Saturday, December 30, 2006

A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE RICHARD RODGERS AND COLE PORTER'S "KISS ME KATE"


On this day in 1979 the world of Broadway musical theatre lost a giant to cancer. He had survived an earlier bout of the dreaded disease (cancer of the jaw) and a larenectimy robbed him of his voice, but before death nothing silenced this incredibly amazing man. He was a man who didn't even finish college. He and Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein all attended Columbia University and Rogers dropped out in 1923. He had been introduced in 1919 to Lorenz Hart by Phillip Levitt a friend of his brother and he and Hart struggled for years to be successful. Five years after they had begun-- believe it or not-- Richard Rodgers thought of quitting show business to become a children's underwear salesman. That little fact shocked the hell out of me. Can you imagine how much poorer the poor old world would be without the music of Richard Rodgers? Only a very successful and critically acclaimed benefit show ("The Garrick Gayities") convinced Rodgers to stay in. Rodgers was born in New York City to a prosperous Jewish family, Rodgers attended the same public school as Bennett Cerf. Rodgers and Hart struggled for years in the field of musical comedy, and finally broke through in 1925. By the way that benefit' show's biggest hit was the song that Rodgers believed "made" Rodgers and Hart. It was called "Manhattan." The two were now a Broadway songwriting force.Throughout the rest of the decade, the duo wrote several hit shows, including Dearest Enemy (1925), The Girl Friend (1926) and A Connecticut Yankee (1927). Their 1920s shows produced standards such as "Here In My Arms " "The Blue Room and "My Heart Stood Still"So the years passed and then with the Depression in full swing, the team sought greener pastures in Hollywood during much of the first half of the 1930s. The hardworking Rodgers later regretted these relatively fallow years, but he and Hart did create some classics while out west. In particular, they wrote the score for Love Me Tonight (1932) (directed by Rouben Mamoulin who would direct Rodgers' Oklahoma! on Broadway) which included such hits as "Isn't It Romantic?" Also, after trying several different lyrics that didn't quite work, they put out a song that became one of their most famous, "Blue Moon."In 1935 they returned to Broadway with a vengeance, writing an almost unbroken string of hit shows that only stopped when Hart, a troubled alcoholic, died in 1943. Among the most notable are Jumbo(1935), On Your Toes (1936), Babes In Arms (1937), The Boys From Syracuse (1938) and of course Pal Joey(1940). Today is also the anniversary of the opening of "Kiss Me Kate" by the late great Cole Porter. Porter thought his career was over after the disastrous accident in 1937 that brought him continual pain, but "Kiss Me Kate" proved that Cole Porter was an amazing talent and a bright light to the world of Broadway Theatre. I have the day off today as well as tomorrow-- how nice! It's a beautiful day but very cold and I plan on going to see a great movie today. Well, that's it for today!

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