Rome, Harold (Jacob)

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Rome, Harold (Jacob)

Rome, Harold (Jacob) , American composer and lyricist; b. Hartford, Conn., May 27, 1908; d. N.Y., Oct. 26, 1993. Rome entered the musical theater of the 1930s with the topical, socially conscious revue Pins and Needles and continued to work in a left-wing political vein until after World War II, when he began to write more conventional musical comedies. His songs always gave voice to the yearnings of the lower middle class, however. His other most successful shows were Fanny and Call Me Mister. His most popular songs were “(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings,” “South America, Take It Away,” and “Wish You Were Here.”

Rome was the son of Louis and Ida Aronson Rome; his father was president of the Conn. Coal Co. He attended Trinity Coll. in Hartford from 1924 to 1926, then transferred to Yale, earning a B.A. degree in 1929. He attended Yale Law School for a year, 1929–30, then transferred to the Yale School of Architecture and received a B.F.A. in 1934. He studied music with Lehman Engel and John Colman, and composition with Reuven Kosakoff, Tom Timoth, and Joseph Schillinger, and he played piano in dance bands to help pay for his education. After graduating he got a job in an architectural firm in N.Y. but continued to augment his income playing piano.

Rome gave up his architectural job in 1935 to become musical director at the Green Mansions resort in War-rensburg, N.Y. There he produced musical revues during the summers of 1935, 1936, and 1937. After his first year he was commissioned by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to write songs for an amateur revue to be performed by union members. The first performance of the revue, Pins and Needles, took place on June 14, 1936, but it did not open in a Broadway theater until nearly a year and a half later. It then became a phenomenal success, running 1, 108 performances and being constantly updated to maintain its topicality. “Sunday in the Park” from the score reached the hit parade in April 1938 for the Hudson-DeLange Orch.

With Pins and Needles still running, Rome was hired to write the songs for another revue, Sing Out the News, in 1938. The show, for which he also cowrote the libretto, ran 105 performances and spawned a hit in “F.D.R. Jones,” recorded by Ella Fitzgerald.

Rome married radio advertising writer Florence M. Miles on Feb. 3, 1939; they had two children. He joined the army in 1943 and spent the rest of the war years writing songs for military shows including Stars and Gripes and Lunchtime Follies, which were performed at U.S. bases and defense facilities, and Skirts, which ran in London. He had a rare song not from a stage show in “(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings” (adapted from “Ma Mie,” music by Henri Herpin, original French lyrics by Jean Marie Blanvillain), which became a Top Ten hit for Johnnie Johnston in March 1945 and was used in the movie musical Anchors Aweigh, released in July.

Rome’s next Broadway revue, Call Me Mister (1946), touched on the topical subject of returning servicemen. It ran 734 performances and generated two outside hits, both of which were released before the opening date. “South America, Take It Away” was a Top Ten, million- selling record for Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, and “Along with Me” made the charts for Margaret Whiting. A movie version released in early 1951 retained only three songs from the stage show.

Rome succeeded with a book musical in the summer of 1952 with Wish You Were Here, which ran 598 performances and generated a chart-topping single by Eddie Fisher with the title song and a Top Ten cast album. An even longer run—888 performances—was enjoyed by 1954’s Fanny, which also spawned a Top Ten cast album. A 1961 nonmusical movie version retained Rome’s songs largely as background music, but the soundtrack album spent nearly three months in the charts.

Paul Anka scored a Top 40 hit with his revival of “(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings” in December 1958, a feat repeated by Mel Carter seven years later. Rome returned to Broadway in April 1959 with Destry Rides Again, which ran 472 performances. Three years later came I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which ran 300 performances and is best remembered as the Broadway debut of Barbra Streisand in a minor role. The Zulu and the Zayda, which ran for 179 performances starting in November 1965, was billed as a play with music, but it contained as many songs as the average musical.

Rome was commissioned to write the songs for a musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind in Japan, resulting in the three-month run of Scarlett in Tokyo at the start of 1970. A revised version of the show, retitled Gone with the Wind, had a run of 397 performances in London starting in May 1972 and played a U.S. tour starting Aug. 28, 1973, in Los Angeles, but never reached Broadway. Rome died of a stroke at 85 in 1993.


(only works for which Rome was a primary, credited composer and/or lyricist are listed): Musicals/ Revues/Plays (dates refer to N.Y. openings unless otherwise noted): Pins and Needles (Nov. 27, 1937); Sing Out the News (Sept. 24, 1938); Let Freedom Ring (Oct. 5, 1942); Call Me Mister (April 18, 1946); Alive and Kicking (Jan. 17, 1950); Bless You All (Dec. 14, 1950); Wish You Were Here (June 25, 1952); Fanny (Nov. 4, 1954); Destry Rides Again (April 23, 1959); I Can Get It for You Wholesale (March 22, 1962); The Zulu and the Zayda (Nov. 10, 1965); la Grosse Valise (Dec. 14, 1965); Scarlett (Tokyo, Jan. 3, 1970); Gone with the Wind (revised version of Scarlett; London, May 3, 1972; Los Angeles, Aug. 28, 1973). FILMS: Call Me Mister (1951); Fanny (1961).


F. Rome (his wife), The Scarlett Letters (N.Y., 1971).

—William Ruhlmann

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Rome, Harold (Jacob)

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