JOE BLITMAN'S
FASHION & CELEBRITY DOLLS
2021 HOLIDAY ADVENT CALENDAR
DAY 15




16 Dartmouth Drive
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
323-953-6490

 
joeblitman@aol.com





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OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II

1895-1960




These days, when a prominent theatrical luminary dies, such as Stephen Sondheim or Hal Prince, the marquees of Broadway theaters simultaneously dim their lights for one minute. 

Such was the impact of Oscar Hammerstein II during his 40-year career that when he passed away in 1960, the entire theater district -- from 42nd to 53rd Streets and from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue -- turned off the lights for three (3!) minutes.





Not sure how many minutes it will take you to peruse the 11 doll-related items from our website that we are featuring today (but don't feel rushed.  Take your time):




BUCKAROO BLUES
(FRANCIE OUTFIT)
(1971)
NRFB
$199.00

 
NIGHTY NEGLIGEE
(1959)
Near Mint & Complete
$69.00

SOLD - SORRY
 

BROWNETTE BUBBLECUT BARBIE
NOSTALGIC REPRODUCTION
(2021)
NRFB
$129.99


SET OF SIX MALIBU-THEMED
BEACH TOWELS
(DOLL-SIZED)
2021 BARBIE CONVENTION GIFT
(2021)
NRFP
$17.99


BLOOM BURSTS
(1967)
NRFB
$699.99


KEN BLACK WIRE STAND
(1960s)
Excellent
$9.99 each


ITALIAN BARBIE
(1993)
$18.99


FRANCIE WITH GROWIN' PRETTY HAIR
(1971)
$109.00

ACTION ACCENTS GIFT SET
(This is the outfit we used for the photos
on page 124 of our Mod Barbie book)
(1970)
$359.00



SCHOOL DAYS
(SKIPPER OUTFIT)
(1964)
Near Mint & Complete
$65.00

SOLD - SORRY


GIFT CERTIFICATES
IN ANY AMOUNT YOU WANT





While everyone has heard of Rodgers & Hammerstein, some people are unaware that each man had a creative life before their mega-successful partnership began in 1943.



Hammerstein, the son and grandson of theatre owners and producers, steadily worked as a lyricist and librettist throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, with a variety of first-rate composers:  Vincent Youmans, Rudolph Friml, Harry Ruby, George Gershwin, Sigmund Romberg, Jerome Kern, among others.

He co-wrote the lyrics and the books for a series of successful musicals and operettas such as “Rose-Marie,” “The Desert Song,” “Sunny,” “Sweet Adeline,” “The New Moon,” and “Music in the Air” -- many of which were the longest-running musicals of their era. 

When the operettas were turned into movies, some of them starred Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy:





One of those movies was "Rose Marie":







In the 1950's, Hammerstein's songs often served as springboards for jazz improvisations, such as Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane’s riff on “Why Was I Born” from the musical “Sweet Adeline”:





And in the 1960's, they were re-imagined as uptempo tunes by new artists such as Barbra Streisand, here singing “Lover Come Back to Me” from “New Moon":





Oscar’s first Oscar for Best Song was for “The Last Time I Saw Paris,” from the 1941 motion picture “Lady Be Good.”





The song was written with composer Jerome Kern at the beginning of World War II.

It’s sung here, hauntingly, by Dinah Shore:



It has often been said and written (so much so that to some it’s gospel) that the American musical’s trajectory was irrevocably changed with the arrival in 1943 of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma.” 






The show is given credit for being the first musical to fully incorporate song and dance into the storyline. 

But is that true?

It is definitely true about dance -- and the genius of Agnes DeMille.



It is not true about song. 

That honor goes to “Showboat” in 1927.
 



Produced by Florenz Ziegfeld





 -- who was certain it would bomb -- 

with a score by Hammerstein and Jerome Kern,





and a book by Hammerstein, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Edna Ferber,





“Showboat” tells the story of two romances, one of which is between people of two different races. 

Both romances are ill-fated. 

It was very dramatic material, and the songs propelled the story and character development, which was something very new.

Prior to "Showboat," stage musicals were mostly just revues -- a bunch of un-connected songs strung together to make a show.

"Showboat" was something different, and audiences were electrified by it.

It enjoyed a very long run and has been frequently revived over the last century -- and has been made into a movie three times.

