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It's One Enchanted Evening

The motion picture academy pays tribute to Richard Rodgers, a composer who won an Oscar but preferred working on Broadway

June 19, 2002|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard Rodgers is best known as one of the most successful--if not the most successful--Broadway musical composer of the 20th century. But he also wrote some of his greatest standards for the movies. With his first collaborator, lyricist Lorenz Hart, he penned the tunes "The Blue Room" and "Manhattan" for an all-but-forgotten 1929 musical short, "The Makers of Melody," and "Isn't It Romantic" for the 1932 feature, "Love Me Tonight."

And with his second collaborator, Oscar Hammerstein II, he won an Oscar for best song for "It Might as Well Be Spring" from the 1945 movie musical, "State Fair." That Technicolor classic also features the standard, "A Grand Night for Singing."

On Thursday night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will pay tribute to Rodgers' contribution to film at the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre with a "Centennial Tribute to Richard Rodgers." Julie Andrews, who starred in the 1965 Oscar-winning adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music," as well as the team's 1957 TV musical of "Cinderella," will be the host for the evening that will include live musical performances from Oscar winners Joel Grey and Kathy Bates, along with Tony Danza and Andrea Marcovicci.

"The body of his work is just stunning," said Andrews of Rodgers, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday this month. "It is the standard to a great extent to which other musicals are judged. 'You can turn anywhere and find a Rodgers song. What is more important than ever is that these beautiful things must not fade away."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday June 20, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 17 inches; 617 words Type of Material: Correction
Richard Rodgers--A story in Wednesday's Calendar about the Richard Rodgers tribute at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences incorrectly stated that the songs "The Blue Room" and "Manhattan" were written for a 1929 movie short. "Manhattan" first appeared in the 1925 Broadway musical "The Garrick Gaieties," and "The Blue Room" was introduced in the 1926 Broadway show "The Girl Friend."
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Academy governor Samuel Goldwyn Jr. is producing the evening with Oscar-winning composer Alan Bergman. The pair produced a similar event about Irving Berlin a few years ago at the academy.

"It's very important, from an academy point of view, for people and particularly members of this industry to show this tradition of musicals and that these great composers all wrote for movies and did some of their best work for films," says Goldwyn. "I hope that some day the movie musical in the form of today's music will come back."

Among the clips to be featured in the program is "Slaughter on 10th Avenue" from 1948's "Worlds and Music," "Ten Cents a Dance" from 1955's "Love Me or Leave Me," "There's Nothin' Like a Dame" from the 1958 film version of "South Pacific," "Shall We Dance" from the 1956 film adaptation of "The King and I," "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from the 1955 film version of "Oklahoma!" and "Do, Re Me" from "The Sound of Music."

Goldwyn and Bergman started working on the tribute last summer. "It's wonderful working with Alan because he has such a musical knowledge," said Goldwyn. "It's really exciting to watch these films. The number of personalties that sang the songs--Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra.... Al Jolson did "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum.' "

Bates, who sang in the 1998 ABC-TV version of the musical "Annie," will be performing Rodgers and Hart's 'Where or When" and "Mountain Greenery" with Grey. "Years ago, I used to be a singing waitress in the Catskills," she says. "We actually did a melody of Rodgers and Hart songs back then."

The actress is looking forward to the tribute because she wants to learn more about Rodgers, who died in 1979. "It will be an eye-opener for me to watch the whole program. When I was singing this stuff, when I as much younger, I didn't know much about him then."

Grey will be performing the comic number "Honey Bun" from "South Pacific." A longtime fan of Rodgers and a good friend of his composer-daughter, Mary, Grey first met Richard Rodgers back in 1959 at an ill-fated audition.

"I am ashamed to tell you it was for the young boy in 'The Sound of Music'--Rolfe," says Grey, breaking into Rolfe's song, "I Am 16 Going On 17." "When you are hungry you go up for everything," he says, laughing.

Andrews first met Rodgers and Hammerstein early in her Broadway career when she auditioned for one of their lesser-known musicals, "Pipe Dream." A few years later, she worked with them on "Cinderella." "I actually in all honesty remember Hammerstein a bit more," she says. "Rodgers wasn't as present as Hammerstein was, but obviously they were both giants of the American theater. I am annoyed with myself that when I had the opportunity I didn't sit in awe at their feet and listen and ask questions."

Though Rodgers wrote two new songs for the film version of "The Sound of Music"--"I Have Confidence" and "Something Good"-- he never visited the set. "When the new songs came in his presence was there

Goldwyn Jr. was just a youngster when Rodgers and his wife would visit his father, the noted producer, and his mother, at their house in Hollywood. "He said something I have never forgotten. He was talking about working with director Josh Logan and he was saying one of the things about being successful is that it is wonderful that you can work with such good people."

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