Rudolf Friml


Born: December 7, 1879 Died: November 12, 1972
Rudolf Friml had four aspects to his career: pianist, operetta composer, American-style musical composer, and finally as a film composer, though he also wrote instrumental works and songs. Never an innovator, he was one of the most popular composers during his heyday, setting Broadway records for his time, and songs from his musicals and films are still often resurrected in recitals and recordings. Friml's musical talent showed at an early age, to the extent that neighbors and friends helped pay for him to study at the Prague Conservatory, where he studied with Dvorák, among others. He toured Europe and the United States as accompanist for violist Jan Kubelík, but with the triumph of his Piano Concerto No. 1 in 1904 and the premiere of his first ballet, O Mitake San, devoted himself to composing and settled in the United States in 1906. His big break as an operetta composer came in 1912 when he wrote the wildly successful The Firefly as a vehicle for star Emma Trentini. He followed this in 1913 with High Jinks and in 1915 with Katinka. After World War I, he briefly experimented with American-style musicals, but these were not as successful as the operetta idiom and he returned to that with Rose Marie in 1924, a great success with 557 performances, and The Vagabond King in 1925 with 511. However, the combination of World War II and changing tastes in stage musicals had rendered his style of musicals old-fashioned and his last two stage works, Luana and Music Hath Charms, barely managed 20 performances each. Films, however, were another story, and several of his classics, including The Vagabond King, Rose Marie, and The Firefly were made into successful movies. Friml himself wrote music specifically for films, often uncredited, including the famous "Donkey Serenade" from Bachelor Bait. He was the father-in-law of actor and director Douglas Fowley.
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