Oscar Hammerstein II was born July 12, 1895 in New York, New York. He died August 23, 1960 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania of stomach cancer. His given name was Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein. When he entered the theatre profession, he dropped his middle names and adopted the “II” from the grandfather for which he was named. His grandfather was a theatre builder and opera company producer. By titling himself “II” he capitalized on his grandfather’s success; the name recognition alone was a career builder.
Hammerstein was always interested in the theatre. His father, although a theatrical producer himself, did not want his son to go into the “family business”. He made him promise “never to do anything as foolish as to consider making the theatre your livelihood. Become a lawyer. You’d be great at it and it’s also one of the more secure professions I know of.” “Getting to Know Him – Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II” Hugh Fordin
As per his father’s wish, Hammerstein entered Columbia University as an English major. He was an honor student and was involved in many extra-curricular activities; one of which was the Varsity Show. This was where Hammerstein met Larry Hart and the man with whom he would later collaborate, Richard Rodgers. At the time of the initial meeting, Rodgers was only a fourteen year old boy whose older brother Morty was a member of Hammerstein’s fraternity. Although his father had passed away, Hammerstein felt compelled to honor his father’s wishes and entered Columbia law school. He finished his Bachelor’s degree during his first year of law school.
During his second year of law school, Hammerstein was so disenchanted with the law he asked his uncle Arthur, a successful producer of musical comedies, for a job. He was hired as an assistant stage manager. After witnessing his nephew’s theatrical ability, Uncle Arthur hired him as a permanent member of the...