SOMEWHERE THERE’S MUSIC: NANCY HAMILTON, THE OLD GIRLS’ NETWORK, AND THE AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATRE OF THE 1930S AND 1940S
Rothman, Korey R.
Nathans, Heather S
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Nancy Hamilton, a Broadway lyricist, playwright, actress, screenwriter, and Academy Award-winning filmmaker, is an important unsung figure of the twentieth century musical theatre. Although she is now remembered chiefly as the lyricist of the song "How High the Moon" and, in the recent drive to recover gay and lesbian history, the life-long romantic partner of "first lady of the American stage," Katharine Cornell, Hamilton was a successful lyricist of the intimate revue, a genre of musical theatre that flourished during the 1930s. Her intimate revues One for the Money (1939) and Two for the Show (1940) launched the careers of luminaries of stage and screen, including Alfred Drake, Gene Kelly, and Betty Hutton, and Three to Make Ready (1946), which featured Ray Bolger, ran for an impressive 323 performances. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Hamilton maintained a constant presence as employer or employee on Broadway, and it appeared that she thrived by surrounding herself with an Old Girls' Network of women with whom she maintained overlapping professional and romantic relationships. This previously unchronicled Old Girls' Network, which included women such as Katharine Hepburn, Beatrice Lillie, and Mary Martin, countered the established Old Boys' Network of popular entertainment and launched the careers of many well-known women performers, producers, directors, composers, and lyricists. Yet, even with the support of this network, Hamilton could barely sustain her career after the 1940s. This dissertation considers the successes and failures of Hamilton's career and suggests that Hamilton offers a fascinating case study that allows the historian to map a larger network of women on Broadway. The dissertation further considers how the story of Nancy Hamilton and her circle offers historians an opportunity to expand their analysis of American musical theatre to explore how a woman could use the "bottom-most" aspects of her identity -- her gender and (at times) sexuality -- to create a subaltern network and establish a career on Broadway. It further encourages musical theatre scholars to re-think the ways in which they document and tell the history of women in the musical theatre.