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R&H Biopic?
Posted by Musicaldudepeter 2012-12-23 15:29:23

I'd love to see a biopic about Rodgers and Hammerstein, charting their partnership from the conception of Oklahoma! in 1943 all the way to Hammerstein's death, and possibly Rodgers writing the new lyrics for the movie version of The Sound of Music in 1965... What actors, I wonder, would be suitable to portray these two giants of musical theatre?

R&H Biopic?
Posted by Gothampc 2012-12-23 18:43:43

Dan Lauria as Oscar Hammerstein

R&H Biopic?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-12-24 18:29:05

I'd be more interested in seeing a film or miniseries focusing just on the creation of Oklahoma!, along the lines of Topsy Turvy. A biopic covering the entire story of Rodgers and Hammerstein would have to cover too much too quickly.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by TheGingerBreadMan 2012-12-24 18:38:18

I know it would probably be terrible, but I would LOVE to see Lane & Broderick come back together to play the duo.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by Musicaldudepeter 2012-12-24 18:39:32

Lol that would be terrible... But I agree, to cover each and every show, they would have to do a miniseries/TV movie like the Judy Garland film... The creation of Oklahoma! would be ideal...

R&H Biopic?
Posted by Gothampc 2012-12-24 18:47:17

Who would play a young Stephen Sondheim?

R&H Biopic?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-12-24 18:50:09

Between the Max Wilk book and the Tim Carter book, as well as the various biographies and autobiographies (not always so reliable), there's a lot of info out there about Oklahoma! that would make it possible to do a really thorough dramatization of its creation. And the work done for the University of North Carolina recreation would also be of great help.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by EricMontreal22 2012-12-25 01:49:10

A documentary on Oklahoma! could be interesting. One on their career together in general far less so, IMHO. What would be the dramatic thrust? Both men seemed to respect each other but didn't have a strong personal, non-work based relationship...

R&H Biopic?
Posted by degrassifan 2012-12-25 02:01:59

Maybe the dramatic thrust would be the risk of creating a new kind of musical for the stage? Another good possibility is doing a biopic on the making of The Sound of Music, with Oscar Hammerstein dying of cancer at the same time?

R&H Biopic?
Posted by hushpuppy 2012-12-25 10:38:49

IMHO, I would think the Rodgers and Hart story would be more compelling. Lorenz Hart, closeted and self-hating, literally drank himself to death, while, at the same time, writing the most exquisite, haunting lyrics to Rodgers glorious melodies. Rodgers wrote of having to practically lock Hart in a room to get him to work, while his partnership with Hammerstein was far more placid. Of course, it's been written that Rodgers himself was an alcoholic, who used to keep a bottle of vodka in the toilet tank in the small bathroom adjacent to his office.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by Musicaldudepeter 2012-12-25 10:49:37

They did that ages ago in the 50s did they not, or at least they tried, but it didn't really work. No, it's time for a Rodgers & Hammerstein film methinks.... And yes either SOM or Oklahoma should be the main focus with either the beginning of their partnership (with the end of Hart's input... drink, etc.) or the end and Oscar's death...

R&H Biopic?
Posted by best12bars 2012-12-25 11:31:44

I love the idea of a biopic centering around the creation of "Oklahoma!" It was a transition time for the musical genre, for the country at large, which was in the throws of WWII when the show was created and would never be the same again, and of the careers of Rodgers, Hart, and Hammerstein.

A movie could really be a "love triangle" at least professionally speaking. Not long after the musical opened the same year, Hart died from alcoholism and depression. It was the end of many eras and the beginning of others.

That's a great background for a personal comedy/drama laced with wonderful musical numbers and a behind the scenes "making of" a legendary partnership creating a legendary musical.

The glossed-over MGM movie musical about Rodgers & Hart's career called "Words & Music" is pretty bad, historically speaking, even with a few fine numbers from MGM stars and decent central performances by Tom Drake (Rodgers) and Mickey Rooney (Hart). It centers around their partnership and ends with the transition to Hammerstein and on an "up note" if you can believe it, rather than Hart being found in a gutter after a drinking binge and ultimately dying from exposure and pneumonia as a result.

I think the movie should focus on all the transitions, not endings or beginnings. That's where the real drama lies. The transition of our country out of the Great Depression, through a world war, never to be same again. The transition of musical theatre from the "stop and sing" largely innocent musical comedies of the 1920s and '30s into a redefining of the genre by Rodgers and Hammerstein (along with Rouben Mamoulian and Agnes De Mille), and the triangle of creative geniuses (Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein) who were at the center of it all.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by EricMontreal22 2012-12-25 16:07:34

Besty, you've definitely sold me on that idea--and if it was done similar to Topsy Turvey, I could see it working. My initial problem with a biopic following their full career together is simply that I think there's too much ground to cover with too littlereal drama--Hammerstein and Rogers didn't apparently socialize much outside of work, they didn't sem to have many real issues working with each other (I know some believe, probably rightly, that with Allegro's failure Rogers became less and less interested in Hammerstein's desire to push and experiment with each show, but...)

And yes, Words and Music is pretty awful, even considering the santizied composer biopics in vogue at the time (ie the Cole Porter one). I really liked the recent biography of Hart, and there probably could be a great movie there, but...

