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Somewhere for Me - A Biography of Richard Rodgers Paperback – October 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) wrote some of the loveliest and most touching popular music of the 20th century, from "Thou Swell" in A Connecticut Yankee through "Edelweiss" in The Sound of Music. He was half of the two most celebrated teams in American musical theater: Rodgers and Hart sparkled with the insouciant gaiety of the 1920s and '30s, while Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein forged a revolution with more serious, artistically unified productions like Oklahoma and The King and I. Meryle Secrest skillfully depicts Rodgers's glittering lifestyle and the complex personality hidden underneath the suave manner and elegant clothes. Born into an affluent but tension-riddled New York Jewish family, he was playing the piano at seven and had his first Broadway musical produced before 18. Life after that was a succession of hit shows, glamorous parties, famous friends, and lavish homes decorated by wife Dorothy, who turned a sophisticated blind eye to his affairs with pretty actresses. Theatrical colleagues recall Rodgers as amusing and charming, if not precisely warm; daughters Mary and Linda paint a darker picture of a hypercritical and sometimes cruel father enmeshed in a marriage he often found confining. Secrest hasn't anything very new to say about Rodgers's music, but she's written a perceptive biography of an intriguingly complicated man and a formidable creative artist. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

"Whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens," sings Maria to a lighthearted melody in Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, but this sentimental, carefree imagery was hardly the stuff of which composer Rodgers's life was made. This deeply researched and moving critical biography covers the composer's long life and career (he died in 1979), with astute analysis of his work and sympathetic, but not hagiographic, insights into the man. Born in 1902 to an upper-middle-class Jewish family in New York City, Rodgers copyrighted his first song, "Auto Show Girl" when he was 15. After he teamed up with Lorenz Hart in 1919, they turned out a series of shows and songs that made them world famous and well-off (by the mid-1930s, at the height of the depression, they were each making more than $100,000 a year). When Hart died in 1943, Rodgers partnered with Oscar Hammerstein and went on to produce some of the most popular and important musicals in the second half of the 20th century, including The King and I and No Strings. Secrest, who has penned critically acclaimed biographies of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, has a good eye for detail and neatly integrates important personal details such as the impact of Dorothy's homophobia concerning her husband's relationship with the gay Hart or the increasingly debilitating effect that Rodgers's alcoholism had on his work. Based on extensive interviews (and the help of Rodgers's children) as well as comprehensive research in the sociology of the music and theater industry, this is a wonderful addition to the literature on American popular culture. (Nov.)Forecast: Bookstores with music sections would be wise to stock this title. Expect strong sales from both theatergoers and lovers of song standards.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557835810
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557835819
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #649,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Noel Brusman on November 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Secrest is an outstanding biographer. Once again she has brought her research skills, integrity, knowledge and compassion to the story of the life of an American musical genius. She presents a straightforward and unblinking account of a composer whose works are classics, whose productivity was astounding, and whose sadness as a person belied the upbeat and joyous tunes he bequeathed to us. I grew up with Rodgers' songs and have enjoyed many of his musicals over the years, on stage as well as in the movies. I feel grateful for the beauty he brought - and brings - into my life. I wish he had had a happier life. Secrest does a superb job in bringing the complexity of this man to the reader. Highly recommended!
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34 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Sandy McLendon on November 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Meryle Secrest has written what was hoped to be the definitive bio of Richard Rodgers. Her research and her interviews with Rodgers' daughters, Mary Rodgers Guettel and Linda Rodgers Emery, should have produced a great book, but such is, regrettably, not the case.
Secrest is long on information and very short indeed on conclusions, a serious shortcoming in a book dealing with the impact of supressed emotions, alcoholism, infidelity, and displaced anger on the lives of Richard Rodgers and his wife, Dorothy . The author relates anecdotes, lists achievements, and tells tales, but then makes very little effort to weave her material into anything that might help us understand this complicated man and his even more complicated wife. We are told that Rodgers was remarkably unfaithful to his wife for nearly half a century, and we are told that she had her disagreeable side, but what effect, if any, did the unfaithfulness have on the disagreeableness? Secrest doesn't go there; what few conclusions that are drawn about the Rodgerses' behaviour are in the interview material.
