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Biography

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Overview (5)

Born in New York City, New York, USA
Died in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, USA  (cancer)
Birth NameOscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein
Nickname Ockie
Height 6' 3" (1.91 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Oscar Hammerstein II was born on July 12, 1895 in New York City, New York, USA as Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein. He was married to Dorothy Hammerstein and Myra Finn. He died on August 23, 1960 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, USA.

Spouse (2)

Dorothy Hammerstein (14 May 1929 - 23 August 1960) (his death) (1 child)
Myra Finn (22 August 1917 - 1929) (divorced) (2 children)

Trivia (33)

Born at 4:30am-EST
Mentor to composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim. His Pennsylvania estate Highland Farms is now a popular bed and breakfast featuring various Hammerstein family memorabilia.
Hammerstein was almost excessively generous at times, when giving credit to his fellow lyricists. The song "Bill", used in "Show Boat", was actually from a much older musical, "Oh, Lady! Lady!", and its lyrics were by P.G. Wodehouse. When Jerome Kern and Hammerstein decided to use it in "Show Boat", Hammerstein rewrote half the lyrics to the song, but preferred to let the public think that "Bill" was still entirely the work of Kern and Wodehouse. Thus, in the 1951 film version of "Show Boat" (Show Boat (1951)), the credits read, "Lyrics for 'Bill' by P.G. Wodehouse".
Stephen Sondheim said of him, "His work tended to make people think of him as an unsophisticated, platitudinous hick, when in fact he was a highly intelligent, strongly principled, and philosophical man.".
Unlike his most frequent partners, Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers, Hammerstein came from a distinguished theatrical family. His paternal grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein, was a successful theater and opera impresario, whose Hammerstein Grand Opera Company was a formidable rival to the Metropolitan Opera Company in the early years of the twentieth century. Oscar's father, William Hammerstein, was a successful vaudeville producer, often credited as the inventor of the pie-in-the-face gag, and his uncle, Arthur Hammerstein, was a producer of Broadway musicals and operettas ("The Desert Song", "Rose Marie", "Good Boy").
He is credited, along with two of his collaborators - composers Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers - with developing the "integrated musical", a kind of musical in which the songs furthered the plot and revealed character, rather than just serving as pleasant interruptions to the story. With Kern he wrote "Show Boat", and with Rodgers he wrote "Oklahoma!", "Carousel", "South Pacific", "The King and I", "Flower Drum Song", the TV musical "Cinderella", "The Sound of Music", and three other shows. They influenced musical theatre writers to the point that nearly every musical on Broadway after 1943 used song and dance to further and enhance the plots of the shows rather than distract the audience from the story lines.
Often wrote standing up at a high, antique bookkeeper's desk, a gift from old friend/collaborator Jerome Kern. He always claimed it helped keep his creative juices flowing.
He and Richard Rodgers established their own publishing firm, Williamson Music, at the height of their success. The name was an inside joke, both their fathers' given names being William.
In addition to their phenomenal success as writers of their own shows, he and Richard Rodgers produced shows by other writers, as well, most notably Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun" and John Van Druten's "I Remember Mama".
Last song written before his death was "Edelweiss" from "The Sound of Music." It was written at the last minute to provide male lead 'Theodore Bikel' with a solo number, and Bikel has always thought it interesting that the last word that Hammerstein, who knew he was dying, wrote as a lyric was "forever." To this day, actor/folk singer Bikel invariably performs the song at his concerts, always to a warm reception.
So far the only man named Oscar ever to win an Oscar.
"The King and I" was performed at the London Palladium in 2000 and was nominated for Outstanding Musical Production at the Laurence Olivier Theatre Awards. [2001]
His musical "Oklahoma!" won the London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical. [1998]
Won five Tony Awards: three in 1950 for "South Pacific," for his lyrics and book, shared with collaborator Joshua Logan as part of the Best Musical win; as Best Authors (Musical), again shared with Logan; and as Best Producers (Musical), shared with Richard Rodgers, Leland Hayward and Logan; one in 1952, for his book and lyrics with Rodgers' music as part of a Best Musical win for "The King and I;" and one in 1960 for his lyrics as part of a Best Musical win for "The Sound of Music," in a tie with "Fiorello!" He was also Tony-nominated three other times: in 1956, for his book and lyrics and as a co-producer of Best Musical nominee "Pipe Dream;" in 1959 for his lyrics and, collaborating with Joseph Fields, book for Best Musical nominee "Flower Drum Song;" and in 1996, posthumously, for Best Original Musical Score, lyrics only for designated songs that were original and not in the previous film version of "State Fair."
The Theatre Guild produced his and Richard Rodgers' first three stage shows ("Oklahoma!", "Carousel", and the not-very-successful "Allegro'), and it was the Guild that actually suggested to a reluctant R&H that they make Hungarian dramatist Ferenc Molnár's play "Liliom" into what became the musical classic "Carousel". The success of "Oklahoma!" and Carousel" enabled Rodgers and Hammerstein to produce all their other stage musicals themselves.
His son, William Hammerstein, was named after Hammerstein's father.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. [1970]
Is a member of Pi Lambda Phi fraternity.
He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical "South Pacific", collaborating with Richard Rodgers and Joshua Logan. [1950]
Cousin of Elaine Hammerstein.
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "The King and I", at the Porchlight Music Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for the 2011 Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Musical Production (Midsize).
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "The Sound of Music", at the Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre in Oakbrook, Illinois was nominated for a 2012 Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Musical Production (Large).
