Otto Harbach was a Broadway playwright and lyricist and the author of many popular plays, including Madam Sherry; Katinka; No No Nanette; High Jinks; The Silent Witness; and Up in Mable's Room. Twenty-five movies were made from his plays and musicals. Some of his more popular songs included “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” "Cuddle Up a Little Closer," "Who," and the "Indian Love Call." He wrote the songs for On Moonlight Bay. His song ”I Won't Dance" was featured in the film What Women Want (2000) starring Mel Gibson.
He was born on August 18, 1873, to Adolph and Sena Hauerbach, Danish immigrants to Salt Lake City, Utah. He studied at Salt Lake Collegiate Institute (now Westminster College), where he was classmates with future actress Maude Adams. Upon the suggestion of his principal to attend Knox College in Illinois, Harbach earned train fare by chaperoning a shipment of sheep to Omaha. He graduated from Knox in 1895 and taught at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. He concurrently earned a master’s degree from Knox. He then moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, aspiring to become an English professor. Poor vision changed his mind, and he worked in advertising while he wrote a play that was never produced. But from 1907 to 1936 he wrote approximately 40 musicals and seven plays.
Harbach was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and also served a term as its president. ASCAP honored Harbach on his 80th birthday with a gala dinner and reception at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. His home town of Salt Lake City, where he frequently came to visit relatives, honored him on October 23, 1957, with a special program that included selections from his many works.
Harbach married Eloise Smith Dougall of Salt Lake City and they were the parents of two sons. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He died on January 24, 1963.