Tune in weekday mornings for Stories of Standards to hear our favorite recordings of “All the Things You Are.” Rodney Franks presents Stories of Standards Monday through Friday at 7:50 and 8:50 a.m. starting Monday, June 1!
Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote “All the Things You Are” in 1939 for the musical “Very Warm for May.” It later appeared in the 1944 film “Broadway Rhythm”. While “Very Warm for May” was warmly received in its first out-of-town performances, Max Gordon, the producer, missed these and when he did see the show, hated the gangster sub-plot and removed it, leaving only a summer-stock story, which New Yorkers didn’t particularly care for, due to the revised play’s similarities to “Babes In Arms”, which showed the year before. In 1984 recordings from the 1939 production were found and made into an LP (long-playing) album, the oldest Original Cast Recording. This was nominated in 1985 for a Grammy (Best Show Album). The film “Broadway Rhythms” was loosely based on “Very Warm for May” with “All the Things You Are” as the only retained song and a third rewrite of the plot. Steven Sondheim, who saw the original production when nine years old, said this led to his interest in musical theater.
Jerome Kern (January 27, 1885-November 11, 1945) wrote more than 700 songs, dozens of Broadway musicals and Hollywood films. His family moved from Manhattan to Newark, New Jersey, in 1897, where he attended Newark High School and wrote songs for that school’s first musical. He dropped out of high school to study music, first at the New York College of Music, then in Heidelberg, Germany. He spent some time in London before returning to the US, where he wrote songs for silent films, becoming one of the founders of the ASCAP. In 1945 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while walking; he died shortly thereafter, with Oscar Hammerstein II at his bedside.
Oscar Hammerstein II (July 12, 1895-August 23, 1960) won eight Tony Awards and two Academy Awards for Best Original Song and co-wrote 850 songs with numerous others, of whom Richard Rogers and Jerome Kern are two of the best known. Hammerstein’s wife, on hearing someone say that Jerome Kern had written “Ol’ Man River”, retorted ‘Indeed not! Jerome Kern wrote, “dum, dum-dum-dum”. My husband wrote “Ol’ Man River”.’ Hammerstein was a member of the Dramatists’ Guild of America and was elected its eleventh president in 1956. He died of stomach cancer in 1960, nine months after the premiere of “Sound of Music”; his last song was “Edelweiss”, frequently mistaken for an Austrian folk song, actually written specifically for the film. A member of the American Theater Hall of Fame, Hammerstein’s influence on American theater is incalculable; he profoundly changed the relationship between music and story line and opened the musical genre to embrace serious issues.