THEATRICAL THROWBACK THURSDAY: Oscar Hammerstein's Heartfelt Vintage TV Interview
Today we are looking at a phenomenal and fascinating interview clip recorded way back in 1958 featuring one of the major shapers of the modern musical, Oscar Hammerstein.
A Wonderful Guy
OKLAHOMA! CAROUSEL. SOUTH PACIFIC. THE KING & I. THE SOUND OF MUSIC. FLOWER DRUM SONG. CINDERELLA. The list goes on, but the high regard for which Oscar Hammerstein commands for his contributions to the theatre over the course of his career is limitless - now and always. Frankly, Hammerstein is not only one of most highly respected, but also one of the most successful songwriters in music history, as well - and that's not even mentioning the sharp and perceptive books he often crafted in his collaborations. Nevertheless, being one half of the most respected songwriting team in musical theatre history, Rodgers & Hammerstein, cemented Hammerstein's place in the pantheon of great artists of all time and today's selected clip goes a long way in accurately presenting the smart, savvy and thoughtful man behind those marvelous, memorable and magical words that the world still treasures and sings to this day.
At the time, Hammerstein took a few moments out from his impossibly packed schedule following the wrap of Joshua Logan's big budget feature film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway smash SOUTH PACIFIC to sit down with renowned and familiar interviewer Mike Wallace on the Parliament Cigarettes-sponsored THE MIKE WALLACE INTERVIEW in 1958, in an episode that was originally aired on March 15. Besides a generous discussion and hefty promotion of the then-forthcoming film - which Hammerstein himself claims is one of the finest films ever made - Hammerstein also offers a rare behind the scenes glimpse into his own idiosyncratic psyche and shares his own anomalous societal stances on a number of pertinent issues, some directly relating to his work.
"I would like to talk about sentiment for a moment if you would let me," Hammerstein relates before explaining his own ideas on the presence of sentimentality and its place in art and in life - a hallmark of many of his most fondly remembered works, no doubt.
Elaborating: "The sophisticate is the man who thinks he can swim better than he can, and sometimes drowns himself... in my book, there is nothing wrong with sentiment because the things that we are sentimental about are the fundamental things in life: the birth of a child; the death of a child, or anybody; falling in love; I couldn't be anything but sentimental about these basic things. I think being anything but sentimental is being a poseur," Hammerstein eloquently expresses of his perception of the place of sentimentality in life and in art and how it differs from that of a so-called sophisticate.
Besides a thorough analysis of sentimentality, Wallace also questions Hammerstein about his thoughts on politics and religion - the latter of which prompts a moving and fascinating story centered on an incident that occurred during rehearsals for CINDERELLA - and Hammerstein also provides succinct and illuminating insights on a number of his most famous artistic properties, as well, focusing primarily on the SOUTH PACIFIC feature film. Plus, Ayn Rand, McCarthyism and more!
Without a doubt, Hammerstein's deep and compassionate understanding of the human condition and his clear passion for expressing the emotions most of us experience throughout our lives in a direct and oft-sentimental way is a hallmark of his work and it is amply evident to witness that the man unquestionably wrote what he knew and believed - and lived by it, too.
View the entire interview with Oscar Hammerstein by Mike Wallace at the official University Of Texas site here.
So, what did you find most inspirational and impressive about Hammerstein's erudite and educated point of view? Furthermore, what is your absolute favorite Hammerstein lyric of all time? With so many marvelous choices, it may be impossible to choose just one, but a SOUTH PACIFIC song title more or less says it all: he was a wonderful guy.
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