Harold Rome

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Harold Jacob ("Hecky") Rome was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 27, 1908. His education included a B.A. from Yale College (1929), studies at the Yale Law School (1929-1930), a B.F.A. from the Yale School of Architecture (1934), and courses at the Yale Schools of Art and Music. He played piano in the Yale orchestra, making four trips to Europe with the group, and supported himself by playing with dance bands and for dance classes. This period also saw the birth of Rome's interest in African art, a fascination sparked when Rome visited Paris in 1930 and attended an exhibition of African sculpture there.

In 1934 Rome headed to New York to begin a career in architecture. What began as supplemental music jobs, however, blossomed into a more fulfilling and lucrative profession than architecture. During his three seasons (1935-1937) at Green Mansions (a summer resort in the Adirondacks), he produced musicals, wrote songs, and played the piano. His genius for songwriting was evident, and it was not long before his songs were sung by Gypsy Rose Lee and the Ritz Brothers.

In 1937, Louis Schaeffer hired Rome to write songs and be the rehearsal pianist for the revue Pins and Needles, which was produced and performed by I.G.L.W. union members. When, in 1937, the show opened in New York, it met with such wide acclaim that it moved on to Broadway and ran there and on the road for four years, establishing Rome as a composer and lyricist. He won an ASCAP award for the song "Sunday in the Park" from Pins and Needles, followed by another for the song "Franklin D. Roosevelt Jones" from the 1938 revue Sing Out the News (produced by Max Gordon, with sketches by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and songs by Harold Rome).

There followed revues, mostly sociopolitical, including Sing for Your Supper (1939); Streets of Paris (1939); and The Little Dog Laughed (1940), a musical based on the book by Joseph Schrank. Lunchtime Follies (1942), to which Rome contributed several songs, was a series of forty-five minute morale-boosting revues presented to workers at war-materiel factories. It included sketches by George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, and Maxwell Anderson, and was produced and supervised by Kurt Weill. This was followed by Star and Garter (1942) and Let Freedom Sing (1942).

As a serviceman during World War II, Rome wrote songs for the army shows Stars and Gripes (1943) and Skirts (1944), the latter done in collaboration with fellow PFC Frank Loesser. Rome's return to civilian life was the theme for his next revue, Call Me Mister (1946), performed by former servicemen and servicewomen, among others.

That's the Ticket (1948), a musical based on a book by Julius and Philip G. Epstein, was directed by Jerome Robbins. This was followed by four more revues: Pretty Penny (1949), with sketches by Jerome Chodorov and directed by George S. Kaufman; Alive and Kicking (1950); Michael Todd's Peep Show (1950); and Bless You All (1950), with sketches by Arnold Auerbach.

Apart from Romanoff and Juliet (1957, play by Peter Ustinov with incidental music by Rome, directed by George S. Kaufman and produced by David Merrick), and La Grosse Valise (1965, for which Rome wrote the lyrics), the final productions were the book-musicals Wish You Were Here (1952, book by Arthur Kober and Joshua Logan, directed by Logan), Fanny (1954, book by S.N. Behrman and Joshua Logan based upon the trilogy by Marcel Pagnol, directed by Logan and produced by Logan and David Merrick), Destry Rides Again (1959, book by Leonard Gershe, produced by Merrick), I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962, book by Jerome Weidman, produced by Merrick), The Zulu and the Zayda (1965), and Gone With the Wind, which opened in Tokyo as Scarlett (1970), went on to London (1972), and finally moved to Los Angeles (1973) to begin a United States tour.

In his book Show Tunes (1986), Steven Sushin describes Harold Rome's revues as having "sparkling comedy lyrics for everyday characters, set to bright and fresh music," and his musicals as having "rich, emotional scores." This accounts for the tremendous popularity of the shows and individual songs, as well as for their numerous performances and recordings. In fact, many of the shows were vehicles that launched the careers of performers such as Jack Cassidy, Bob Fosse, Betty Garrett, Elliot Gould, Buddy Hackett, Florence Henderson, Carl Reiner, Jerome Robbins, Barbra Streisand, and William Warfield.

Harold Rome died in New York on October 26, 1993.

From the guide to the The Harold Rome Papers, 1873-1988 (inclusive), (Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University)

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creatorOf The Harold Rome Papers, 1873-1988 (inclusive) Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University
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associatedWith Arlen, Harold, 1905-1986 person
associatedWith Baruch, Bernard M. (Bernard Mannes), 1870-1965 person
associatedWith Bennett, Tony, 1926- person
associatedWith Berlin, Irving, 1888- person
associatedWith Carlyle, Kitty, 1915- person
associatedWith Chasins, Abram, 1903- person
associatedWith Chevalier, Maurice, 1888-1972 person
associatedWith Chodorov, Jerome. person
associatedWith Comden, Betty. person
associatedWith Crawford, Joan, 1908-1977 person
associatedWith De Mille, Agnes. person
associatedWith Dietz, Howard, 1896-1983 person
associatedWith Douglas, Melvyn. person
associatedWith Drake, Alfred, 1914- person
associatedWith Engel, Lehman, 1910- person
associatedWith Foote, Horton. person
associatedWith Francis, Arlene. person
associatedWith Freeman, Paul, 1936- person
associatedWith Furness, Betty, 1916- person
associatedWith Gershwin, Ira, 1896- person
associatedWith Goldman, Harry Merton person
associatedWith Goodman, Benny, 1909- person
associatedWith Gorme, Eydie. person
associatedWith Grauer, Ben. person
associatedWith Green, Adolph. person
associatedWith Green, Stanley. person
associatedWith Hammerstein, Oscar, 1895-1960 person
associatedWith Hart, Moss, 1904-1961 person
associatedWith Herlie, Eileen. person
associatedWith Ionesco, Eugène. person
associatedWith Javits, Jacob K. (Jacob Koppel), 1904-1986 person
associatedWith Kapp, David. person
associatedWith Kazan, Elia. person
associatedWith Kert, Larry. person
associatedWith Kober, Arthur, 1900-1975 person
associatedWith Kroll, Lucy. person
associatedWith Lane, Burton, 1912- person
associatedWith Lawrence, Steve, 1935- person
associatedWith Layton, Joe, 1931- person
associatedWith Leinsdorf, Erich, 1912- person
associatedWith Lerner, Alan Jay, 1918- person
associatedWith Lieberson, Goddard, 1911- person
associatedWith Mercer, Johnny. person
associatedWith Merrick, David, 1911- person
associatedWith Novotná, Jarmila, 1907- person
associatedWith Osborn, Paul, 1901- person
associatedWith Porter, Cole, 1891-1964 person
associatedWith Resnik, Regina, 1922- person
associatedWith Rigby, Harry. person
associatedWith Rittman, Trude. person
associatedWith Robbins, Jerome. person
associatedWith Robbins, Warren M. person
associatedWith Rodgers, Dorothy F., 1909- person
associatedWith Rodgers, Richard, 1902- person
associatedWith Rome, Florence person
associatedWith Rome, Harold, 1908- person
associatedWith Sardi, Vincent, 1915- person
associatedWith Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, 1917- person
associatedWith Schubert, Bernard. person
associatedWith Schwartz, Arthur, 1900-1984 person
associatedWith Segáll, Bernardo. person
associatedWith Silber, Irwin, 1925- person
associatedWith Vacha, John. person
associatedWith Weidman, Jerome, 1913- person
associatedWith Wood, Audrey, 1905- person
associatedWith Wouk, Herman, 1915- person
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