Rudolf Friml was born on December 7, 1879, to Frank and Marie Slavinska Friml in Prague. After displaying high proficiency at the piano, his family accumulated enough funds for him to begin musical training at the Prague Conservatory. As the result of an outstanding performance on his entrance exams, Friml was accepted into the 3rd year of a 6-year course of study. He studied with Antonín Dvořák and graduated in 1896. For the next eight years, he accompanied violinist Jan Kubelik in recitals across Europe and the United States. He returned to the U.S. alone, making his debut performance in America as a pianist-composer on November 17, 1904, at Carnegie Hall. Friml decided to remain in the States and, over the next 7 years, worked as a successful music teacher and composer. He married his first wife, Mathilde Baruch, in 1909.
Renowned Broadway producer Arthur Hammerstein hired Rudolf Friml in 1911 to compose music for the operetta The Firefly, after the departure of its original composer, Victor Herbert. This would be Friml's first theatrical success; The Firefly ran for 120 performances. Between 1912 and 1924, he composed numerous operettas including High Jinks, Katinka, You're in Love, and Sometime. During this time, Mathilde divorced him and he married Blanch Betters, but that marriage dissolved in 1918. A year later, he married Elsie Lawson (the two would later divorce). In 1922, Rudolf Friml wrote L'Amour, Toujours L'amour -- Love Everlasting, which was recorded multiple times, and later became the title of a biographical play by his friend and lyricist Dailey Paskman.
Rudolf Friml’s most successful operetta, Rose-Marie, ran on Broadway for 550 performances in 1924. He continued to write musicals until the failure of his final two productions, Luana and Music Hath Charms, in 1930 and 1934, respectively. After moving to Hollywood in 1934, he spent some 15 years helping adapt his operettas for film. In 1957, he married his fourth wife, Kay Wong Ling, a woman who had been his secretary. His later years were spent composing concert music and performing in the United States and Europe. Rudolf Friml was a charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). His compositions tend to be remembered for their fine melodies and sentimental qualities.