Published: 08/27/92 Category: Obit
SAMMY TIMBERG, HOLLYWOOD ENTERTAINER, COMPOSER DIES
Sammy Timberg, a resident of the Hotel Jermyn who was a well-
Hollywood entertainer and composer who wrote everything from
the theme for
"Superman'' to cartoon and motion picture musical scores,
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
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
children of the late Israel and Mary Timberg, who emigrated from
before the turn of the century.
He was 16 and training as a concert pianist when his father
forcing him for financial reasons to join his brother, Herman,
established comedian and comedy writer, on the vaudeville circuit.
At the time, Timberg was studying piano and theory under Rubin
whose best-known pupils were Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.
For the next decade or so, Timberg served as a straight man
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
At the time, Timberg, Herman, and their sister, Hattie, were
with the early career of the Marx brothers. Herman wrote the
act, Sammy was
the musical director while Hattie, under the stage name Hattie
performed with them and served as their business manager.
During that same period, Timberg wrote songs for Broadway
also performed with Benny Leonard, the lightweight boxing champion,
between bouts did a vaudeville routine written and produced by
years later, the brothers produced an act featuring an aspiring
comedian named Phil Silvers.
Timberg is best known as a composer of songs and background
the classic animated cartoons of the Fleischer Studios (later
Studios), where he was musical director. Cartoon characters whose
antics his music has enlivened include Popeye, Betty Boop, Olive
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 Hollywood in the 1940s, Timberg composed and conducted
the score for
the well-received MGM recording of Dickens' "A Christmas
starred Lionel Barrymore.
As a composer of popular music, he collaborated with noted
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
Timberg's compositions included an untitled jazz rhapsody,
performed with a 100-piece orchestra at New York's Capitol Theater
Applauded by critics, Timberg's work was never again performed
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
For a time, he managed a rambunctious young comedian but dropped
because he was hard to handle. Under new management, Jackie Gleason
a show business legend.
Timberg came to Scranton in 1953 for a two-week engagement,
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,
song about it, "Scranton, Our Friendly Town,'' and eventually
residence here at the Hotel Jermyn.
He became a familiar figure on the streets of the city, where
visit his friends with clockwork regularity until becoming ill
He often was visited by show business friends entertaining
in the area.
One recent visitor, comic Henny Youngman, was pictured in a newspaper
chucking Timberg under the chin with the caption, "Take
Although he stopped performing professionally in the 1950s,
to entertain for friends and at charity events and regularly
piano for Sunday School children at the local Christian Science
His wife, the former Maria Davis, died in 1983. Surviving are
Robert R. Timberg, Bethesda, Md.; two daughters, Patricia Ann
Scotts Valley, Calif., and Rosemarie Eisenberg, Eugene, Ore.;
grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.
The funeral will be Saturday at 7 p.m. from the Ziman Funeral
E. Gibson St. Interment will be on Sunday in New York. Friends
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.)