How did some of the most beautiful melodies of the 20th century come out of a man described as depressive, hypochondriacal, remote, and alcoholic? This stirring 2001 documentary cannot answer that question about Richard ... more »Rodgers, but it provides a near-perfect blend of biography, personal reminiscence, and music appreciation. The latter comes via experts sitting at their pianos: Richard Rodney Bennett, Barbara Carroll, Andrew Lloyd Webber. The composer himself gives a lucid explanation of his working method, as he demonstrates how the lyric of "It Might as Well Be Spring" inspired the melody. Interviewees include Rodgers's daughters, who provide suitably unsentimental memories of dad. At the heart of the story is Rodgers's brilliant collaborations with two great lyricists: mercurial Lorenz Hart, whose problems made Rodgers look non-neurotic, and steady Oscar Hammerstein II. Ample clips give the best evidence of all, from Frank Sinatra upper-cutting "The Lady Is a Tramp" to John Coltrane jazzily bending "My Favorite Things." --Robert Horton« less
"If you have to choose between this visual document and the biography released in november,don't hesitate to buy the video or dvd. Why? Because it's the facts that are featured here and not the gossips of which no word should be said at all. The daughters of Mr. RODGERS: LINDA and MARY talked about their father's complex personnality and say along the way that the music was more emotional than the man. The portrait of LORENZ HART is also interesting; Mr. RODGERS's patience with LORENZ shows the compassion of a man who knew the value of a partnership. Personnaly, because I am a huge RODGERS and HART fan, I really liked this segment a lot. Those were the days of the AMERICA we like best, between the two world wars. So many of AMERICA's greatest achievement in music happened during those years. 90 minutes of RICHARD RODGERS who was the greatest composer of his time is certainly worthy of your time. This visual biography was first shown on PBS last autumn."
The Music of Richard Rodgers . . . The Sweetest Sounds
Rebecca*rhapsodyinblue* | CA USA | 11/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The hills are alive with the sound of music With songs they have sung for a thousand years The hills fill my heart with the sound of music My heart wants to sing every song it hears." ~ The Sound of Music ~ Words & Music by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II
One of my favorite composers, the brilliant Richard Rodgers, known as the "Broadway Baby" had been composing music since age nine and by eighteen had his first Broadway show. Having written 900 some melodies for more than 70 shows in a career that spanned for seven decades, he was one of the most prolific composers of all-time in the league with George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
If you're a fan of his music, you'll love this documentary narrated by Tony Roberts about his celebrated life as a composer. His collaborations with two of the most talented lyricists in American music history, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, resulted in the most remarkable and most-loved musicals of all-time. He had also briefly collaborated with Stephen Sondheim.
The highlights are archival snippets from performers Frank Sinatra (I Could Write A Book and The Lady Is A Tramp), Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music), Louis Armstrong (You'll Never Walk Alone), composer/arranger/pianist Richard Rodney Bennett and singer Marie Cleer Haran (Manhattan and The Lady Is A Tramp), Mel Torme (Blue Moon - his the biggest hit), Lena Horne and Lionel Hampton (Where Or When), Barbara Peters (My Romance), pianist Barbara Caroll (My Funny Valentine), John Coltrane (My Favorite Things), Gordon McRae (Oh What A Beautiful Morning), Barbra Streisand (Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered), Jan Clayton and John Raitt (If I Loved You), and Diahann Carroll ("No Strings" 1962 Tony Award for Best Actress In A Musical). The show "No Strings," Richard Rodgers wrote both the music and lyrics himself and for the first time in Broadway history, the orchestra had no strings section.
This documentary also features film clips and interviews with his daughters, Linda Rodgers and Mary Rodgers, Julie Andrews, Maureen Mc Govern, Max Wilk (writer), Ethan Morden (theater historian), Jonathan Schwartz (music historian), John Mauceri (conductor), Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer), Barbara Cook (singer), and his grandson, Adam Guettell, among others.
His very first show "The Garrick Gaieties" was a hit and over the next five years, 15 Rodgers & Hart shows made it to Broadway, "Spring Is Here," "America's Sweetheart," "The Girl Friend" and "On Your Toes," to mention a few.
According to narrator Tony Roberts, "By the end of the 1920's, you couldn't even think of popular songs without talking about Rodgers & Hart. Everyone wanted their music." As a young man, he loved to watch Jerome Kern shows and he once told lyricist Sheldon Harnick that "his God was Jerome Kern."
After his marriage to Dorothy, Hollywood opened its door to Rodgers & Hart with the invention of talking pictures. While he was in Hollywood, he missed his family so much and of course, Broadway. One of his daughters said: "My father wrote my mother that he was experiencing an intense feeling of depression." His daughters' periodic visits to Hollywood eased his depression.
These are some of the most remarkable quotes I've transcribed from the interviews:
"He does very subtle things that make the tunes unique." ~ John Mauceri ~
"When he was writing there were very strict rules: no singing, no whistling, no noise." ~ Linda Rodgers ~
"Rodger's wife, Dorothy, knew that she was just number two in his life. Theater was his first love." ~ Theodore S. Chapin, Rodgers & Hart Organization ~
"My father grew up with a lot of fear and anxiety. He was afraid of heights, planes, tunnels. He was very unhappy unless he was writing." ~ Mary Rodgers ~
"His music is amazing, stunning, life changing melodies - little Rodgers' factory of melodies from the early twenties until he died. To me, there has been no greater composer in the world than Richard Rodgers. ~ Jonathan Schwartz ~
Mr. Rodgers, who had a reputation of writing melodies so quickly, died of cancer of the larynx on December 30, 1979.
