Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds

Museum of Modern Art

Opened and closed “Isn’t It Romantic? Richard Rodgers at the Movies”

Reel Music Film Festival

Portland, Oregon

Chicago International Film Festival

Gold Plaque

Worldfest, Houston

Gold Special Jury Award

CINE Golden Eagle

International Festival of Film on Art

Montreal, Canada

Museum of Television & Radio, New York

World Premiere


Premiere national broadcast: November 4, 2001


Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds is the definitive portrait of the most prolific composer of Broadway musicals. Newsday’s Noel Holston put the two-hour American Masters PBS production on his 10 Best List, writing, “As memorable and moving as any musical drama you will see and hear anywhere, Broadway included.” Tom Shales declared in The Washington Post: “One of the most edifying television events of the year.” And Dorothy Rabinowitz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, called it “an extraordinary film biography, perhaps the best ever produced in the American Masters series.”

In live music sessions, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Billy Taylor, Maureen McGovern, Mary Cleere Haran, and Richard Rodney Bennett musically demonstrate Rodgers’s genius. They speak eloquently about the composer, as do Julie Andrews, Celeste Holm, Shirley Jones, Diahann Carroll, Barbara Cook, John Lahr, Ethan Mordden, and Adam Guettel. Also, Rodgers’s daughters, Mary and Linda, candidly describe their father’s alcoholism and depression. There are rare film clips featuring Rodgers talking about his life and work. And, of course, there are the musicals.

Running time: 120 minutes.

  • Roger Sherman, Producer and Director
  • Laurence Maslon, Writer
  • Kris Liem, Editor
  • Sally Rosenthal, Associate Producer
  • Teese Gohl, Music Arranger and Producer
  • Tony Roberts, Narrator
  • Buddy Squires, Terry Hopkins, Directors of Photography
  • Prudence Glass, Senior Producer
  • Susan Lacy, Executive Producer

What the Critics Had to Say

“10 BEST LIST:  The Sweetest Sounds is an extraordinary achievement. [It’s] as memorable and moving as any musical drama you will see and hear anywhere, Broadway included.” — Neil Holston, Newsday

“An extraordinary film biography, perhaps the best ever produced in the American Masters series.” — Dorothy Rabinowitz, The Wall Street Journal

“This elegant homage is affectionate but doesn’t ignore the grim side of the man with the astonishing musical gift. … The deeper pleasures of The Sweetest Sounds come from the documentary’s exploration of the music: how it was created and what it has come to mean to performers, composers, choreographers, and those of us who simply love listening to it. And what the music meant to Rodgers himself, a man his daughters felt to be unknowable.” — Julie Salamon, The New York Times

The Sweetest Sounds accomplishes the near impossible. This biography boasts songs in satisfying abundance. It is a joyful primer of a nation’s values as captured in irresistible song.” — Frazier Moore, The Associated Press

Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds, one of the most edifying television events of the year, comes closest to being definitive. Compressing his astonishing life and career into two hours was a challenge for producer-director Roger Sherman, but he’s done a remarkably satisfying job. His documentary isn’t just a perfunctory chronological recitation of hits. He brings in guest experts like Andrew Lloyd Webber to explain the technical excellence of Rodgers’s music. In addition to the invaluable insights of Rodgers’s daughters, illuminating commentary comes from such authorities as critic John Lahr, musicologist Jonathan Schwartz, Julie Andrews, Maureen McGovern, conductor John Mauceri, jazzman Billy Taylor, Celeste Holm, and celebrated theatrical director Trevor Nunn.” — Tom Shales, The Washington Post

“A number of thoughtful analyses by music historians, theater historians, and critics punctuate a splendid two-hour PBS tribute to Rodgers. The program goes well beyond the kitsch and corn of the song lyrics and the praise for the melodies from some of today’s leading vocalists. It ventures into the ugly underside of the composer’s life to chronicle his depression, alcoholism, and womanizing, and his ultimate failure to find the sort of happiness his work delivered to others.” — Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post

“But it’s more than just a two-hour tribute. Methodically and often brilliantly, this American Masters biography explores what conductor John Mauceri calls the ‘fundamental river of sadness’ that ran through both the man and some of his best work.” — Joanne Weintraub, The Sentinel (syndicated)

“The well-edited, well-directed docu from Thirteen/WNET is an irresistible account. Producer-director Roger Sherman does an excellent job, helming a docu that flows exceedingly well.” — The Hollywood Reporter

Richard Rodgers: The Sweetest Sounds

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