(born Dec. 7, 1879, Prague —died Nov. 12, 1972, Hollywood, Calif., U.S.) Czech-born U.S. composer. He studied under
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Arthur Hammerstein, the operetta's sponsor, frantically began to search for another composer. Not finding anyone who could compose as well as Herbert, Hammerstein settled on the almost unknown Friml due to his classical training. After a month of work, Friml produced a glittering score for what would be his first theatrical success. After the success of The Firefly, Friml followed with three more operettas that were successful, though not as successful as The Firefly. These were High Jinks (1913), Katinka (1915) and You're in Love (1917). He also contributed songs to a musical in 1915 entitled The Peasant Girl.
After Rose Marie's success came two other operettas, The Vagabond King in 1925, with lyrics by Brian Hooker and W.H. Post, and The Three Musketeers in 1928, with lyrics by P.G. Wodehouse and Clifford Grey, based on Dumas's famous swashbuckling novel. In addition, Friml contributed to Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies of 1921 and 1923.
Friml also wrote music for many films during the 1930s, often songs adapted from previous work. The Vagabond King, Rose Marie, and The Firefly were all made into films and included at least some of Friml's music. Oddly enough, his operetta version of The Three Musketeers was never filmed, despite the fact that the novel itself has been filmed many times - once as a musical with Don Ameche and The Ritz Brothers. Like his contemporary, Ivor Novello, Friml was sometimes ridiculed for the sentimental and insubstantial nature of his compositions and often dubbed as trite. Friml was also criticized for the old-fashioned, Old World sentiments found in his works. By the end of the 1930s, Friml had fallen out of fashion.
In a November 1939 issue of Time magazine Friml claimed that Victor Herbert communicated to him through a Ouija board. He said that Herbert told him, "Play five notes." After he played them he said Herbert responded, "Quite charming.
His two sons also worked as musicians. Rudolf Jr. was a big band leader in the 1930s and 40s, and William, a son from a later marriage, was a composer and arranger in Hollywood. In 1969, Friml was celebrated by Ogden Nash on the occasion of his 90th birthday in a couplet which ended: "I trust your conclusion and mine are similar: 'Twould be a happier world if it were Frimler." Friml died in Los Angeles in 1972 and was interred in the "Court of Honor" at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. On August 18, 2007, a death notice in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Kay Wong Ling Friml (born March 16, 1913), last wife of Rudolf, died on August 9 and would be buried with him in Forest Lawn.
Satircal songwriter Tom Lehrer made a reference to Friml on his first album, Songs by Tom Lehrer (1953). The song "The Wiener Schnitzel Waltz" includes the lyric, "Your lips were like wine (if you'll pardon the simile) / The music was lovely, and quite Rudolf Friml-y."