William Hammerstein, director, producer and member of the illustrious American theater family that included his father, legendary lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, died Friday in Connecticut of complications following a stroke suffered Jan. 6. He was 82.
He was born in New York City, first in the fourth generation of the prominent family. He began his professional career as stage manager at the Saint Louis Municipal Opera, moving on to Broadway and road productions.
Hammerstein established and managed the New York City Center Light Opera Co., for which he was recognized with a special Tony Award in 1957. On Broadway he produced Garson Kanin’s “A Gift of Time,” starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland, and Neil Simon’s first play, “Come Blow Your Horn.”
As a director, his credits included numerous productions at New York City Center, the 1956 London premiere of “Fanny,” and the 1979 Broadway revival and U.S. national tour of “Oklahoma!” the landmark musical written by his father and Richard Rodgers.
For television, he produced “The Bell Telephone Hour,” “The Arthur Godfrey Show” and various network specials.
Until shortly before his death, Hammerstein was active in the management of the theatrical and music publishing interests included in the legacy of his father and was the Hammerstein family rep with the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.
He was also a director of the American Theatre Wing and served on the Tony Awards administration and management committees.
He is survived by his wife, Jane-Howard Hammerstein; three daughters; six grandchildren; two great grandchildren; and two sisters.