Lawsuit Against Rodgers & Hart

E. Stewart Jones with Edward W Roman in 1936

The lawsuit involving "Blue Moon" brought by Edward W. Roman against composers Richard Rodger and Lorenz Hart was filed on October 13, 1936, in Rensselaer County Supreme Court in Troy, New York. 

The suit sought to restrain publication of the famous song, which Roman claimed to have written, and to compel publishers to make an accounting of royalties on copies already sold. It sought payment of back royalties owed to him.

Also named as defendants were Jack Mahoney, the New York song broker (doing business as Mahoney and Associates); Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.; and MGM's music publisher Robbins Music Corp. It was that firm's founder, Jack Robbins, who had successfully sold the song throughout the country. A settlement was reached on January 15, 1937.

As a matter of public record, the lawsuit was accessible. Our query to the Rensselaer County Clerk (see email below) was the first step in an effort to review and consider the documents. 

The images shown below are copies of the actual court records. Select the image to enlarge each individual page, or click on the following link to view the entire set of pages in PDF format.

PDF of the 1936 Lawsuit Against Rodgers & Hart

Complaint, Page 1

Complaint, Page 2

Complaint, Page 3

Complaint, Page 4

Complaint, Page 5

Documentation, Page 6

Documentation, Page 7

Documentation, Page 8

Documentation, Page 9

Documentation, Page 10

Documentation, Page 11

Documentation, Page 12

Documentation, Page 13

Documentation, Page 14

Settlement, Page 15

Discontinuance, Page 16

MGM's Settlement Payment?

At the Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles, researcher John Cork discovered an Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer accounting record dated February 5, 1937, three weeks after the lawsuit involving "Blue Moon" was settled.

The document specifies payment by MGM, in the amount of $500, to Wattenberg & Wattenberg, attorneys for Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. It is identified as a "Settlement" to be debited from the account of "Song—Manhattan Melodrama," an earlier iteration (with a different title and lyrics) for the song that became "Blue Moon."

This was possibly MGM's (and music publisher Robbins Music Corp.'s) payment of its share of the $1,500 settlement amount. The remainder would likely have been covered, in equal $500 amounts, by Jack Mahoney and by Rodgers and Hart.

Email from Rensselaer County Clerk with lawsuit PDF attached