Arnold Sundgaard, a playwright and librettist whose work appeared on Broadway and in opera halls across the U.S., died Oct. 22 at his home in Dallas of congestive heart failure. He was 96.
To musical fans, Mr. Sundgaard was best known for collaborating with Kurt Weill on the 1948 folk opera Down in the Valley; with Fritz Kreisler and John Latouche on the 1944 operetta Rhapsody, in which he co-wrote the book with Leonard Louis Levinson; and with Victor Ziskin on the short-lived The Young Abe Lincoln, which began Off-Broadway and transferred to Broadway in 1961 for a short run.
A young T. Edward Hambleton produced his plays The First Crocus, in 1942, and The Great Campaign with ANTA in 1947. Each lasted only five performances. Mr. Sundgaard's first Broadway play was Everywhere I Roam, a collaboration with playwright Marc Connelly. The large-cast production, also directed by Connelly, ran 13 performances in 1938 and 1939.
Mr. Sundgaard is also responsible, for better or worse, for the enduring popularity of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” According to the Dallas Morning News, he discovered the forgotten tune while researching an episode about the Civil War for the CBS television series "Omnibus." The copyright had expired and the song was in the public domain. It was used in the show, and bandleader Mitch Miller happened to hear it. Miller recorded a new version of the tune, which became a national sensation and remains a virtual anthem for the state of Texas. Miller then copyrighted the song and made a mint.
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