William Hammerstein, the director and producer who was the eldest child of Oscar Hammerstein II, and directed the 1979 Broadway revival of his father's Oklahoma!, died March 9 of complications following a stroke suffered Jan. 6, according to Theodore S. Chapin, president of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.
Mr. Hammerstein, 82, was born in New York City, first in the fourth generation of a family prominent in the American theatre for more than 100 years.
According to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, which maintains and promotes the work of composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, Mr. Hammerstein began his professional career as stage manager at the Saint Louis Municipal Opera, moving on to Broadway and road productions. During World War II he served with the U.S Navy in the South Pacific. After the war he resumed work in the theatre as a production manager, working for producer Leland Hayward, directors Joshua Logan, Garson Kanin, and others. Mr. Hammerstein established and managed the New York City Center Light Opera Company, for which he was recognized with a special Tony Award in 1957.
On Broadway, he produced Neil Simon's first play, Come Blow Your Horn, and Garson Kanin's A Gift of Time starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland. As a director, his credits included numerous productions at New York City Center, the 1956 London premiere of Fanny, and the 1979 Broadway and U.S. national tour of Oklahoma! For television he produced "The Bell Telephone Hour," "The Arthur Godfrey Show" and network specials.
Until shortly before his death, Mr. Hammerstein was active in the management of the theatrical and music publishing interests included in the legacy of his father, Oscar Hammerstein II, and was the Hammerstein family representative with The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. Formerly, he was president of The Hammerstein Music and Theatre Company and The Boston Music Company, chairman of Williamson Music and a board member of E.B. Marks Music. He was a director of the American Theatre Wing and served on the Tony Awards Administration and Management Committees. Survivors include his wife, Jane-Howard Hammerstein; his daughters, Patricia Benner of Durham, NC, Martha Hammerstein and Diana Hammerstein of Ft. Lauderdale, FL; six grandchildren; two great grandchildren; his sisters, Alice Hammerstein Mathias and Susan Blanchard Widmark; and his spaniels, Buster and Agnes.
A private celebration will be held at a later date.
— By Kenneth Jones