NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COMDanny Kaye seemed arrogant as all hell.
Ezio Pinza was lazy and out for himself.
Alan Jay Lerner was unreliable.
Gertrude Lawrence always sang flat.
The cast in the “Oklahoma!”movie was not “totally satisfactory.” (Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones starred.)
When director Josh Logan was murdering “South Pacific”(he was the co-author) in a London production, Mary Martin came to the rescue.
George M. Cohan was very unpleasant.
These views were expressed by the great American composer Richard Rodgers (1902-1979), in his fun-to-read autobiography “Musical Stages” (1975). Rodgers, who wrote “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma!,” and “The Sound of Music,” among other masterpieces, was right up there with the Big Five of popular music: George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and Cole Porter.
Apparently Rodgers decided to write an honest, forthright autobiography — because that’s the kind of person he was. And, of course, there were plenty of people he praised to the skies in his book — Mary Martin, Oscar Hammerstein II, Lorenz Hart,And people he admired, including Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, and Gene Kelly.
His book, besides being deliciously gossipy, is informative: For example, he argues that writing the words is harder thanwriting the music. And his favorite of his own musicals was “Carousel.” And too many performers, he complains, consider themselves “the creator.”
Danny Kaye starred in a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical called “Two by Two.” During a performance he tore a ligament in his leg. “Apparently unable to submit to the discipline of the theatre, when he returned to the show he decided to adapt the whole production to his infirmity. He…either rode around the stage in a wheelchair—in which he would sometimes try to run down the other actors—or hobbled around the stage on a crutch—which he used to goose the girls.” He also began improvising his own lines and singing the wrong tempos. Some people were “appalled” — including, it seems, Richard Rodgers.
Ezio Pinza could never be counted on to show up for “South Pacific” performances. The minute his year-long contract was up, he flew to Hollywood — “where he made two of the deadliest bombs ever released.” (Rodgers doesn’t say so, but Pinza was a womanizer to rival Don Giovanni himself.)
Josh Logan, the director, made so many drastic changes in the London version of “South Pacific” (which he co-authored) that Rodgers, seeing it in rehearsal, thought it was a mess. Mary Martin then asked to see everyone — and when they came to her dressing room, she was crying hysterically. Unless the show was put back to the way it was, she said between sobs, she wasn’t going to open in it. When Rodgers caught her eye in a mirror, she winked at him. Logan got rid of all the changes.
Rex Harrison, Rodgers writes, was considering the lead role in “The King and I,”but they never came to terms.
Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones starred in the film “Oklahoma!,” and Rodgers wrote: “…I don’t think the casting was totally satisfactory.” (I agree. More operatic singers were needed.)
Alan Jay Lerner, the lyricist (“My Fair Lady”), among other things, would make appointments and not show up — and not offer an explanation. Rodgers had planned to work with him after Lorenz Hart’s death, but gave up.
He did work with Stephen Sondheim (“West Side Story”) and Arthur Laurents (“The Time of the Cuckoo”) on “Do I Hear a Waltz?” But they ignored whatever comments he made. “The more we worked on the show, the more estranged I became from both writers. Any suggestions I made were promptly rejected, as if by prearrangement.”
George M. Cohan, the composer (“Over There!”) who played in the film “The Phantom President,” displayeda “curtness and disdain” for everyone associated wih the movie, including Rodgers and Hart.
Josephine Baker, the black entertainer, had moved to Paris and began putting on airs. Hart’s maid, Mary Campbell, was also black — and forthright. At a party Hart gave, Baker said to the maid, “Donnez–moi une tasse de café, s’il vous plait.” Replied the maid, “Honey, you is full of shit. Talk the way yo’ mouth was born!”
Warren Boroson lectures on music at Bergen Commnity College Institute for Learning in retirement.
Ezio Pinza, This Nearly Was Mine
Mary Martin, I’m Gonna Wash That Man…
Ezio and Mary, Some Enchanted Evening
Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered, Renee Fleming (?)
If I Loved You, Julie Andrews
Lover, Deanna Durbin
Where Or When, Lena Horne
Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, Placido Domingo
Oklahoma! Kate Smith
Rose Bampton, Surrey With the Fringe…People Will Say We’re in Love
Bryn Terfel, It Might As Well Be Spring
You’ll Never Walk Alone, Mario Lanza
Mary Martin, A Wonderful Guy
Rodgers & Hammerstein on What’s My Line?