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Life and career
Hammerstein was the son of Oscar Hammerstein II, and his Australian-born second wife, Dorothy Kiaora (née Blanchard). He had four half-siblings, two through each of his parents' earlier marriages: William and Alice Hammerstein, and Henry and Susan Jacobson. The best known of these was Susan, whose husbands included Henry Fonda and Richard Widmark.
Hammerstein attended the George School in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where he met fellow student Stephen Sondheim. He began his Broadway career as a stage manager, notably for shows such as South Pacific, Me and Juliet, and Flower Drum Song, all co-written by his father Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers. The first play he produced was Blue Denim, by James Leo Herlihy and William Noble, and the first play he directed was the comedy Absence of a Cello in 1964. The New York Times wrote: "James Hammerstein has staged the piece with a great deal of verve." His other directing credits include The Indian Wants the Bronx, Wise Child and Butley.
Hammerstein directed the New York City Opera production of The Sound of Music in 1990. He co-directed the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical State Fair in 1996. Among the other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals he directed were Oklahoma! (London and Australia), The King and I (Tel Aviv, US and UK tours), and Carousel.
For many years he directed staged readings of notable playwrights, such as Jeff Wanshel, Ron Cowan, and Werner Liepolt as "American Triptych," under the auspices of George White and Lloyd Richards' National Playwrights Conference at the O'Neill Memorial Theater Center in Waterford, Conn.
Hammerstein was nominated for the 1997 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical Revue for I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (as producer)  and the 1990 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical for The Sound of Music.
Hammerstein had one child (Oscar Andrew) with his first wife Basia, two children (Will and Jennifer) with his second wife Millette Alexander and one child (Simon) with his third wife Dena (Geraldine Sherman). He died in Manhattan after suffering a heart attack.
- "Sondheim timeline" artsedge.kennedy-center.org[dead link]
- Taubman, Howard. "The Theater: 'Absence of a Cello'", The New York Times, September 22, 1964, p.45
- Rockwell, John. "Review/Music; 'Sound of Music' Takes On The Icons of a Heroic Past", The New York Times, March 9, 1990, Section C; p.3
- Canby, Vincent. "Theater Review.Farm-Family Values of Mid-40's Iowa" The New York Times, March 28, 1996
- "Biographies" rnh.com, accessed May 24, 2012
- "Drama Desk Picks Performers, Presenters & Venue, May 18" playbill.com, May 13, 1997
- Jones, Kenneth. Producer-director James Hammerstein, Son of Oscar Hammerstein II, Dead at 67 playbill.com, January 7, 1999