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Film Appreciation... Silent Pictures

Elmer Bernstein
(1922 - present)

Bernstein is the ideal film composer, not only is he a pianist and composer he has at different times been an actor and dancer. A prolific composer his work has run the gamut, from scores for such light musical comedies as his Oscar-winning Thoroughly Modern Millie, to lyrical Irish ballads such as My Left Foot, all the way to what his possibly his most familiar work, the soundtrack for the quintessential Western film The Magnificent Seven. When combined with his earlier efforts, composing scores for United Nations radio programs and television and industrial documentaries, and his most recent efforts (which has included such diverse offerings as Ghostbusters and The Age of Innocence) Bernstein has proven himself to one of the American cinema's most versatile composers, able to handle an enormous range of film styles with astounding adeptness.  (Stockton / Twyman)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations

Danny Elfman
(1954 - present)

One of the best film composers in recent years, Elfman got his big break composing the film score for Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985). The film marked Elfman's long term association with director Tim Burton for whom he has subsequently scored numerous other films including Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), and Edward Scissorhands (1990). He is known for his wide use of synthesizers to create scores that add a playful touch. The best example of such playfulness in his music is the theme for Matt Groening's hit TV show "The Simpsons." Some of his other well-known film scores include musical compositions for such films as Weird Science (1985) (title song), Dick Tracy (1990), The Nightmare Before Christmas, (1993), and his oscar nominated scores for Men In Black (1997), and Good Will Hunting (1997). His recent work includes scores for the remake of Planet of The Apes (2001) - which teamed him again with Elfman, Spiderman (2002), and Men In Black II (2002). (Stockton)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Jerry Goldsmith
(1929 - Present)

While Hollywood is plagued with untalented hacks that only produce clichés, there are those who create the masterpieces that will be copied later. One of those individuals is Jerry Goldsmith. At 72, he is one of the oldest names currently working in the field today. However he shows no signs of letting up and continues to actively teach and work within the industry.

Jerrald Goldsmith was born on February 10th, 1929, in Los Angeles, CA. He went to college at the University of Southern California (USC Film School) to attend classes in film composition taught by film great Miklos Rozsa (Ben Hur), piano lessons with Jacob Gimpel, and Composition, Theory and Counterpoint with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (who later taught John Williams). In 1950, Goldsmith was hired by CBS as a typist in the Music Department where he received his first opportunity to score serials and radio dramas on a weekly basis. He was a contract composer at CBS in the early 1960's when he was asked to score The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone brought Goldsmith into the public eye. Goldsmith came aboard in the second season of the show, filling the enormous void left by Bernard Herrmann. Already a legend in Hollywood, having scored the Alfred Hitchcock masterpieces Vertigo and North by Northwest, only made Goldsmith's task more daunting. Goldsmith quickly established a reputation for working under strict time and budget constraints, only having eight players at times where typical TV orchestras were four times a large. His most memorable score was "The Invaders," which showcased his avant-garde style by using strings, a piano, an organ, and a celeste in a striking, atonal style reminiscent of Planet of the Apes later in his career. Goldsmith's talent for creative orchestrations began to show with Duet; an episode set in the old west where Goldsmith uses a harmonica and guitar to create an uneasy atmosphere. Goldsmith later used a harpsichord and string ensemble in "Back There," a story where a time traveler tries to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The music for that episode enhanced the suspense so successfully that it was tracked and used again in the memorable "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" with William Shatner and later on with John Lithgow in Twilight Zone: The Movie.

After earning his 1st Academy Award nomination for Freud, his next big assignment was Franklin J. Schaffner 's Planet of the Apes in 1968 which earned Goldsmith his 4th Academy Award Nomination. In this score Goldsmith constructs one of the most original scores in film history and creates a sound unheard of from the orchestra. The only electronic instrument used in the score, which are prevalent in current film scores, was an Echoplex which made any sound sent through it echo like it was in a cave. Goldsmith utilized a Brazilian Cuika (a Brazilian drum head device with a rod inserted in the middle of it which produces imitates the sounds made by apes), for the first appearance of the Apes while hunting Charleton Heston and the primitive humans, brass instruments without mouthpieces, and bass clarinets clacking their keys. Goldsmith also weaved several complex piano lines into the film that were brought to life by his former piano instructor Jacob Gimpel. In what would become one of Hollywood's legendary director/composer relationships like Alfred Hitchcock/Bernard Herrmann and Steven Spielberg/John Williams, Schaffner and Goldsmith continued their relationship through seven additional movies including the Oscar nominated Papillion, Patton, and The Boys from Brazil.

