Saturday, July 8, 2017

Birthdays of the Titans!

 Jerry Herman,
born in Jersey City, on July 10th, 1931,
cut his composing teeth in Catskill summer camps
where his parents worked.
At 17, he crossed paths with Frank Loesser,
who encouraged him to keep at it.
And who could say no to Frank?
After graduating from the University of Miami,
and producing/writing/directing 3 Off Broadway revues,
he was ON Broadway with From A To Z (1960)
and Milk And Honey (1961).
 1964...Hello, Dolly!
1969...Dear World
1974...Mack & Mabel
1979...The Grand Tour
1983...La Cage Aux Folles
Above with Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury, and Colleen Dewhurst.

 Jerry celebrates his 86th birthday tomorrow,
probably IN STYLE!


Lyricist/Libretto-ist Dorothy Fields,
another New Jersey-ite, born July 15, 1905,
came from a show biz family.
Her father, Lew Fields, was half a vaudeville act for many years,
and when that duo broke up,
he became a Broadway producer.
Her brothers, Joe and Herbert (with Dorothy below)
followed suit, with Herbert becoming one of Dorothy's 
many collaborators. 

  Okay, who wouldn't LOVE to join this dinner table?
Jerome Kern, Dorothy, and George Gershwin.

 Dorothy's first lyric-writing connection
came thru J. Fred Coots, who introduced her to Jimmy McHugh,
and together they wrote songs for The Blackbird Revue,
and several Cotton Club Revues
Then it was on to Hollywood to write with Jerome Kern for movie musicals
(Roberta, Swing Time),
back to Broadway to work with Arthur Schwartz,
(A Tree Grows In Brooklyn),
brother Herbert (as a librettist for 3 Cole Porter shows),
and Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity, Seesaw).
A 40 year career, from Tin Pan Alley to 1970s Broadway.
(Below, with Gwen Verdon, the recording session for Redhead,
for which Dorothy teamed up with Albert Hague).
 Dorothy died in 1974, at the age of 68.

 A young and dashing
Oscar Hammerstine, II, born July 12th, 1895, in NYC.
He was named after his grandfather
(below, with his dad, William).
Oscar the First built opera houses!
Produced shows!
Leapt tall opera houses in a single bound!
His dad was a theatrical manager.
(I'm seeing a trend here.)

 Oscar graduated from Columbia University,
and was starting law school,
when the theatre bug bit.
His first collaborators were Otto Harbach,
Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans, Rudolf Friml, and Sigmund Romberg.
 Come the early 1940s, Richard Rodgers' writing partner, 
Lorenz Hart, could no longer work.
Oscar stepped in, and a Broadway golden age began:
 Oklahoma, Carousel, The King And I, South Pacific, 
Flower Drum Song, Cinderella, The Sound Of Music...

 With Richard Rodgers and Agnes DeMille,
working on Allegro, one of the team's few flops.

Richard and Oscar helping 3 different Nellie Forbushes
wash that man right out of their respective hairs
(Mary Martin, Janet Blair, and Martha Wright).
Oscar died not long after the opening of 
The Sound Of Music on Broadway, at the age of 65. 
Stanley Green in his book about R&H wrote, 
"For three minutes, on the night of September first, 
the entire Times Square area in New York City was blacked out 
in honor of the man who had done so much 
to light up that particular part of the world. 
From 8:57 to 9:00 p.m., every neon sign and every light bulb 
was turned off and all traffic was halted between 
42nd Street and 53rd Street, 
and between 8th Ave and the Avenue of the Americas. 
A crowd of 5,000 people, many with heads bowed, 
assembled at the base of the statue of Father Duffy on Times Square 
where two trumpeters blew taps. 
It was the most complete blackout on Broadway since World War II, 
and the greatest tribute of its kind ever paid to one man."

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