Jay Blackton, one of Broadway’s most distinguished conductors, died Saturday in Los Angeles of a heart attack. He was 84.
An alumnus of the Juilliard School of Music, Blackton, born Jacob Schwartzdorf, gained acclaim while resident conductor at the St. Louis Municipal Opera from 1937-42.
Impressed by his work, Oscar Hammerstein II brought him to Broadway as musical director for “Sunny River,” which led to Blackton’s conducting the first Rodgers and Hammerstein collaboration, “Oklahoma!”
One of Irving Berlin’s favorite musical directors, Blackton conducted the composer’s last four shows: “Annie Get Your Gun,””Miss Liberty,””Call Me Madam” and “Mr. President.” His other musicals include “Wish You Were Here,””Happy Hunting,””Redhead” and “George M.”
Blackton was musical director for the film versions of three celebrated stage shows, “The Merry Widow,””Guys and Dolls” and “Oklahoma!”
He won an Oscar for best scoring of a musical film for “Guys and Dolls.”
His extensive television work includes the famous Ethel Merman-Mary Martin duet on the “Ford Anniversary Show.”
Survivors include his wife, a son, a daughter and grandson.