Stamps of Approval
By Tim P. Cross

Big movie stars. Famous songwriters. Columbia College alumni. Where can you find all three together? How about your local post office? In recent months, the U.S. Postal Service has issued first-class stamps commemorating Oscar Hammerstein II '16, Lorenz Hart '18, James Cagney '22, and Richard Rodgers '23.

On July 22, a stamp featuring James Cagney (1899-1986) was unveiled at a gala ceremony at the Burbank, Calif. studio of Warner Bros., where the actor made more than 40 films. A self-described "song-and-dance man," Cagney began his show business career in vaudeville and eventually appeared in more than 60 films, ranging from The Public Enemy (1931) and Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), to Ragtime (1981), his last film. The stamp dedication ceremony was followed by a special screening of Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), for which Cagney earned a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Broadway legend George M. Cohan. In 1974, Cagney became the first actor to receive the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award. In 1984, he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.

The Cagney commemorative is part of the Postal Service's "Legends of Hollywood" series, which also has featured Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, and Alfred Hitchcock. The Postal Service will print more than 75 million James Cagney stamps.

On September 21, the six-stamp Broadway Songwriters commemorative panel honoring nine lyricists and composers, including Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein II, was unveiled at a ceremony at the Broadhurst Theatre on 44th Street in Manhattan. A gifted and inventive lyricist, Hart (1895-1943) is best remembered for his collaborations with Rodgers (1902-1979), which included the songs "My Funny Valentine" from the musical Babes in Arms (1937) as well as "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "I Could Write a Book" from Pal Joey (1940). Rodgers later teamed up with Hammerstein (1895-1960) to create a series of hugely successful musicals notable for their integration of music and plot, including Oklahoma (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1945), which won the Pulitzer Prize, The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959).

The Postal Service will print 44.5 million copies of the six-stamp panel. The Broadway Songwriters panel is the final addition to the Legends of American Music series, which already has honored artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Dizzy Gillespie.

Both the James Cagney and the Broadway Songwriters stamps were designed by Howard Paine. Thomas Blackshear illustrated the Cagney stamp, while Drew Struzan illustrated the Broadway Songwriters stamps.

If you can't find these stamps at your local post office, you may order them on-line from the Postal Service at

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