Oscar Hammerstein II and his partner Richard Rodgers were behind some of the most beloved Broadway and film musicals of all time including The King and I, South Pacific, Oklahoma and The Sound of Music. Before using the influence of his uncle, noted Broadway producer Arthur Hammerstein, to break into theater, young Hammerstein worked as a lawyer for a year. He went on to write librettos and lyrics alone or in conjunction with such luminaries as Jerome Kern and George Gershwin and then teamed up with Rodgers in the early 1940s. Some of his earliest musicals include Rose Marie, Sunny and Show Boat, all of which also became films. He has earned Oscars for his songs "The Last Time I Saw Paris" from Lady Be Good (1941) and " It Might as Well Be Spring" from State Fair (1945). In 1953, he and Rodgers made cameo appearances in Main Street to Broadway.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Born into a show-business family; his father and uncle produced and managed Broadway productions, and his grandfather, Oscar Hammerstein I, was an opera conductor.
- Briefly attended Columbia Law School before focusing on songwriting.
- Collaborated with Jerome Kern to transform musical theater in 1927 with Showboat, the controversial operetta based on Edna Ferber's novel that spans almost 50 years and features an interracial romance.
- In 1943, modernized Bizet's tragic opera Carmen into a highly praised all-black version titled Carmen Jones.
- Successfully collaborated exclusively for 18 years with college friend Richard Rodgers during the 1940s and '50s, beginning with the form-altering musical play Oklahoma!
- Won a special Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma! in 1944 and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for South Pacific in 1950.
- Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
- Was listed, with Rodgers, among the 20 most influential artists of the 20th century by Time magazine and CBS News.
- Commemorated along with Rodgers on a U.S. postage stamp in 1999 and for Oklahoma! in 2007.