Richard Rodgers’ contribution to the musical theatre of his day was extraordinary, and his influence on the musical theatre of today and tomorrow is legendary. His career spanned more than six decades, his hits ranging from the silver screens of Hollywood to the bright lights of Broadway, London and beyond. He was the recipient of countless awards, including Pulitzers, Tonys, Oscars, Grammys and Emmys. He wrote more than 900 published songs and forty Broadway musicals.
Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) and Lorenz Hart (1895-1943) wrote their first shows together when both were still students attending Columbia University. Their breakthrough came with the score for a 1925 charity show, The Garrick Gaieties, which introduced the classic valentine to their hometown, “Manhattan.”
Over the next five years they wrote fifteen musical comedies for Broadway and London’s West End before relocating to Hollywood in 1930, where they contributed songs and wrote the scores for several movie musicals, most notably Love Me Tonight starring Maurice Chevalier.
In 1935 they returned to New York to write the score for Billy Rose’s circus musical Jumbo, launching a golden era that included On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, I’d Rather Be Right, I Married An Angel, The Boys From Syracuse, Too Many Girls, Higher And Higher, Pal Joey and By Jupiter. In 1943 the partnership disbanded temporarily when Rodgers collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein II on Oklahoma!, but it resumed with a revision of their 1927 hit A Connecticut Yankee, which opened on November 17, 1943 – less than a week before Lorenz Hart’s death.
For the next two decades Richard Rodgers collaborated exclusively with Oscar Hammerstein II on such musicals as Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King And I, Pipe Dream and The Sound of Music. Collectively, their musicals have garnered dozens of awards including: Pulitzer Prizes; Tonys, Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys; and Drama Desk, Drama Critics’ Circle, Outer Critics’ Circle, Laurence Olivier and Evening Standard Awards.
After Hammerstein’s death in 1960, Rodgers continued to write for the musical stage, including No Strings, and collaborations with Martin Charnin, Stephen Sondheim and Sheldon Harnick. His fortieth, and final, Broadway musical, I Remember Mama, opened on Broadway less than eight months before his death on December 30, 1979.
The Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway was renamed in his honor, and Rodgers and Hart were each commemorated on a US postage stamp at the end of the last century.