Goldsmith's only Academy Award to date came from The Omen in 1976, a horror film starring Gregory Peck and directed by Richard Donner. The Omen won the Oscar for Best Original Score and was nominated for Best Original Song for Ave Satani, the main theme. The score featured yet another of Goldsmith's innovations used by others in horror movies, namely the satanic choir chanting in Latin. In the liner notes to the soundtrack CD Goldsmith remarked, "I wrote the main motif and the whole layout for the chorus in one day. And although I didn't need more than 16 bars of a love theme in the whole film, the bridge afforded me a motif that I web throughout the film." He also credits much of the choral work to his long time friend and orchestrator, the late Arthur Morton. "At least 65% of the choral writing was arranged by Arthur," he says, "and he opened it up in a way that sounded much better than the way I wrote it." This was also of the first score I had written that was conducted by the legendary Lionel Newman and performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra in London.

In 1978, he reunited with Newman and the National Philharmonic Orchestra for Ridley Scott's Alien. In one of his greatest film scores, Goldsmith took a modernistic approach to the score that bore resemblance to his earlier works, opposite to the Wagnerian technique of "leitmotif" that John Williams established for Star Wars in 1977. There is little tonality in the score as the main title is made up of string scratches, vibration echoes, low woodwind passages, and some percussion. To enhance the emotionless atonality, Goldsmith utilized several rare instruments like the serpent, didjerido, shaum, and log drums, enhancing the "alien" effect of the movie.

Unfortunately, Alien also featured one of the most famous editing jobs in Hollywood, second only to Alex North's deleted score to 2001: A Space Odyssey, as a result of Ridely Scott's temp score. As Goldsmith explained in The Alien Trilogy CD liner notes, "Directors and editors use temporary music tracks and sometimes it's the kiss of death for a composer. They had been living with this music for months, and they were use to it." As a result, half of the music was placed in other sections in the film than Goldsmith intended. There was a sequence in the movie that was tracked with music from Goldsmith's Academy Nominated score Freud that Ridely Scott bought and used in the film.

The original main title theme, which Goldsmith preferred, used the same motif that was present when the Nostromo landed on LV-426, providing a break in the harsh score. While some say the new main title was a better choice for the film, all agree that the end title that was deleted in favor of Howard Hanson's Symphony No. #2, which bore no relation to the movie, was a mistake. The end title was a reprise of the motif from the Nostromo landing, but was developed into a stirring ballad to end the movie. Alien was released in 1979, and while Goldsmith was passed over for an Oscar nomination, he did receive a Golden Globe nomination. His other major score that year was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award is probably Goldsmith's most famous score: Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The production history behind Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a disaster. Script problems bogged down filming, forcing the producers to depend solely on the special effects to carry the second half of the movie. Recording the score with the Los Angeles Studio Symphony lasted from September 1979 to December 1st, six days before the December 7th release date. The addition of the effects forced Goldsmith to throw away nearly 25 minutes of music he had already produced, one of which was an alternate version of "The Enterprise." The V'Ger entity was personified in the music with an instrument called the blaster beam. The blaster beam consisted of polished artillery shells with motorized magnets on a 15-foot instrument. The result is a deep, thunderous sound that hasn't been heard since, giving V'Ger an unmistakably alien feel. In addition to the blaster beam, Goldsmith penned what may be his most famous theme in cinematic history: The Star Trek March, later used in the movie series and adapted for the main theme to Star Trek: The Next Generation.

During the 1980's, Goldsmith started experimenting with electronic and synthesizer effects. While they helped create some of his most memorable scores like The Final Conflict and Rambo: First Blood Part II, they also ruined several scores. King Solomon's Mines was one of the victims of this phase. Goldsmith wrote a frantic and upbeat score that came close to B-movie quality, doing little to enhance the movie (which earned him a Razzie Nomination for Worst Original Score). Oddly enough, this was the last "all-orchestral" score that Goldsmith wrote until 1995's First Knight.

