Did Oscar Hammerstein II Have Faith?

December 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

Oscar_Hammerstein

WALLACE: May I ask you about your own religious convictions?

HAMMERSTEINWell, in answer to that I’d like to tell you a little story. Something happened to me about a year ago, while we were rehearsing the TV version of Cinderella. It was a Sunday I was late for rehearsal, the streets were not very crowded, and I ran against the lights.

WALLACE: You were jay-walking.

HAMMERSTEIN: I was jay-walking, ran across eighth avenue and fifty-seventh street. When I was half-way across the street I heard a voice calling to me and it was a policeman, and I thought well, here it is, I’m wrong he’s right. I can’t defend myself I have to take a bawling-out. When I reached the curb, he came over to me, he was a young cop and he didn’t bawl me out at all. He said “Aren’t you Oscar Hammerstein?” I said “yes.” He said, “Well, I want to tell you how much my family, my wife and I and my kids enjoy all your songs. We have a record of Carousel and we’ve worn it thin, we can hardly hear it anymore, it’s scratchy but we love it and I want to thank you.” And I thanked him for telling me so and I felt very good and I started to go and he said” Just one thing. Do you mind if I ask you a question?” and I said “no.” “He said are you religious?” and I said, well I don’t belong to any church and then he patted me on the back and he said “Ah, you’re religious alright.” And I went on feeling as if I’d been caught, and feeling that I was religious. He had discovered from the words of my songs that I had faith, faith in mankind, faith that there was something more powerful than mankind behind it all. And faith that in the long run good triumphs over evil. If that’s religion — I’m religious, and it is my definition of religion.

Blog Note: This is a transcription of the 1958 interview between Mike Wallace and Oscar Hammerstein II.  To see the full video of the television broadcast, click here.
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