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Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)

Timeline of Select Broadway Musicals
Page123

In 1929 Oscar divorced his wife of 12 years, Myra Finn, and married Dorothy Blanchard Jacobson. The next decade turned out to be a happy one for Oscar personally, but unhappy professionally. He spent much of his time in Hollywood, working on contract to various studios. He discovered that he did not work well under the rigorous time demands of the movie industry, having achieved his greatest success with "Show Boat's" one year writing period. In 1942 he returned to New York with Dorothy and began leisurely work on an adaptation of Bizet's "Carmen." Oscar adapted the lyrics and story to create the Americanized, all-Black "Carmen Jones." The opera received great acclaim.

When he had finished the libretto for "Carmen Jones," Oscar was contacted by an old Columbia acquaintance, Richard Rodgers, whose partnership with Lorenz Hart had recently dissolved. Rodgers had read Lynn Riggs' "Green Grow the Lilacs" and wanted to collaborate with Hammerstein on a musical adaptation for the Theatre Guild. Hammerstein had also read the play, and the two began work on the musical, tentatively titled "Away We Go." Rodgers and Hammerstein worked toward the concept of the integrated musical, with Hammerstein writing most of the lyrics before Rodgers wrote the score, the reverse of the normal process. Robert Mamoulian was signed on as director, Agnes de Mille as choreographer, and Terry Helburn as producer for the Theatre Guild.

When the musical, retitled "Oklahoma!," opened on Broadway on March 31, 1943, it was an enormous success, both critically and popularly. "Oklahoma!" ran for 2,243 performances in its initial Broadway engagement, and in 1944 it received a special Pulitzer Prize. The team of Rodgers and Hammerstein was a success. They produced their own work and promising works by other artists and at one time had five of the highest grossing shows running at the same time on Broadway. They followed up their success with collaborations on "Carousel" (1945), "Allegro" (1947), "South Pacific" (1949), "The King and I" (1951), "Me and Juliet" (1953), "Pipe Dream" (1955), "Flower Drum Song" (1958), and "The Sound of Music" (1960), for which Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse wrote the book, Rodgers composed the score, and Hammerstein wrote the lyrics. "South Pacific" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. "South Pacific, The King and I," and "The Sound of Music" all won Tony awards for best musical. Most of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals have been adapted for the screen, with the greatest success going to "Oklahoma!" and "The Sound of Music."

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