Rewind

Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Broadway Music

For the 50th anniversary of the film version of The Sound of Music, an interview from 1960 with the two men behind the songs - Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. In the 1940s and 50s, five of their Broadway shows were mega hits. This episode of Rewind was originally presented on March 12, 2015
(Duchesse Records)
Does the picture above warm your heart? Does the overture to that movie make you want to run spinning through the Austrian Alps? Do you faithfully watch would-be nun Julie Andrews fall in love with Captain Von Trapp every time it comes on television? Did you cheer or did you jeer when Lady Gaga sang a medley of Sound of Music tunes at the Oscars last winter? It's been fifty years since the much loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music hit the screen after a successful run on Broadway. Rewind celebrates by paying tribute to the two men who were behind the songs. 
Composer Richard Rodgers, left, and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein, 1956. (The Associated Press)

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were two of the most successful composers of Broadway musicals. In the 1940s and 50s, five of their shows, Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music were mega hits. 

Both men had had successful songwriting collaborations before they got together, Rodgers with Lorenz Hart and Hammerstein with Jerome Kern. 
Tony Thomas,1966. (CBC Still Photo Collection/Roy Martin for Tony Thomas)

In February 1960, CBC Radio's Tony Thomas travelled to New York to interview both men separately. Those interviews originally aired on the CBC Radio program Project 60

Oscar Hammerstein had a particularly inspiring and uplifting outlook that's reflected in the music he composed. Here's how he sums up his philosophy of life:

"My own feelings about life are toward the optimistic and hopeful side, and I don't know if a man works out a philosophy or whether his philosophy emanates from his nature. But whether that's true or no, I think it's terribly important that some people like me exist to keep affirming the beauties of life to offset others, even more eloquent perhaps, who are decrying life and scoffing at it and telling you what's wrong with it. Surely there are things that are wrong. Then we must also admit that there are things that are right and beautiful and make it wonderful to be on earth. And this, if it isn't my mission, is at least one of my chief aims.   
File-This Aug. 5, 1966, file photo shows members of the Trapp family as they gave a public concert at the family lodge in Stowe, Vermont,under the direction of Msgr, Franz Wasner, their chaplain, and musical director. From left to right are: Mrs. Hugh Campbell, Agatha, Maria, Rosemarie, Hedwig, Mrs. Maria Augusta Trapp, Werner, and Johannes. (AP Photo/File) (The Associated Press)

At the end of Happy Talk in South Pacific, one of the characters sings: 'You've got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you going to have a dream come true?' I think this is a good reduction ad absurdum. Obviously you can't ever have a dream come true unless you have a dream to begin with, and people who deny themselves the privilege of dreaming are bound to failure. A dream may fail, but then there is always a chance of a dream or two coming true once in a while. The world is quite a wonderful place. It's not perfect, but as I say in the Flower Drum Song, a hundred million miracles are happening every day and those who don't agree are those who do not hear or see. A hundred million miracles are happening every day."
The Sound of Music will be performed at the National Art Centre from April 12 -17, 2016. (CBC Still Photo Collection)

The last song for which Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics was Edelweiss, one of the most popular and enduring songs from The Sound of Music. Many people assumed it was a traditional Austrian folk song. In fact, Theodore Bikel, the actor who played Captain Von Trapp on Broadway, said that after performances he was approached by Austrians who thanked him for performing that old folk tune.

Hammerstein died of stomach cancer just a few months after The Sound of Music opened on Broadway to great acclaim.  That play, of course, went on to great success, and even greater success when it was released as a movie in 1965, fifty years ago.

Richard Rodgers died in 1979 at age 77.

A couple of fun facts: Richard Rodgers is one of only two persons to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize. 

Meanwhile, Hammerstein is the only person named "Oscar" ever to win an Oscar.

The Trapp Family Singers, whose story inspired The Sound of Music, 1946. (The Associated Press)

Songs played or referred to in the hour include:
Overture from The Sound of Music

Come with me from The Boys of Syracuse

Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma (Alfred Drake)

Something Wonderful from The King and I (Dorothy Sarnoff)

I Still Suits Me (Paul Robeson)

Carefully Taught (South Pacific)

A Bell is Not a Bell (Mary Martin) Sound of Music

One Hundred Million Miracles from Flower Drum Song

Edelweiss from The Sound of Music

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