The 1980's also showed the emergence of another composer's career: James Horner. The relationship between Horner and Goldsmith is much deeper than some may realize (Horner even dated one of Goldsmith's daughters). Horner was a young upstart during that time scoring Roger Corman movies. His big break was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the sequel to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While a sequel in the same universe would constitute some reuse, Horner used part of a cue from Alien as a basis for the sequence when Khan first attacks the Enterprise, but this was not an isolated incident. All through the 1980's, Horner borrowed several elements from Goldsmith's other scores, (notably Capricorn One) and wove them into his scores. While working on Aliens, Horner reused several parts of Goldsmith's Alien score (like the 'time' motif) and even used a recording of Goldsmith's score for a scene in the movie. Horner earned an Academy Award nomination for Aliens.

In the 1990's, Goldsmith's career stabilized to a level of mediocrity as a result of the films he was assigned to score. Throughout the decade, Goldsmith scored dramas like Sleeping with the Enemy and Rudy where mellow themes and slow passages which had the excepted norm. He returned to the Star Trek universe in 1997 and 1998 with First Contact (co-written with his son Joel as a result of production delays associated with The Ghost and the Darkness which ran much longer than expected) and Insurrection, but both scores lacked the energy of The Motion Picture and The Final Frontier. However, Goldsmith still had a couple of tricks up his sleeve. In 1990, he was hired to compose the score for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall that teamed him with director Paul Verhoeven for the first time.

Total Recall was the first in a line of movies Goldsmith made with Verhoeven and resulted in a score performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra in London. In what some refer to as 'The Ultimate Goldsmith Action Score,' the score was a culmination of Goldsmith merging his control of the orchestra and electronic effects. Verhoeven was so impressed with the score that he wanted to listen to the score. Their next movie was the Oscar nominated Basic Instinct in 1992.

As Christian Clemmenson at describes Basic Instinct, "Make no mistake about it, Jerry Goldsmith's ability to brilliantly capture the essence of an orgasm with the National Philharmonic Orchestra earned him his first Academy Award nomination in many years." In the Composer Commentary portion of the Hollow Man DVD, Goldsmith stated that he considers Basic Instinct to be one of his best scores and his most difficult. While trying to avoid the clichés associated with erotic thrillers, Goldsmith almost left the production because he could not find the musical essence of the movie. Verhoeven can be credited in part with the score's success because he often remarked, "This is good, but you can do better" during the spotting sessions, driving Goldsmith to the peaks of his ability and his first Oscar nomination since 1986. With Hollow Man in 2000, it is no wonder why many consider the Verhoeven/Goldsmith relationship as one of the greatest director/composer relationships in Hollywood with only three movies to their credit.

At the end of the 20th Century, Goldsmith's future looks bright. Arthur Hiller, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, commissioned Goldsmith to compose a theme for the Academy Awards ceremony in 1998, passing over several famous composers like John Williams for the honor. Several of his classic scores, for films including Total Recall, Planet of the Apes, and Twilight Zone: The Movie, are being re-released and expanded. He's signed on for several movies in 2001, and his son Joel is in the middle of composing the fourth season of the TV show Stargate: SG-1. In addition to his current assignments, Goldsmith will be performing with the London Symphony Orchestra on June 28, 2001 at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Even in his 70's, Goldsmith shows no sign of retirement.  (Daniel Henderson)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Bernard Herrmann
(1911 - 1975)

What can one possibly say about a man who began his cinematic career with the score for Citizen Kane and ended it with the score for Taxi Driver? What is certain is that Herrmann's music is an intrinsic element of every film upon which he worked. Certainly it is impossible to imagine Citizen Kane without the unifying strains of Herrmann’s score, but it is also impossible to overestimate the importance of his music to other films. Try for example to visualize the shower scene from Psycho without the shrieking violins that accompany it, or the Day the Earth Stood Still without his innovative use of the theremin, (the beloved electronic musical instrument that became an essential part of sci-fi films). More importantly try to name a horror film or science fiction film since, that hasn't "borrowed" Hermann’s techniques to enhance the viewer’s experiences.