A cornucopia of songs that have become standards flowed from “Showboat.”

From the 1936 film, (directed, interestingly-enough, by James Whale, who also directed the first "Frankentein" movie),





here are Helen Morgan, Hattie McDaniel, Paul Robeson, and Irene Dunne:


The most famous song in "Showboat" is “Ol’ Man River.” 

There is a very funny (though perhaps apocryphal) story about this song: 

Oscar’s wife, Dorothy, once overheard a woman going on and on about how much she loved Jerome Kern’s song “Ol' Man River.” 

Perturbed, Dorothy tapped the woman on the shoulder and said:

“I beg your pardon.  My husband, Oscar Hammerstein, wrote “Ol Man River.”  Jerome Kern wrote dum-dum-da-da.”






Here’s Paul Robeson, again from the 1936 film, singing Hammerstein’s words to Kern’s dum-dum-da-da:



It was sixteen years after “Showboat” that Rodgers & Hammerstein paired for the first time.  The result was “Oklahoma.”
 




"Oklahoma" may not have been the first musical to fully incorporate song into the story, but it was a landmark in lots of other ways -- and cast a long shadow going forward. 

Mindless entertainments suddenly felt a little threadbare, and their numbers shrunk as the years went by. 

"Oklahoma" started a craze for dream ballets that went on for decades. 




"Oklahoma" wore its homespun Americana-ism proudly.  There was nothing flashy or splashy about it. 

Mike Todd, who was a successful producer of very flashy, splashy, and often risque musicals at the time, saw "Oklahoma" during its out-of-town tryout and telegrammed a friend his opinion of the show: 

“No gags.  No t*ts.  No chance.”

Hammerstein had a gift for writing lyrics that were simple, direct, and catchy without being the least bit clever. 

Witness his gift with “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top,” sung here by jazz vocalist Blossom Dearie:


"Oklahoma's" success was unprecedented.  It ran for a record-setting 5-1/2 years, and every vocalist included “Oklahoma” songs in their repertoire.


Two years later, Rodgers & Hammerstein were back at it again with a much darker musical - “Carousel.”





(It's our opinion that when the leading man dies in the middle of the story, you've gotta consider the material dark.)

A classic Hammerstein lyric from “Carousel” is “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” 

Here it is performed in a very 2021 way:



Many theatre aficionados consider “South Pacific,” from 1949, to be Rodgers and Hammerstein’s masterpiece.
 





It won them multiple Tony Awards -- as well as the Pulitzer Prize. 

When the show was in rehearsal, almost every song seemed like a potential hit -- except for one. 

Some visitors would whisper in Hammerstein’s ear that “You’ve Got To Be Taught” was a downer and should be cut. 

Hammerstein would reply:

“No.  That song is what the whole show is about.”
 





The issues of prejudice and intolerance were important to Hammerstein, and he hoped the musical would show the audience that it should be important to them, too. 

Here’s Oscar introducing the song:


While “South Pacific” was still SRO, “The King and I” was written and premiered to an ecstatic reception. 



Once again, the subject matter - how people from two different cultures come to understand one another - appealed to Oscar.

The score, like “South Pacific,” was populated with many hit songs. 

None was more beautiful than “I Have Dreamed.” 

Rodgers wrote a lush romantic melody and, rather than doubling down on the intensity of the music, Oscar wrote a simple and heartfelt lyric that gently dances on top of the notes.

Here’s Douglas Sills singing it in a Rodgers & Hammerstein concert that was broadcast on PBS in 2002:

 

In the mid-1950s, Rodgers & Hammerstein were so busy with the movie versions of their shows that they "only" wrote three original Broadway shows:

“Me & Juliet”
 



"Pipe Dream"





and “Flower Drum Song.”
 





They also did a TV version of the Cinderella story, starring Julie Andrews.






At the end of the 1950’s, their final work together premiered:
 




Astoundingly, while the show -- which starred Mary Martin -- was a hit and was appreciated at the time, it was not considered one of Rodgers & Hammerstein's better shows.

But there’s nothing like a movie version -- especially one that, for a time, was the highest grossing picture in history -- to change the narrative. 





The last song Hammerstein wrote for the show -- and, in fact, the last song he ever wrote -- was:










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