R&H Biopic?
Posted by ray-andallthatjazz86 2012-12-25 16:28:43

Love the idea of a Topsy-Turvey type of biopic, I guess those are "in" but dealing with the making of films right now (THE GIRL, HITCHCOCK, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN), none of the new ones have realized their full potential yet. How great would it be to get a musical theatre version, I'd like to see what Paul Thomas Anderson or Todd Haynes could do with that kind of project, or more of an obvious choice would be Mike Nichols.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by EricMontreal22 2012-12-25 16:32:07

Who would they cast as Agnes DeMille?

R&H Biopic?
Posted by justoldbill 2012-12-25 17:23:59

They could end the story right before THE KING AND I- just like STAR!

R&H Biopic?
Posted by best12bars 2012-12-25 18:28:33

My biggest problem with the slew of recent biopics is that they're too much about two characters in a room yelling at each other. They're very "actory," which is why they can get big names interested in playing the parts. But the plots don't move along. They are not powerful enough stories, even if the subject matter IS powerful enough. It still comes back to two people yelling at each other in a room ... usually four or five times in each film.

Tell the story first, showcase the "actory" moments after that, not vice-versa. They end up turning an interesting story into a film with very little impact.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by Gothampc 2012-12-25 18:55:45

^^And I was just going to suggest a scene during the Carousel years where Agnes de Mille and Vivian Vance have a huge fight.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by justoldbill 2012-12-25 20:12:33

Exactly. Something like Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft as Rodgers and Hammerstein.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by nobodyhome 2012-12-26 03:06:35

best12bars, I've always envisioned it starting shortly after the opening of By Jupiter and ending with Hart's death and its aftermath (which would make for a rather sad ending).

R&H Biopic?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-12-26 08:24:38

I realize I was in the minority, but I didn't care much for TOPSY TURVY, except as a history lesson (and I used it as such in theater-history courses).

R&H would be much the same: a film about two men who collaborated largely through the post office.

Now the "Making of OKLAHOMA!" might be more interesting, given the various strong personalities involved, both on the creative team and at the Theatre Guild.

But one should keep in mind the immortal words of David Merrick: "Nobody cares about the personal lives of theater people."

R&H Biopic?
Posted by best12bars 2012-12-26 09:06:40

I thought Topsy-Turvy was atrocious. A great idea and intent, but terribly executed. It was such a chore slogging through that movie.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by best12bars 2012-12-26 09:12:12

Gav, I think the only way the story of "Oklahoma!" with Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Hart as pivotal characters would work is if it doesn't attempt to either teach or be "wowed" by its own subject matter. The minute it tries to show greatness, it will tank.

It needs to show conflict, human frailty, human sprit, a dysfunctional but fascinating creative process, and the headstrong people who brought it about.

If it stops to show you or comment (cinematically) how "brilliant" these people were, you will lose 90 percent of your audience right there.

It's about people, not about "legends." The story becomes the legend. At the time it was taking place, it wasn't a legend. It was a sweeping change of mind and heart (or is that Hart)?

R&H Biopic?
Posted by WOSQ 2012-12-26 13:41:22

The author of the Hammerstein biography published in the 70s (I think it is Hugh Fordin) said at the time of publication that it was very difficult to write a biography of a person about whom no one had a bad thing to say. The same would go for a film treatment--where is the conflict?

Your two leads would be one who was, for all intents and purposes, universally beloved, and the other a bipolar, money-savvy, serial adulterer who was aloof from everybody and was married to Hecate. The key word in that last set is "aloof".

Be happy with a the documentaries that are out there.

R&H Biopic?
Posted by Musicaldudepeter 2012-12-26 16:15:22

Who needs conflict? Just make a nice movie about the duo - it would nice for once to show a partnership that was fruitful and 'sourless' ...

R&H Biopic?
Posted by WOSQ 2012-12-26 16:56:49

Theater IS conflict. It is a conflict of opinions that drive a plot forward. Without conflict it lays there like a bad date. Conflict is plot.

"Conflict" is a dramatic term. It can, but doesn't always, mean war and fighting.

"Conflict" can mean that the newlywed wife wants to walk Barefoot in the Park and the newlywed husband doesn't.

The posters who say that a dramatization of the creation of Oklahoma would make a good film are on the right track. You've got these two guys who have never worked together before and without entirely knowing it, create a new depth for musical theatre. The conflict is where they go in the writing against all conventional wisdom.


R&H Biopic?
Posted by GavestonPS 2012-12-27 22:33:38

best12bars, I think you are exactly right about the focus of a "Making of OKLAHOMA!" movie. It might be even better if one could include the context of a nation at war. Perhaps the most amazing thing about OKLAHOMA! is that it's record-breaking run was propelled in large part by the hordes of servicemen who saw it on their way to war in Europe.

One problem I can't solve off-hand is how to dramatize the difference between a Rodgers & Hart show and OKLAHOMA! We all know the difference, but the general public does not. How do you dramatize the integration of elements when you can only show isolated clips of the show?

I'm sure there's a way, but I can't think of it off-hand. I'm afraid the film would end up telling us what R&H accomplished without really being able to show it.