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The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family

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The remarkable, unprecedented biography of the Hammersteins, Broadway's greatest and most influential family, as told by Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

The Hammersteins is the story of one of Broadway's most creative and productive families. It is a story that begins in 1864 when Oscar Hammerstein I emigrates to America, establishes himself as a successful cigar merchant and turns his attention to the business of music and theaters. He builds many theaters including New York's most ...

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The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family

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The remarkable, unprecedented biography of the Hammersteins, Broadway's greatest and most influential family, as told by Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

The Hammersteins is the story of one of Broadway's most creative and productive families. It is a story that begins in 1864 when Oscar Hammerstein I emigrates to America, establishes himself as a successful cigar merchant and turns his attention to the business of music and theaters. He builds many theaters including New York's most majestic opera house. He turns Times Square (then Longacre Square) into the theater capital of the world. His sons, Willie and Arthur carry on the tradition and nurture such talents as Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Al Jolson, Houdini, and Charlie Chaplin. Willie's son Oscar II becomes the most successful lyricist of all time, writing the story and words to the Broadway shows Showboat, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. The accomplishments of this family are monumental. Their tale is enchanting.

Written by Oscar "Andy" Hammerstein (Oscar II's grandson), TheHammersteins presents a multi-layered portrait of the Hammerstein legacy, complete with personal and professional highlights, as well as the scandals and tragedies. The book also draws heavily upon the family archives, presenting a rich collection of photographs, theatre blueprints, letters, programs, patents, and more, much of which has never been seen before. The Hammersteins is at once a deeply personal story of an American family living the American dream and a celebration of musical theater in this country.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Oscar Hammerstien II's grandson (the grandson of the original Mr. Hammerstein) pays tribute to his lineage with an insightful and affectionate coffee table scrapbook. The youngest Oscar, a family historian and university lecturer, recounts a legacy worthy of a great American clan – one filled with as many if-at-first-you-don't-succeed failures as eventual hard won triumphs. Oscar I rose from destitute German immigrant to cigar impresario, using his wealth to build grand, often grandiose, theaters and hire opera singers to rival the Met. He lost his fortune many times and made numerous enemies, but never lost sight of his dream of bringing opera to the people, transforming himself along the way into Times Square's first theatrical entrepreneur. Likewise, before Oscar II became the most influential librettist-lyricist in musical theater (South Pacific; Oklahoma!), he had a string of embarrassments. Although a family tree could have helped readers keep track of all the players, reading Hammerstein's book, stuffed with photos of relations and colleagues (and theaters, programs, and sheet music) is like peeking into a family album while grandpa shares stories of eccentricities and affairs, deathbed promises, and larger-than-life theatrics. Like Oscar II's musicals, it's intelligent, fun, and nimbly written. (Oct.)
Library Journal
The famous Broadway lyricist's grandson chronicles his family's musical legacy beginning with Oscar I, a German immigrant whose American dream was realized building and promoting opera, vaudeville, and other theatrical outlets. Billed as a family story, this book focuses on Oscar II's career, with his grandfather and namesake providing a supporting role and other family members making cameo appearances. Family background, anecdotes, and lively quotations from the Hammersteins and their contemporaries provide some of the book's more engrossing passages. The inclusion of numerous family photographs as well as programs and music covers add interest. Of special appeal are chapters detailing the history and development of popular productions such as Show Boat, Oklahoma, and South Pacific. Verdict Reading this book is like sitting down for a chatty conversation with a family friend who possesses a storehouse of memories and photos. The approach offers readers entertainment rather than scholarly study. Recommended where The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II is popular.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Lib. Syst., Bellport, NY

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579128463
  • Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/27/2010
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 180,388
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein III is a painter, writer, lecturer, and family historian.  He has devoted much of his life to studying and preserving his family's heritage and their contribution to American culture.  He lectures frequently at universities, institutes, and theatrical and civic organizations on the Hammerstein family's pivotal role in shaping the development of musical theater and popular entertainment in this country from the 1860's to the present.  He is an adjunct professor at Columbia University, teaching graduate level New York City theater history.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2011

    Outstanding read!

    Excellent in every way! Highly recommended for theatre buffs or anyone interested in musical theatre or musicals made into movies, such as "Sound of Music", "Cinderella" and "The King and I", just to name a few. It is intelligently written by Oscar (Andy) Hammerstein III, yet easy to read, with lots of great photos! He chronicles the lives of Oscar Hammerstein I, from his making of the opera/theatre district in Times Square in the 1800's, through Oscar II, before and after he teamed up with Richard Rodgers, up to his death in 1960. Very interesting trivia--the good, the bad, and the ugly--really fascinating. You'll love it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2013

    Recommended for Broadway lovers

    The photos are marvelous. I never knew the history of the Hammerstein family. This book is the real history of Broadway.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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