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "South Pacific" at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2013 Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Large Musical Production.
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "The King and I" at the Marriott Theatre was nominated for a 1987 Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Musical Production.
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "The King and I" at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was awarded the 2001 Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Musical Production.
The 1956 West German film "The Trapp Family" - about the von Trapp family, and its 1958 sequel "Die Trapp-Familie in America" became the most successful films in West Germany during the post-war years. The two films popularity extended throughout Europe and South America. In 1956, Paramount Pictures purchased the United States film rights, intending to produce an English language version with Audrey Hepburn as Maria. The studio eventually dropped their option; but one of the Paramount film studio's directors involved in preliminary development of the film, Vincent J. Donehue, proposed the story as a stage musical for his friend Mary Martin. Broadway producers Leland Hayward and Richard Halliday (Mary Martin's husband) agreed and secured the rights. Originally envisioned as a non-musical play, they hired playwrights Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, who had won the Pulitzer Prize for "State of the Union," with the play featuring songs from the repertoire of the Trapp Family Singers. Developing the property, Mary Martin agreed with the production team to ask Richard Rogers to add an original song or two by Rogers and Hammerstein. Soon, agreed with the composers Rogers and Hammerstein, the two styles of traditional Austrian folk songs and their two song compositions would not work together. Rogers and Hammerstein offered to write a complete new score for the entire production if the producers were willing to wait while they completed work on "Flower Drum Song." Rogers and Hammerstein based their fictionalized musical on the memoir of Maria Augusta von Trapp, "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers" - published in 1949 by J.B. Lippincott Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The original multiple Tony Award-winning Broadway musical by Richard Rogers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse - "The Sound of Music" - starring Mary Martin (at age 46) and Theodore Bikel (at age 35), opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on November 16, 1959, moved to the Mark Hellinger Theatre on November 6, 1962 and closed on June 15, 1963 after 1,433 performances. The director was Vincent J. Donehue, and the choreographer was Joe Layton. The original cast included Mary Martin as Maria, Theodore Bikel as Captain Georg von Trapp, (Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the song "Edelweiss" specifically for him to perform), Patricia Neway as Mother Abbess, Kurt Kaszner as Max Detweiler, Marion Marlowe as Elsa Schrader, Brian Davies as Rolf and Lauri Peters as Liesl. Sopranos Patricia Brooks and June Card were ensemble members in the original production. The show tied for the Tony Award for Best Musical with "Fiorello!." Other awards included Martin for Best Actress in a Musical, Neway for Best featured Actress, Best Scenic Design (Oliver Smith) and Best Musical Direction (Frederick Dvonch). Bikel and Kasznar were nominated for Tony acting awards, and Donehue was nominated for his direction. The entire children's cast was nominated for Best Featured Actress category as a Tony single nominee, even though two children were boys. Mary's understudy Renee Guerin performed the 'Maria' role with Theodore Bikel during the Broadway run when Mary vacationed from the show. Martha Wright replaced Martin in the role of Maria on Broadway in October 1961, followed by Karen Gantz in July 1962, Jeannie Carson in August 1962 and Nancy Dussault in September 1962. Jon Voight, who eventually married co-star Lauri Peters, was a replacement for Rolf. The national tour starred Florence Henderson as Maria and Beatrice Krebs as Mother Abbess. It opened at the Grand Riviera Theater, Detroit, on February 27, 1961 and closed November 23, 1963 at the O'Keefe Centre, Toronto. Henderson was succeeded by Barbara Meister in June 1962. Theodore Bikel was not satisfied playing the role of the Captain because of the role's limited singing; Bikel did not like to play the same role over and over again. In his autobiography, he writes: "I promised myself then that if I could afford it, I would never do a run as long as that again." The original Broadway cast album sold three million copies. The musical premiered in London's West End at the Palace Theatre on May 18, 1961, and ran for 2,385 performances. It was directed by Jerome Whyte and used the original New York choreography, supervised by Joe Layton, and the original sets designed by Oliver Smith. The cast included Jean Bayless as Maria, followed by Sonia Rees, Roger Dann as Captain von Trapp, Constance Shacklock as Mother Abbess, Eunice Gayson as Elsa Schrader, Harold Kasket as Max Detweiler, Barbara Brown as Liesl, Nicholas Bennett as Rolf and Olive Gilbert as Sister Margaretta. "The Sound of Music" was the final musical written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Oscar Hammerstein II died of cancer nine months after the Broadway premiere (b: July 12, 1895-to-d: August 23, 1960, at age 65).
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "The King and I" at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2015 Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for Large Musical Production.
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "The King and I," at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 1987 Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for Musical Production.
"Carousel" was awarded the 1996 Drama Logue Award for Production in the Royal National Theatre production at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
"Show Boat" in the Center Theatre Group production at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California was awarded the 1996 Drama Logue Award for Production.
His musical, "South Pacific" in a Lincoln Center Theater production at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California was awarded the 2011 Back Stage Garland Award for Production.
His musical, "South Pacific" in a Lincoln Center Theater production at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California was awarded the 2010 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle McCulloh Award for (Shows Written between 1920 and 1980).
Richard Rodgers and his musical, "Oklahoma!" at the Paramont Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2016 Joseph Jefferson (Equity) Award for Large Musical Production.

