Best remembered for the wartime standards "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas," Walter Kent was born in Manhattan in August 1911. He attended CCNY and studied music at the prestigious Juilliard School. His first major songwriting success came with 1932's "Pu-Leeze Mister Hemingway," which was co-written with Milton Drake and Abner Silver and recorded by Guy Lombardo. He started working in the motion picture industry during the late '30s, writing songs for several Westerns. But it was World War II that provided his greatest inspiration; written with lyricist Nat Burton, "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" was a romanticized ode to England's struggle against the Nazi threat, and proved a substantial hit for Glenn Miller in 1941. Two years later, Kent wrote music for the acclaimed film version of For Whom the Bell Tolls, and found a regular writing partner in poet/lyricist James Kimball "Kim" Gannon, with whom he wrote the holiday classic "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Recorded by Bing Crosby (one year after the best-selling "White Christmas"), "I'll Be Home for Christmas" was a smash hit, striking a nerve with overseas GIs and the families who awaited their return.
Continuing to work with Gannon, Kent went on to land two Oscar nominations for Best Song: 1944's "Too Much in Love" (from Song of the Open Road, recorded by Frank Sinatra) and 1945's "Endlessly" (from Earl Carroll Vanities). He and Gannon wrote three songs for the Disney animated short Johnny Appleseed in 1946, and had another hit with Frankie Laine's 1950 recording of "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" (later covered by Frank Sinatra). That same year, Kent's "You're Always in My Dreams" -- this time a collaboration with Al Hoffman and Manny Kurtz -- was recorded by the proto-doo wop group the Ravens. Nonetheless, he continued to work with Gannon, completing the musical comedy Seventeen for a Broadway premiere in 1951. Little was heard from Kent afterwards, though a few of his songs popped up in films during the late '50s. ~ Steve Huey