One of the most original and distinctive composers ever to work in film, he is noted for using brief, easily recognizable themes, in direct contrast to what most of Hollywood was doing at the time. A prolific film composer who was sought after by many of Hollywood’s greatest directors, he was also a notoriously demanding perfectionist who was well known for completely ignoring these same directors requests! At one point he was alleged to have said that he did so because most directors didn't have a clue about music. A classic example of this occurred when he was working with the legendary director Sir Alfred Hitchcock on Psycho (1960). Hitchcock initially suggested that there should be no music included in the now legendary shower sequence a request Herrmann blithely ignored eventually presenting the director with a musical accompaniment that Hitchcock wisely chose to incorporate and the rest is, as they say, cinematic history. Although he and Hitchcock eventually had a falling out over the musical score for Torn Curtain, this did not happen before the two had collaborated on 9 different films. Indeed, many of his most memorable scores came about as a result this association. The two teamed up for The Trouble With Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man (1957), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963) - in which he utilized sounds rather than traditional music to make an impact), and Marnie (1964). Interestingly enough, he was subsequently hired by the legendary French director Francois Truffaut (a Hitchcock devotee and biographer), to score two of his films, Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and The Bride Wore Black (1968).

Over the years Herrmann was associated with such legendary directors as; Orson Welles - Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Robert Wise on The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Brian De Palma - Obsession (1976) and Sisters (1973), and Martin Scorsese - Taxi Driver (1976) and Cape Fear (1991).  (Twyman)

More information about Bernard Herrmann can be found at The Society for the Appreciation of the Music of Bernard Herrmann web site or from a viewing of Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann, a wonderful biographical documentary available at


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


James Horner
(1954 - present)

This London born composer initially studied at London's Royal College of Music and subsequently went on to earn a Ph.D. in Music Composition and Theory at UCLA. After a stint scoring student films for the American Film Institute in the late 1970's Horner went on to compose a series of memorable film scores that frequently integrate choral work into the orchestration and are often punctuated with a distinctive four-note trumpet blast which generally occurs during a significant moment in the film.

His ability to create musically versatile scores has made him a favorite of many of the world's best directors and has earned him numerous Academy Awards, Bafta's and Grammy's. Horner who has indicated that he was "influenced by Jerry Goldsmith's large orchestral scores," and the works of John Williams has compiled an impressive list of stirring music of his own that includes Braveheart (1995), and the song "Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail (1986), which received two Grammy Awards. His work has frequently enhanced science fiction films, such as Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Cocoon (1985), Aliens (1986), and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). He has also been associated with numerous comedies and dramas including the scores for Field of Dreams (1989), Glory (1989), Apollo 13 (1995), Titanic (1997), The Mask of Zorro (1998), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), and A Beautiful Mind (2001). (Stockton)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Maurice Jarre
(1924 - present)

This internationally famous French composer’s scores have accompanied a diverse group of films. He has been associated with some of the world’s preeminent directors from his work with Sir David Lean on Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Dr. Zhivago (1965), to his work with Sir Alfred Hitchcock on Topaz (1969), his brilliant score for Volker Schlondorff’s Tin Drum (1979), and his subsequent musical arrangement for the Australian director Peter Weir for his film’s Witness (1985), Dead Poet’s Society (1989), and Fearless (1993) Jarre continues to be a sought after composer.  (Stockton)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Henry Mancini
(1924 - 1994)

Mancini got his musical start when he sent a series of musical arrangements to Benny Goodman who promptly offered him a job. Following a stint in the armed services during WWII he joined the Glen Miller band which he continued to be associated with even after he went to work for Universal Studio’s in 1952. Universal initially hired him to work on an Abbott and Costello film but he ended up staying with them for an additional six years. It was Mancini’s success with The Glenn Miller Story (1954) that led to his work on countless other films. A prolific composer, he was nominated for 18 Oscars and went on to win four; he supplemented these with an additional 20 Grammy’s and 2 Emmys. The fact that Mancini completed over 50 albums while managing to compose so many memorable film and television scores is nothing short of remarkable. Indeed, he was the first composer to place soundtracks onto the record charts (a common occurrence today he was the first to achieve this)! It is important to note that Mancini’s contributions are not limited to simple critical and financial success. Mancini was also an innovative composer who is frequently credited with changing the style of the background music associated with early films by injecting jazz into the traditional orchestral arrangements of the 1950s.

Mancini’s collaboration with producer director Blake Edwards is considered to be one of the longest running and most successful in movie (and television) history. It began with TV's "Peter Gunn" in 1958 and continued through the duo’s subsequent collaborations on The Pink Panther (1963) and Victor/Victoria (1982). Indeed Mancini’s most enduring work is undeniably a result of their association. The theme from The Pink Panther (1963) was an instrumental hit when it was first released and it has continued to be utilized both the Pink Panther cartoons as well as in the successful sequels to the original feature.