Personal Quotes (8)

The definition of a producer: An idealist, a realist, a practical dreamer, a sophisticated gambler and a stage-struck child.
[about writing "It Might As Well Be Spring" with Richard Rodgers] I wrote it all out first, and it took me several weeks. Then I gave it to him, and two hours later he called me up and said, "I've got it". I could have thrown a brick through the phone.
Everyone speaks and writes words. Few can write music. It's creation is a mystery. There are mathematical principles to guide the construction, but no mere knowledge of these can produce the emotional eloquence some music attains. We are made sad or happy, romantic, thoughtful, disturbed or peaceful by someone else's singing heart. To me this is a most exciting and inexplicable phenomenon. I should hate to me a music critic with telling people what is good or bad in a musical composition or what are its component elements. One might as well try to explain to a group of children at the seaside the chemistry of salt water and sand, and the source of the sunlight or the breeze that romps with them along the shore.
I am not a trained musician. As a librettist, I use music as a tool that a kind composer has given me, but I have no idea where he got it. I do have some idea of how music can affect an audience in a theatre, and only within this limited area, do I consider qualified to discuss the work of Richard Rodgers. He is essentially a composer for plays. He writes music to depict story and character and is, therefore, himself a dramatist. He is not an abstractionist in any sense and, as far as I can see, he has no interest in the mere creation of sound, however unusual or ingenious. He composes in order to make words fly higher or cut deeper than they would without the aid of his music. His melodies are clean and well-defined. His scores are carefully built, logically allied to the stories and characters they describe. No overgrown forests or weed-clogged meadows of music here, but neat rows of tenderly grown flowers on well-kept lawns.
[on Lorenz Hart] He was always skipping and bouncing. In all the time I knew him, I never saw him walk slowly. I never saw his face in repose. I never heard him chuckle quietly. He laughed loudly and easily at other people's jokes, and at his own too. His large eyes danced and his head would wag. He was alert and dynamic.
[on the potential emergence of new and talented songwriters] Well, I've been around a long time now, and the only thing I can tell you is that it always looks this way - dark and depressing. But somewhere, somebody new always crops up. It may be in a new form, or he may write in a new way - you never can be sure exactly how - but sooner or later a new guy shows up and he comes through.
Any professional author will scoff at the implication that he spends his time hoping and waiting for a magic spark to start him off. There are few accidents of this kind in writing. A sudden beam of moonlight, or a thrush you have just heard, or a girl you have just kissed, or a beautiful view through your study window is seldom the source of an urge to put words on paper. Such pleasant experiences are likely to obstruct and delay a writer's work. Nobody waits to be inspired.
Aside from my shortcomings as a wit and rhymester - or perhaps, because of them - my inclinations lead me to a more primitive type of lyric.

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