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)
|creatorOf||The Harold Rome Papers, 1873-1988 (inclusive)||Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Yale University|
|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||Crawford, Joan, 1908-1977||person|
|associatedWith||De Mille, Agnes.||person|
|associatedWith||Dietz, Howard, 1896-1983||person|
|associatedWith||Drake, Alfred, 1914-||person|
|associatedWith||Engel, Lehman, 1910-||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||Hammerstein, Oscar, 1895-1960||person|
|associatedWith||Hart, Moss, 1904-1961||person|
|associatedWith||Javits, Jacob K. (Jacob Koppel), 1904-1986||person|
|associatedWith||Kober, Arthur, 1900-1975||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||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||Robbins, Warren M.||person|
|associatedWith||Rodgers, Dorothy F., 1909-||person|
|associatedWith||Rodgers, Richard, 1902-||person|
|associatedWith||Rome, Harold, 1908-||person|
|associatedWith||Sardi, Vincent, 1915-||person|
|associatedWith||Schlesinger, Arthur Meier, 1917-||person|
|associatedWith||Schwartz, Arthur, 1900-1984||person|
|associatedWith||Silber, Irwin, 1925-||person|
|associatedWith||Weidman, Jerome, 1913-||person|
|associatedWith||Wood, Audrey, 1905-||person|
|associatedWith||Wouk, Herman, 1915-||person|
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