Thursday, May 8, 2014
Oscar Hammerstein I built Times Square
He spent lavishly on productions, but in the end they were never as successful as the variety shows, comedies, dramas, and vaudeville that played at the theaters he built. New York’s Metropolitan Opera once paid him $1.2 million to stop producing opera in America for 10 years. He took the money and built a theater in London to compete with Covent Garden’s Royal Opera Company. In two years, he’d spent it all. A reporter once asked him if there was any money in opera. He replied, “Yeah, mine.”
Hammerstein’s grandson, Oscar II, who grew up in the theaters his grandfather built and his father managed, became the great musical theater lyricist who wrote Carousel, Showboat, Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Desert Song, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.