring young
comedian named Phil Silvers.

Timberg is best known as a composer of songs and background scores for
the classic animated cartoons of the Fleischer Studios (later Famous
Studios), where he was musical director. Cartoon characters whose celluloid
antics his music has enlivened include Popeye, Betty Boop, Olive Oyl and
Superman. He also contributed songs to two Fleischer feature-length
animated films, "Gulliver's Travels'' and "Mr. Bug Goes to Town.''
His best known song, "It's a Hap- Hap-Happy Day,'' was featured in

In Hollywood in the 1940s, Timberg composed and conducted the score for
the well-received MGM recording of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol,'' which
starred Lionel Barrymore.

As a composer of popular music, he collaborated with noted lyricists
Buddy Kaye and Sammy Cahn, among others. His song, "Help Yourself To My
Heart,'' written with Kaye, was recorded by Frank Sinatra in the 1940s and
was part of a Sinatra retrospective album released a few years ago.

Timberg's compositions included an untitled jazz rhapsody, which he
performed with a 100-piece orchestra at New York's Capitol Theater in 1930.
Applauded by critics, Timberg's work was never again performed publicly
because of a contractual dispute.

In the latter stages of his career, Timberg devoted his energies
primarily to producing shows and managing performers, jobs for which he
proved ill-suited.

For a time, he managed a rambunctious young comedian but dropped him
because he was hard to handle. Under new management, Jackie Gleason became
a show business legend.

Timberg came to Scranton in 1953 for a two-week engagement, entertaining
at the now-defunct Europa Lounge in the 200 block of North Washington
Avenue. His combination of music and patter proved so popular that the stint
lasted more than year.

During that period, he developed great affection for the city, writing a
song about it, "Scranton, Our Friendly Town,'' and eventually taking up
residence here at the Hotel Jermyn.

He became a familiar figure on the streets of the city, where he would
visit his friends with clockwork regularity until becoming ill about six
weeks ago.

He often was visited by show business friends entertaining in the area.
One recent visitor, comic Henny Youngman, was pictured in a newspaper photo
chucking Timberg under the chin with the caption, "Take my friend,

Although he stopped performing professionally in the 1950s, he continued
to entertain for friends and at charity events and regularly played the
piano for Sunday School children at the local Christian Science Church.
His wife, the former Maria Davis, died in 1983. Surviving are a son,
Robert R. Timberg, Bethesda, Md.; two daughters, Patricia Ann Cullem,
Scotts Valley, Calif., and Rosemarie Eisenberg, Eugene, Ore.; nine
grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.

The funeral will be Saturday at 7 p.m. from the Ziman Funeral Home, 612
E. Gibson St. Interment will be on Sunday in New York. Friends may call
Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until service time.

(The obituary, contributed to TAC by Rick Spector of Philadelphia, appeared in the Scranton Times and was written by his son, Robert Timberg.)

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