Indeed, Richard Rodgers' wonderful music will live in the hearts of those who truly appreciate tuneful melodies that he brilliantly created. He was truly an exceptional and a very prolific composer.
"If somebody wants to sing my songs after I'm gone, nobody will be happier than my dead body." ~ Richard Rodgers ~ "
The man was a genius
William Jurgens | Fountain Hills, AZ United States | 09/28/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The only way to describe the musical composition of Richard Rodgers is that he was a genius, it's just that simple. In every age is seems like we are visited by someone who just seems to have a certain gift, an ability to communicate in an artistic medium such as music, so that all can understand. As Mozart wrote popular music of his own time, (it is the ages that have determined this to be called the classics), it is Richard Rodgers music that the future ages will consider classics. This is not so hard to imagine, considering Oklahoma still draws sells out shows in a revival of the musical, and it first premiered over 60 years ago, his music will transcend the ages. One could ask, how could this beautiful music come from a depressed, hypochondriac with a drinking problem, then I will simply respond with Mozart. Mozart had many of the same human frailties as Richard Rodgers, or Visa Versa. Like Mozart, Rodgers was also something of a prodigy getting his first show to Broadway by the age of 18. In short, this program captures the essence of this genius. You probably won't keep a dry eye while watching, the experience is just that moving, but when it is over, you will know that you have visited the presence of greatness. In addition to having a tremendous respect for Richard Rodgers, you may find your faith in the human endeavor renewed just a bit, remembering the greatness that the human mind and spirit can achieve.
A well done documentary about an insanely talented man
Kathleen Donaldson | 02/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Featuring in depth interviews with friends, family and co-workers as well as rare film clips of Rodgers shows such as "No Strings", "Pal Joey" and "Babes and Arms", this is a very well done documentary. Although it doesn not cover the era of Rodgers and Hammerstein as fully as it covers the era of Rodgers and Hart (perhaps because of Hart's horrific and awful fall into the world of alchohal and depression), it does give us information about the man. Besides being a musical genius, Richard Rodgers had many demons. However, when he was working on a show, he truly produced The Sweetest Sounds."
A complex, unhappy man...and probably the greatest theater c
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 04/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Compare the difference between the gorgeous, witty, romantic songs from a man who probably was America's most outstanding popular songwriter with these quotes about the man himself: "For somebody who gave such incredible pleasure to so many millions of people, not to have had the same kind of joy and contentment and comfort in his own life is just awful," says one of his daughters. She continues, "He was worried about all kinds of things, but he didn't talk about them." Says his other daughter, "He was deeply neurotic, deeply, and very unhappy unless he was writing."
Richard Rodgers was born in 1902. He starting composing when he was 9. He had his first show on Broadway when he was 18. He and his partner Larry Hart became Broadway's song-writing darlings with The Garrick Gaieties in 1925. Between then and the death of his second partner, Oscar Hammerstein II, in 1960 (Hart died in 1943), he had hit after hit on Broadway and an unparalleled catalogue of marvelous songs. When Rodgers died in 1979 at the age of 77, a survivor of jaw cancer, a stroke, a heart attack, depression, a laryngectomy and alcoholism, his latest show had just opened. "He had one interest," said an observer, "and that was to write music to stories for the stage."
Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Songs is in my view the best of the documentaries on America's great theater composers. During the period from the early Twenties through the Forties, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter were outdoing themselves in creating what later came to be known as The Great American Songbook. With one or two exceptions, most of the shows these men wrote their songs for have been long forgotten. Their songs, however, are still with us. Rodgers, alone among them, steadily moved from songs simply placed into shows to shows with stories which were important and where the songs were integral to telling the story. Alone among them, Rodgers created shows, especially with Hammerstein, that still are produced, from high school drama club presentations to Broadway revivals. This documentary takes us through Rodgers' life, his partners, his shows and his development as one of the most important theater people America has ever produced. Unlike so many cozy, complimentary biographies of admired people, the program faces up to the often uncomfortable conflicts, in Rodgers' case between what he wrote and how he dealt with life, other people and his own needs. He seemed to be so self-isolated a person that he only came alive when he was working. It's startling to realize, for instance, that the man who could write such tender, emotional waltzes as "Out of My Dreams," "Do I Hear a Waltz," "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" and "Wait 'Til You See Her" was so frozen even his family couldn't get close.
One of the reasons this nearly two-hour documentary is so effective is because it uses shrewdly-chosen pieces of archival material, interviews with family members and theater professionals, excellent current singers such as Mary Clare Haran and a wide variety of contemporary clips from Rodgers' shows. The production is comprehensive but it keeps moving. For anyone who likes the great theater songs from the Twenties, Thirties and Forties and is interested in the men who wrote them, this documentary is essential viewing. To understand Richard Rodgers and just how good he was, I recommend getting a copy of Alec Wilder's incomparable American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950. And for a solid biography of Rodgers, look for Meryle Secrest's Somewhere for Me. The DVD includes as extras a comprehensive list of Rodgers' theater, movie and television productions.
American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950 Somewhere for Me - A Biography of Richard Rodgers"