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Oscar Hammerstein II

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During the '40s and '50s, lyricist/librettist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Richard Rodgers were the most successful composing team on Broadway, writing several long-running shows that were eventually made into movie musicals. Hammerstein was also the second most prolific lyricist of the 20th century, second only to Irving Berlin. Born into a show business family in N.Y.C. on July 12, 1895, as Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein, he later dropped his middle names and adopted the "II." The grandfather he was named after was a theater builder and opera company director, and the lyricist's father worked as the manager of a historic vaudeville theater in New York. As a young man, Hammerstein attended Columbia University and law school and took part in school plays. He later became stage manager in his uncle Arthur's theater and tried his hand -- unsuccessfully -- at writing screenplays. Hammerstein co-wrote songs for Broadway during the '20s with lyricist Otto Harbach, including Showboat (1928) and Sweet Adeline (1929). He also collaborated with many composers over the years, including George Gershwin and Jerome Kern, but his most prolific and successful period was with composer Richard Rodgers. They teamed up after Rodgers' songwriting partner, Lorenz Hart, became ill and died in 1943. From this time until a year before Hammerstein's passing in 1960, Rodgers & Hammerstein were unmatched creators of smash hit Broadway musicals. Their first big hit was 1943's Oklahoma!, for which they received a Pulitzer Prize. The duo received another Pulitzer for 1949's South Pacific. Rodgers & Hammerstein were also responsible for such wildly successful musicals as The King & I (1951) and The Sound of Music (1959). Some of Hammerstein's best-known songs include "Ol' Man River," "Lover, Come Back to Me" (1928), "Why Was I Born?" (1929), "All the Things You Are" (1939), "People Will Say We're in Love" (1943), "Some Enchanted Evening" (1949), "Getting to Know You," and "My Favorite Things." Hammerstein produced many of the shows that he scored, and on some he didn't, including Annie Get Your Gun. He is also author of the book Lyrics. ~ Joslyn Layne

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