He earned his first Academy Award nomination for The Glenn Miller Story (1954) and subsequently won two Oscars for scoring Breakfast at Tiffany's (1962), and won two additional Oscars for the title song for Days Of Wine and Roses (1962) and the score for Victor/Victoria (1982).   (Stockton / Twyman)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Alan Menken
(1949 - present)

Menken came by his love of music naturally. Raised in a family that revered music he grew up to the sounds of a diverse musical pallet that ranged from the classics (Beethoven and Brahms), to folk and rock music. Nonetheless it was his family’s passion for Broadway musicals that eventually became his musical focus. The fact that he grew up in suburban New Rochelle did not hurt his musical education, nor did a steady diet of Broadway show tunes. Indeed, his family regularly sang along to the tunes of Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin, and Lerner and Loewe.

After earning a degree in music from New York University, Menken supported himself by composing jingles and accompanying ballet classes all while performing his own compositions. His real career took off when he met Howard Ashman in 1979. At the time Ashman, was looking for a composer to work with him on a musical version of Kurt Vonnegot's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. There followed a series of musical collaborations not the least of which was their early success with Little Shop of Horrors.

Menken’s film credits include The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Newsies, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules. He has received numerous honors and award over the years including four Academy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards for Best Score, four Academy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards for Best Song ("Under the Sea," "Beauty and the Beast," "A Whole New World," "Colors of the Wind"). He has also been the recipient of 10 Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year ("A Whole New World"), a Billboard number one album (Pocahontas), and number one single ("A Whole New World"), not to mention an array of Tony awards for his work on Broadway. (Twyman)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Alfred Newman
(1901 - 1970)

Undoubtedly one of the most important musical composers who ever worked in Hollywood, Alfred Newman (no relationship to the Mad Magazine character), was at the very least one of the most prolific composers in the history of American film. During his 40-year career he either composed or was directly associated with over two hundred films. These films ran the gamut from musicals, to romances, to comedies and dramas.

Newman’s life could easily have been included in a compendium of Horatio Alger stories. Indeed one would be hard pressed to find a more classic rag’s to riches story than this. Newman’s family was dreadfully poor, and as the oldest of ten children the burden of bringing in additional money for the family was destined to become one of his responsibilities. In a twist of fate his mother obtained piano lessons for him when he was only six from a local house painter. The student was destined to quickly surpass his instructor and within a year he gave his first recital. Friends of the family quickly recognized his talent and obtained a scholarship for him with the legendary Polish pianist, Sigismond Stojowski, who offered him a scholarship. The child prodigy, was giving piano concerts by the time he was seven, and was working on Broadway as a conductor before he turned thirty.

Discovered in 1930 by legendary movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn he was eventually lured to Hollywood. One of his first compositions for Goldwyn was the evocative theme for the Depression-era Street Scene (1931). This hauntingly dramatic piece of music became synonymous with Hollywood depictions of New York City, and was subsequently reused numerous times in the decades that followed. The piece is probably best known by contemporary audiences as the overture from How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), which was performed by the 20th Century-Fox orchestra (not coincidentally this performance was captured in stereophonic sound and was conducted by Newman). He composed another frequently recycled score for Douglas Fairbanks' Mr. Robinson Crusoe (1932), the score gained fame when it was reused in The Hurricane (1937) and given the title "Moon of Manikoora."

During the course of his career Newman received 45 Academy Award nominations (he won 9 times). In classic Newman style he was nominated four times in 1939: for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Rains Came, They Shall Have Music, and Wuthering Heights only to loose when his multiple nominations ended up canceling one another out. Interestingly enough this was the same year in which another legendary composer’s memorable score was bypassed: Max Steiner's music for Gone With The Wind. For those inquiring minds who want to know what score could have eliminated such tough competition, the answer is the score from John Ford’s legendary “Stagecoach.” Fans of Newman and Steiner like to point out that the score was actually the product of four composers and that it went on to become the standard for western’s in the years that followed.

Newman won nine Academy Awards for Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), Tin Pan Alley (1940), The Song of Bernadette (1943), Mother Wore Tights (1947), With a Song in My Heart (1952), Call Me Madam (1953) - for which he was the musical director, Love Is A Many Splendored Thing (1955), The King and I (1956) - upon which he conducted and served as musical supervisor, and Camelot (1967, adaptation only)-and was nominated 36 other times! As so often happens, film-music buffs would argue (rather persuasively) that some of Newman's best scores were those that didn't win Oscars-like Wuthering Heights (1939), How Green Was My Valley (1941), and All About Eve (1950).

