Throughout the history of U.S. entertainment, only 12 people have won at least one Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Only two people have won all four awards in addition to a Pulitzer Prize — one being the late Marvin Hamlisch.
Hamlisch, a renowned composer and conductor, found success in Hollywood for “The Way We Were,” for which he received two Golden Globes and two Oscars, as well as “Sweet Smell of Success” and dozens of other American films, plays and shows.
An upcoming Columbus Museum of Art exhibition, “Remembering Marvin Hamlisch: The People’s Composer,” will honor Hamlisch’s memory through photographs by New York photographer Len Prince, who is set to publish a book of the same title. The exhibit will be open Friday through Sept. 6.
Hamlisch’s widow, Terre Blair Hamlisch, is a Columbus native and former news anchor for local TV station ABC6-WSYX.
“I think Columbus has had a long love affair with Hamlisch, as has most of the country,” said CMA executive director Nannette Maciejunes. Coincidentally, the Short North Stage is putting on a production this week of Hamlisch’s “A Chorus Line,” which won nine Tonys and gave Hamlisch the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Using only four notes, Hamlisch also composed the theme music used in “Good Morning America” for its first 12 years on the air. He held the position of principal pops conductor in 10 symphony orchestras across the country, and was a guest conductor for many more, including the Columbus Symphony, Carol Luper, the Hamlischs’ longtime friend and retired ABC6-WSYX reporter, said.
“I had a half-hour show that he would come on when he came to town, and he was the best because he had incredible stories and a sense of humor,” Luper said. “Marvin’s heart was the biggest. He was brilliant in so many ways but also down to earth, and maybe in the exhibit people will see that.”
Before his death in August 2012 at age 68, Hamlisch’s last musical projects were for the movies “The Informant!” and “Behind the Candelabra,” which were both Steven Soderbergh films that starred Matt Damon.
When Prince took Hamlisch’s portrait in 2012, they met him for the first and last time.
“As I peered through the ground glass of my large format camera, I recognized his kindness, generosity and that I was in the presence of a true genius,” Prince said. “Marvin Hamlisch will go down in history as one of the greatest American prolific composers that ever lived, like (George) Gershwin.”
Prince — who has photographed many celebrities, including Kate Hudson, Spike Lee and Missy Elliot — has now photographed several Hamlisch tributes around the nation, he said, including a tribute concert to Marvin Hamlisch held at the Juilliard School, Hamlisch’s alma mater. Maciejunes said the images in the exhibition all feature Hamlisch and moments of tribute to him after his passing, and show famous personalities like Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Idina Menzel.
“I hope that I have humbly captured even a small bit of the essence of this great man … and just how much he was beloved by everyone he came in contact with,” Prince said.
The exhibition was put together in collaboration with the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, which is playing a concert in honor of Hamlisch this October at the McCoy Center in New Albany. A quartet will preview three songs at the CMA on the exhibit’s opening night, in addition to a talk by Prince and Blair Hamlisch, said Heather Garner, executive director and violist for NASO.
“The Hamlisch songbook is vast,” Garner said in an email. “It is timeless music performed on Broadway, the silver screen and everywhere in between. I am quite certain he could turn a melody from a Mahler symphony into a country lyric.”
Garner said that a NASO concert will take place Oct. 3 and 4 and will incorporate Prince’s photographs into the show. She added that Prince “has an incredible eye and has captured some beautiful moments in time. It will be touching for all of us that have been moved at some point in our lives by the music of the great Marvin Hamlisch.”
The exhibit features 148 photographs, although it was planned to be just a few dozen, Maciejunes and Luper said. When the CMA staff saw Prince’s portfolio, they couldn’t resist adding more to the collection.
“The toughest thing has been speaking about Marvin over the lump in my throat,” Luper said. “He was so large a presence in (my husband’s life and mine) … I hope the exhibition will show what a wonderful, generous genius he was.”