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In this Richard Rodgers centenary year (he was born June 28, 1902 in New York), most of the best-known works by this beloved American composer are being revived and celebrated, but the Rodgers legacy includes more than Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. (Before the acclaimed partnership between Rodgers and Hammerstein that produced those blockbuster classics, Rodgers had enjoyed a longtime collaboration with lyricist Lorenz Hart, of course, but that's another story.)
Among the first fruits of the R & H team (between Oklahoma! and Carousel) was the score for an engaging motion picture, State Fair, their only musical written directly for the screen. The 1945 production (remade by the studio with rather less success in 1962, when the cast included Ann-Margaret and Pat Boone) starred Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews, among others, in a lighthearted tale of homespun Americana. The soundtrack included at least two Rodgers and Hammerstein standards: "It Might as Well be Spring" (which was honored with the Academy Award as Best Song) and "It's a Grand Night for Singing."
Film history buffs (there must be a few in attendance tonight!) will know, of course, that the 1945 film was itself a remake. The 1933 version had starred Will Rogers and Janet Gaynor, but it was not a musical. (It was just one year earlier, as it happens, that Rodgers - and Hart - had scored the classic Love Me Tonight, the Maurice Chevalier-Jeannette MacDonald vehicle whose hits included "Isn't It Romantic?," "Lover," and "Mimi.")
-- Dennis Bade