You couldn’t overstate Oscar Hammerstein II’s influence on the American musical if you tried.  He wrote the book and lyrics of Show Boat in 1927, the most important show in the modern history of the American musical, as well as the book and lyrics of Oklahoma! in 1943, which firmly established the dramatically coherent book musical as the primary form of musical theater on Broadway from then on.

His lyrics were often simple and sentimental, or simple-minded and treacly depending on your taste, but sometimes they were perfect, the way the simple, sentimental lyrics of early Beach Boys songs can be perfect.


The lyrics below are from the song “An Ordinary Couple”, a last-minute addition to the Broadway production of The Sound Of Music, the last musical Hammerstein worked on, which wasn’t included in the screen version of the show.  They’re perfect.

An ordinary couple
Is all we’ll ever be,
For all I want of living
Is to keep you close to me,
To laugh and weep together
While time goes on its flight,
To kiss you every morning
And to kiss you every night.

We’ll meet our daily problems
And rest when day is done,
Our arms around each other
In the fading sun.
An ordinary couple,
Across the years we’ll ride,
Our arms around each other
Our children by our side;
Our arms around each other.


Meet Me In St. Louis joins my list (along with The Searchers and Rear Window) of Blu-ray editions that belong in every home — that are in themselves worth buying a Blu-ray player for.

Meet Me In St. Louis is one of the greatest of all Hollywood musicals, and one of the greatest of all movies. It grows deeper and more astonishing with each viewing. If this film doesn’t make you cry, you need to totally reexamine your life, your values, your sense of what the world is really all about.

Producer Arthur Freed was the driving force behind getting the film made at MGM.  Most of the other executives at the studio strongly opposed it — they didn’t think it was about anything, not understanding that the dysfunctional moments of a happy family is a subject of the most sublime profundity.

Louis B. Mayer intervened and told Freed to go ahead with the production, saying, “Either he’ll learn something or we’ll learn something.”  The result was the most profitable film in MGM’s history, beating out even Gone With the Wind, which MGM only owned part of.

Gene Kelley said it was his favorite musical, and Martin Scorsese lists it among the films that most influenced his visual style.  It’s an absolute miracle — especially on Blu-ray, where it’s possible to more fully appreciate director Vincente Minnelli’s elegant exploration of the house at the center of the film, and the choreography of the family members within it which reflects the shifting elements of the family dynamic.

Click on the images to enlarge.