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Hits Are a Habit With The Fabulous Team Of R & H

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955 Date: 01.07.2008
Chance brought Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II together as creators of a new type of musical play. And chance, plus creative ability, has favored them to the point where they are firmly fixed in the mosaic of the American theatre as the team that breathes magic into shows whose words and music blend to carry out a plotted story.

Since the success of "Oklahoma!" R&H have come up with "Carousel," "South Paciflc," "Allegro," "Me and Juliet," "The King and I", all plays which have approached the theatre primarily as theatre and all plays which have not feared to face the tragic and to send the audience away with a tear-and a thought about life.

This successful literature of the theatre comes from two men who have much in common, and some characteristics that differ. Both loved the theatre from early youth and wanted to be part of it; both dislike night life and like home life; both are said to be very careful to keep appointments and both are hard workers. Rodgers is a careful dresser; Hammerstein likes work clothes that fit in with his Bucks County farm. Rodgers studies the script of a play, assimilates each situation and then marshals the platoons of sixteenth, thirty-second, quarter, and half notes into ascending and descending patterns in his mind, so that when he sits down to compose, the music flows from his pencil to the ruled notes on his music paper. Hammerstein sweats and struggles with words, standing at a desk, fearful that a terminal consonant will cause a singer to contract his larynx with ruinous effect and ponders if it were not better to end with a liquid vowel. Rodgers is a good business man and a good administrator. Hammerstein just doesn't want to be bothered and is more interested in his white Herefords or the produce of his farm.
More in 70mm reading:

The Todd-AO Projector

Showmen’s Trade Review, October 15, 1955:
Oklahoma! in Todd-AO
Magna Theatres
Todd-AO Corporation
Philips Collaborated On Projector Design
Todd-AO Projection and Sound
Six track recording equipment
All-Purpose Sound Reproduction
Rodgers & Hammerstein II
Six track recording equipment

Guild Turns To Rodgers

Rodgers, whose work today extends from the satirical "Connecticut Yankee" to "Victory at Sea," a musical score for a television series, came to collaborate with Hammerstein when the Theatre Guild wanted a musical to be made of "Green Grow the Lilacs." Rodgers' lyricist, Lorenz Hart at that time was too ill to undertake the task. Rodgers turned to Hammerstein, whom he had known at colleges and the two turned out "Oklahoma!"

Rodgers was born in New York City in 1902, the son of a physician who liked music and who with his wife would spell out the scores of operas. At the age of four, he was already listening to this music with enthusiasm: at the age of six he could play the piano, and at 14 he had written his first number for a summer camp show, "Auto Show Girl." While a freshman at Columbia, in association with Lorenz Hart, he wrote the 1918 Variety Show, "Fly with Me."

Somewhat to his parents' disapproval, he shifted to music in his sophomore year, enrolling under the late Dr. Walter Damrosch at the Institute of Musical Arts in Columbia, which is today the Julliard School.

Later, on his own he turned professional with such dreary results that he was seriously thinking of taking a job with a baby underware firm. Then chance again intervened, and the Theatre Guild commissioned him and Hart to do a special show, which turned out to be the fabulously successful "Garrick Gaieties." So he stayed with composition.

Hammerstein conceived his first love for the theatre at the same age that Rodgers conceived his love for music-four. At the time, the young Hammerstein, who was born in 1895, by dint of repetitious pleas, persuaded his father, William, a successful theatre manager, to take him to Grandfather Oscar Hammerstein's Victoria Theatre on Seventh Avenue at 42nd Street, where the Rialto Theatre stands today.

Hammerstein Tradition

Grandfather Oscar was one of the fabulous showmen of his day, a high-hatted, cigar-smoking impresario who made money in vaudeville to lose it in opera. But it was the vaudeville young Hammerstein saw from a box that day, and from that time on the theatre was his dream.

His father didn't want him in the theatre, so he dutifully studied law at Columbia and even dutifully practiced with little success for a single year.

Then he went to his uncle Arthur, who produced successful musicals, and persuaded him to give him a job as assistant stage manager. That was the beginning of a career which led to eventual collaboration with Vincent Youmans, Rudolf Friml, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Sigmund Romberg-and Rodgers.
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Updated 21-01-24