Rodgers and Hammerstein: The Sound of Broadway Music
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.
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:
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 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.
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