If one were pressed to attempt to analyze Newman’s trademarks his use of the high string sound would undoubtedly come up, as would his innate ability to extend themes throughout his scores. Nonetheless, much of the success of his musical scores lies in the performance itself. His conducting style has at it’s heart a mixture of sentiment and romantic turbulence. As precise as he was passionate all of Newman’s performances feature an intensity that is difficult if not impossible to duplicate. Indeed, Newman’s ability to maintain this intensity despite his use of slow tempos is unparalleled, and his style of rubato conducting, which varies the time value of notes and the stress upon them all combine to make Newman one of the most expressive composers and conductor s in the history of Hollywood.

His brother Lionel was a composer, conductor, and later musical director at Fox; brother Emil also composed scores at Fox in the 1940s before freelancing in the 1950s and 1960s. Alfred's sons David and Thomas are successful film composers in their own right. David's credits include Throw Momma From the Train (1987), The War of the Roses (1989), and The Freshman (1990); The Phantom (1996); Anistasia (1997) - for which he received an Academy Award Nomination, Galaxy Quest (1999); and Ice Age (2002). Thomas has received multiple Academy Award nominations for 1994's The Shawshank Redemption and Little Women; Unstrung Heroes (1995); and American Beauty (1999). Television viewers may also recognize his work on two popular television series Boston Public and Six Feet Under. Alfred and Lionel's nephew Randy Newman (see below), a successful pop composer/performer, has also written some notable film scores, including Ragtime (1981), The Natural (1984), Parenthood (1989), and The Paper (1994); Pleasantville (1998); and Monster’s Inc. (2001) - for which he received an Academy Award.  (Twyman)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Randy Newman
(1943 - Present)

Randy Newman holds the record for the greatest number of Academy award nominations prior to winning. The Susan Lucchi of Film was nominated for 16 Academy Awards (in 1999 three of his film scores were nominated simultaneously: "Pleasantville" for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, "A Bug’s Life" for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score, and "Babe: Pig in the City" for Best Music, Song - for the song “That’ll Do”), before he finally broke his streak in 2002 when he won the award For the song "If I Didn't Have You" from "Monsters Inc." In his acceptance speech in March of 2002 after thanking the audience and saying “I don't want your pity.” He also publicly thanked the music branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for, “giving me so many chances to be humiliated over the years.”

At the outset of his career Newman was essentially a songwriter for hire, composing numerous hits for other recording artists and groups such as The Three Dog Night, (who recorded his song “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” which ultimately rose to the top of the charts in 1970 launching the group’s successful recording career. With his penchant for writing about characters on the fringe and his satirical writing style (which is best typified by such songs as the sardonic “Short People,” and my personal favorite “Political Science” – which exhorts us to "drop the big one" he rapidly earned himself a loyal cult following of what can only be described as rabid fans. Recent years have seen a shift towards the composition of more mainstream film scores that have resulted in the inevitable comparisons between Newman and his legendary uncles, film composers Alfred and Lionel Newman.

Newman has said that he has been most influenced by film composers: Jerry Goldsmith, Nino Rota, Sir William Walton, John Williams and Prokoviev when it came to developing soundtracks and by Larry Hart, Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew when he was composing songs. (Twyman)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


Max Steiner
(1888 - 1971)

Steiner, born in Vienna, Austria launched his musical career following the completion of an eight-year course of study at Vienna's Imperial Academy of Music – he astounded everyone by doing so in 1 year - at the age of 15. No small shakes for a young man even if his godfather was the legendary Richard Strauss. While there the child prodigy initially studied under Mahler, and it was under his tutelage that he became a professional conductor at the age of 16. Following his Immigration to the US, he became a conductor for Broadway musicals. When sound was fully introduced into movies, he was lured away by RKO pictures to work in their fledgling music department. It was Steiner’s original film score for King Kong (1933), (this was the first original score ever utilized in a motion picture) that launched the second phase of film music – prior to this film scores consisted of adaptations of previously published works. Interestingly enough, the score that changed the face of film composition was almost not written at all! At the time, RKO was in trouble (in all honesty it would not be an overstatement to say that RKO was always in trouble), in this instance they were facing bankruptcy – as were many business at the time. In an effort to save on costs RKO executives had laid off the majority of the studio’s music staff. At the time Steiner was asked to take over control over the department the studio had so significantly reduced the budget for the department that Steiner was a limited to ten musicians and a three-hour studio session for each film. In an interview Steiner bemoaned the fact that the studio did not even have a soundstage set aside for music recording (they just used what ever was available and adapted). When combined with the studios use of primitive (by today’s standards), microphones and recording equipment - which did not afford the musicians with the opportunity to listen to immediate playback it is nothing short of miraculous that musical scores were as beautifully articulated as they were particularly Steiner’s score for King Kong.