Early in the book, Secrest promises to say as much about Dorothy Rodgers as her husband. Not only does that not happen, the references to Mrs. Rodgers are largely negative. She is painted as insecure, greedy, addicted to Demerol, and with shallow interests in decorating and design. The author trivialises the famed Rodgers art collection as canned 'Christmas gifts' that the husband and wife could exchange; she failed to discover, or perhaps merely to relate, that major pieces from the collection (particularly the Toulouse-Lautrec gouache of Mme. Natanson) delight thousands of visitors to the Metropolitan Museum, to whom they were willed. Not only is Dorothy Rodgers' incredible eye for art thus diminished by Secrest, Mrs.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Colin E. Schmit on January 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Meryrle Secrest's previous book, "Stephen Sondheim: A Life" was fantastic; every word was perfectly placed, every nuance was properly shaded (much like Sondheim himself). Unfortunately, this biography of one of the most complex and dissonant men to come out of the American Musical Theatre, Richard Rodgers, loses steam almost halfway through the narrative. It's as if the author lost interest in her subject between "Carousel" and "The King and I."
To give Secrest proper credit, her chapters concerning Rodgers' collaboration with the tempestuous Larry Hart are truly engrossing and very lively. However, the Hammerstein and Post-Hammerstein years seem to be written in haste, or with no care at all.
This book should be read by all devotees of the stage musical, just for its chapters on Rodgers and Hart. Otherwise, I strongly encourage that you read Ethan Mordden's book "Rodgers and Hammerstein" for a better view of the latter collaboration.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elkhart on January 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
We can be grateful to Secrest for toiling on Rodgers with her usual thorougness and objectivity, and for doing so when many of Rodgers's friends and colleagues, not to mention his thoughtful daughters, are still here to contribute. If the result is not quite as good a read as her works on Bernstein and Sondheim, we have to blame the subject, not the author. Rodgers was not an easy man to get to know, and while his music was often original and sophisticated, his life was marked by a dull and distant anger. A lesser biographer might have added a larger dose of amateur psychoanalysis and squeezed more dramatic juice out of alcohol and infidelity, but Secrest knows that her job is to depict a life, not to make a sport of it. Given the scope of Rodgers's influence on 20th century culture, Secrest's book will no doubt be invaluable when this fascinating musical era is approached by future writers.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By sweetmolly on April 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Richard Rogers is a hard nut to crack. Author Secrest does a workmanlike job of peeling back the layers, but can't quite reach the inner core that made Rogers the composer-genius he was. Rogers was urbane, witty, hypochondriacal, magnetizing, petty, alcoholic, competitive, gloomy, secretive, philandering and funny. How do all of these traits combine to bring about some of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century? Reading about Richard Rogers and then hearing -- say "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel" makes you exclaim (like Oprah), "How'd he DO that?"
Richard Rogers was born to a moderately wealthy Jewish family in New York City. He was composing music for the stage by the time he was seventeen. He had his first Broadway hit by the time he was 24, and after he partnered with Lorenz Hart produced one hit after another. In the meantime, he married the fragile beauty Dorothy, had two daughters and became increasingly wealthy. Sounds like a trip to the pinnacle, a stairway to the stars, doesn't it? Well, not exactly. Rogers and Hart broke up mainly because of Hart's alcoholism and mental fragility. But Rogers got the rap for "deserting" him and banning him from the theatre. This wasn't quite fair to Rogers, but it wasn't untrue either. Rogers' storybook marriage was complex also. Dorothy was a perfectionist and emotionally needy. Rogers' response was a parade of infidelity. And yet. I believe Rogers loved her all his life as much as he was able to love anyone, and she fulfilled some deep-seated need in him. As parents, they both were failures. The daughters were marginally fonder of Richard who they considered distant and savagely critical. Dorothy was seen as a selfish tyrant. The daughters' recollections are not kind.
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