William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Rudolf Friml Collection, 1901-1968
Duane Norman Diedrich CollectionFinding aid created by
Cheney J. Schopieray, October 2007
Rudolf Friml collection
Diedrich, D. N. (Duane Norman)
0.5 linear feet
The collection of composer Rudolf Friml (1879-1972) contains correspondence, documents, manuscript and printed sheet music, drafts of plays, and other miscellaneous material related to Friml and his frequent lyricist, Dailey Paskman (1897-1979).
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
Donated by D. N. Diedrich, 1986-2007. M-2287, M-2291, M-2311, M-3109, M-3198, M-4077, M-4338.9, M-4306.5, M-4547.11, M-4600.15, M-4600.19, M-4622.29-.33, M-4622.84.
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
Rudolf Friml Collection, Duane Norman Diedrich Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
- Series I: Correspondence and Documents
- Series II: Photographs
- Series III: Drafts and Notes for Plays
- Kiss Me, Kate!
- Love Everlasting: The Rudolf Friml Story
- Series IV: Manuscript and Printed Sheet Music
- Series V: Ephemera and Miscellaneous
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.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The papers of Rudolf Friml are made up of 27 letters and documents, 34 photographs, printed sheet music and musical manuscripts related to over 60 works, drafts and notes for plays, theater ephemera, and other miscellaneous materials.
The 27 letters and documents of the Rudolf Friml collection follow two primary threads: Legal issues surrounding Rudolf Friml and Dailey Paskman's music, and the business, activities, and thoughts of Friml (expressed through letters to Paskman). The former topic is represented by documents regarding copyright and motion picture rights sales for High Jinks and Katinka to MGM; Annina to G. Schirmer; and Hawaiian Melody to Robbins Music Corporation, and a plagiarism claim pertaining to Kiss Me, Kate!
Three of seven documents, dated in the early months of 1949, relate the following information: Paskman and Friml suggested writing a musical version of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew in 1946 and proceeded to write a script. This script was submitted to Lee Shubert with the title Kiss Me, Kate! In 1948, another play entitled Kiss Me, Kate! opened on Broadway (with music and lyrics by Cole Porter). According to an LA Times article of January 9, 1949, the idea for this second Kiss Me, Kate! was conceived of and partly produced by Arnold Saint Subber, an ex-office boy of Lee Shubert. Despite the suggestion that Subber stole the idea for the play, legal council Edward C. Raftery informed Friml and Paskman that they could not prosecute the newer production based on copyright law.
In 18 letters and postcards from Rudolf Friml to Dailey Paskman (dated from 1954 to 1968), Friml discusses a variety of personal and business subjects. He considers difficulties encountered while writing Vagabond King (1954) and ideas for Rendezvous in Paris (1956). He also talks about Rose-Marie and Firefly. Some of the letters were written on personal stationary and a few contain musical quotations. Rudolf Friml authored the bulk of this correspondence while on different trips to Spain, France, Germany, and Switzerland. In one letter he stresses the importance of the sincerity of love in musical theatre (particularly regarding a proposed script in which the King of Wales loses his ring):
Take my advice and 'dickup' something where music predominate with beautiful Background -- and where love is sincere -- even thow disapointing -- in some parts -- with happy ending -- We all like happy ending -- It must be about something which is dear to us -- friendship love -- sacrifice -- forgiveness -- appreciation -- and not just 'a ring.' (October 3, [1950s?])
The 34 photographs of the Friml Collection include three items of particular significance: One signed cabinet card portrait photograph of Rudolf Friml as a young man (taken by H. Eckert in Prague); one undated group photograph of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), signed by Victor Herbert, Irving Berlin, Rudolf Friml, and others; and one 8x10 group photograph of U.S. Senator Roman Hruska (Neb.), Rudolf Friml, Kay Friml, Danny Kaye, Dailey Paskman, and an unidentified man. This third photograph is signed by Hruska, the Frimls, and Paskman. The remaining images include a photograph and enlargement of Rudolf Friml and Dailey Paskman standing on the grounds of Friml's home in Palm Desert, California; one photograph and enlargement of Friml signing photographs at Smetana Concert Hall in Prague, November 1959; one photo enlargement of Rudolf and Kay Friml (undated); 21 professional promotional photographs (most of them taken after radio broadcast by Voice of America in Washington, D.C.); and 5 other professional portraits.
The Rudolf Friml collection contains over 60 different songs and manuscript musical quotations, written from 1901 to the 1960s. Many of these pieces are present in multiple copies, illustrating various stages of the music writing process. A number of the works are represented only by Friml's manuscript music, while others also have words penciled in. Manuscript lyric notes by Paskman accompany many of the sheets and some are present only as final published copies. A selection of titles include: Jen trochu lásky, I Know the Loveliest of the Lovely, Darling, Je Vous Adore, A Happy New Year to You, Adorable (aka Lovely You), Amour Coquet, Swanee The River Road to Heaven, Holiday for Love, Somewhere in My Heart, Never Say Good-Bye, Valse Christine, and others. Two published collections of music and three technique books (by Friml) are also included.
Drafts and notes for two plays by Dailey Paskman and Rudolf Friml are present in the collection. Related to Kiss Me, Kate!: Notes on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, a 97-page manuscript draft of the Paskman and Friml's Kiss Me, Kate!, and typed copies of the final draft (c. 1947-1948). These manuscripts are especially significant, given the plagiarism accusations of Friml and Paskman as outlined above. The papers also include 173 pages of manuscript notes for The Friml Story: Love Everlasting by Dailey Paskman, and a 42-page typed and registered copy of the re-named Love Everlasting, based on the Life and Music of Rudolf Friml.
Miscellaneous additional material in the collection includes five printed theater programs and souvenir books with performances of Friml's music, 1914-1962. Among the pieces performed: Exodus to Hong Kong, Tarantella: Slavonic Rhapsody, High Jinks, Rose-Marie, The Three Musketeers, and The Vagabond King. A Variety magazine advertisement celebrates Friml's 50 years with ASCAP. Three printed catalogues list copyrighted musical works (from Irving Berlin, Inc., ABC Standard Music Publications, and Leo Feist, Inc.).
- American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP)
- Berger, August.
- Composers--United States--20th Century.
- Copyright--Motion pictures.
- Copyright--United States.
- Copyright--United States--Cases.
- G. Schirmer, Inc.
- Lyricists--United States--20th Century.
- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corporation.
- Musical theater--United States.
- Musicals--United States.
- Musicals--Writing and Publishing.
- Operetta--United States.
- Performing Arts.
- Raftery, Edward C.
- Robbins Music Corporation.
- Rosenbloom, Milton M.
- American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
- Friml, Kay Wong Ling.
- Friml, Rudolf, 1879-1972.
- Hruska, Roman Lee, 1904-1999.
- Kaminsky, David Daniel (Danny Kaye), 1913-1987.
- Friml, Rudolf, 1879-1972.
- Paskman, Dailey, 1897-1979.
- Legal documents.
- Sheet music.
Additional Descriptive Data
Ewen, David. American Songwriters: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary (New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987).