The year was 1933 and a RKO was quite literally betting the bank (in this case somewhere between $440,000 and $500,000 depending on your source), on a cutting edge special effects picture about a giant ape. The film was the brainchild of the producer / director team of Ernest B. Schoedsack and Merian C. Cooper who gave a quick preview of the film for studio executives prior to the addition of a musical score. In what can only be called typical Hollywood fashion (even though the studio was located in New York), the Studio’s President deemed the film a failure and refused to spend another cent on it, suggesting that the composer (Steiner who had also composed the preponderance of the studios other scores), just recycle something else from the studios vaults. Needless to say, Steiner was all to well aware that the studio did not have anything that was an appropriate accompaniment for a rampaging 40-foot gorilla. Enter visionary producer Merian C. Cooper (who knew what a hit he had on his hands – provided it had the right score), who told Steiner to go ahead and produce the score, which he would pay for personally - out of his own pocket (he even told him not to worry about the cost). The final cost for the score was a whopping fifty thousand dollars a sum that Cooper subsequently said was “worth every dime.” The music was an integral part of the picture and the picture was an essential part of RKO - the blockbuster literally saved the studio from bankruptcy. It also had a profound effect on filmmaking and on the movie going public that was astounded by the extraordinary film. Indeed at the height of the Great Depression, and ironically enough in the same week that FDR closed the banks, New Yorkers alone coughed up nearly $90,000 to watch the film in its inaugural run at Radio City Music Hall (a world record sum).

Steiner’s career in film began in 1929 (working for RKO and subsequently for Warner Bros) and ended in 1971, during the intervening forty-two years he composed and/or conducted the music of some three hundred films. This remarkable body of work garnered him three Academy Awards for The Informer (1935), Now Voyager (1942), and Since You Went Away (1944). He was nominated for a staggering twenty-one additional film scores: The Gay Divorcee (1934), The Lost Patrol (1934), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), The Garden of Allah (1936), The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Dark Victory (1939), Gone With the Wind (1939), The Letter (1940), Sergeant York (1941), Casablanca (1942), The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), Rhapsody in Blue (1945), Night and Day (1946), Life With Father (1947), My Wild Irish Rose (1947), Beyond the Forest (1949), The Flame and the Arrow (1950), The Jazz Singer (1952), The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952), The Caine Mutiny (1954), and Battle Cry (1955). Sadly his score for King Kong (1933), which revolutionized film music, did not receive an academy Award nomination.

Steiner whose trademark dynamic, fully orchestrated scores were an integral part of all of the films they enhanced, continues to be regarded by film scholars and film composers as one of the greatest composer / conductors in the history of motion pictures. Such notable composers as Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams continue to cite his film scores and his approach to film scoring in general as having had a major impact on their own work. (Twyman)


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations


John Williams
(1932 - present)

A quick look at films composed by Williams and his exceptional talent becomes evident. Williams thrives on big budget spectacles in which he uses fanfares, marches, and lush melodies to easily manipuate the audience into truly experiencing the movie. He is so skilled that director Steven Spielberg has utilized him to write scores for all but one of his movies, The Color Purple, which was scored by Quincy Jones.  (Stockton)

Complete Filmography


Listing of Academy Awards and Nominations

Major Cinematic Accomplishments

Jaws (1975)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Star Wars (1977)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
E.T. (1982)
Home Alone (1990)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Schindler's List (1993)
Nixon (1995)
Amistad (1997)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone(2001)


Filmography links courtesy of The Internet Movie Database.

Pictures courtesy Cinemania 97 1996 Microsoft Corporation and/or its suppliers. All rights reserved.