Alfred Newman was born in Connecticut USA in 1901, he was one of the eldest children in a family of ten. He began to take a keen interest in music from an early age and aged just 5 years he began to have piano lessons and two years later was performing in public. He studied at the Von Ende school of music in New York, where he concentrated on piano under the tutelage of Sigismond Stojowski and counterpoint and composition under the watchful gaze of George Wedge and Rubin Goldmart. The young Newman made an impression on his teachers and won medals for his high standard of piano performance. After his time at the school of music Newman continued to take further musical education from Arnold Shoenberg. During his teen Newman began to perform piano to support himself and also his family, after leaving the school and finishing his studies he was introduced to Broadway by the vaudeville producer Grace La Rue, he began to conduct a handful of shows and these became very successful and as they did Newman’s reputation as a fine conductor arranger spread. He finally got his big break in 1920 when George Gershwin appointed him as musical director for The George White Scandals which ran till the latter part of 1921. Newman continued to work on Broadway for just over a decade, he was involved in numerous productions that involved Gershwin, Jerome Kern and even Al Jolson.  In 1930, Newman received a commission from Irving Berlin and the young composer travelled to Hollywood, Berlin had written the theme for a film entitled Reaching the Moon and had asked Newman to be musical director on the movie.  Newman decided that he liked Hollywood and settled in California, and it was at this time that the composer met Samuel Goldwyn who introduced him to the studio system.


Newman’s career is phenomenal and he is probably one of the most prolific composers of film scores ever, he wrote the music to well over 200 motion pictures and acted as musical director and supervisor on hundreds of others, he adapted lots of musicals which had been successful on Broadway when they were brought to the big screen and also worked with Charlie Chaplin, conducting the actors compositions for Modern Times and City Lights, it is also Newman’s music that we hear at the beginning of every 20th Century fox movie and TV show, this has to be one of the most familiar pieces of music that is connected with the cinema, with its imposing percussion and broad and shining brass fanfare. In 1940, Newman began to work for Fox, he was MD for the studio and not only wrote numerous film scores during this time, but also hired various composers and assigned them to films. 

It was Newman who championed fellow composer Hugo Friedhofer allowing him to progress from an orchestrator to a composer in his own right. Newman also gave Jerry Goldsmith his first big break in the film music arena. Newman’s music was to become a fixture within Hollywood and his daughter Maria and sons David and Thomas carried on the family tradition by themselves becoming highly respected and sought-after composers, his nephew Randy is also an Oscar winning composer and lyricist. In 1960, Newman decided to leave Fox and go freelance, and he was certainly not short of assignments, it was during this period that the composer wrote the powerful score for the western How the West Was Won and provided The Flower Drum Song with its musical accompaniment.

Alfred Newman garnered forty-five Academy Award nominations during his long and illustrious career and won the Oscar on nine occasions. His musical career spanned four decades, and his techniques and stylish orchestrations have had far reaching influences at times manifesting themselves within other composers works for the cinema.

Alfred Newman passed away in February 1970, his last film score Airport received an Oscar nomination just one month later. Newman’s rich, vibrant, and sweeping soundtracks brought a new dimension to every movie he worked on and much like Max Steiner, Alfred Newman was an innovator and an inspiration to numerous other composers. He was also responsible for creating the Newman style for scoring motion pictures. This System is a means of synchronising the performance and recording of a movie score with the film itself. A rough cut of the film is shown for the conductor to look at whilst in the recording session, the film is marked with punches and streamers.

Punches are tiny marks in the film, for two of every ten frames, creating a standard beat to help the conductor keep time. To synchronise music and action, the conductor then uses streamers, that are horizontal lines which move across the screen at a regular pace. This system devised by Newman revolutionized the way in which films were scored, and if were not for Alfred Newman film music and the scoring of films would probably not have evolved or developed in the way it did. We would also probably not have got to experience fully the musical genius of Bernard Herrmann, a composer who Alfred Newman thought had great talent and gave him a chance to work on a number of movies at Fox during the 1940’s and 1950’s such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro. The Newman dynasty as it has become known in film and film music circles has made a lasting impact upon movie scoring and the way that film music sounds and is utilised within films and later in television. But let’s not forget the other members of the Newman family who also were instrumental in influencing and inspiring future generations including their own sons, daughters, and nephew’s etc.


There was Lionel Newman who was a talented conductor and directed the scores of many Hollywood composers including the Oscar winning Omen  for composer Jerry Goldsmith. Alfred’s Brother, Emile Newman too was a Maestro and wrote for stage and screen.

But let’s come forward in time to the days when both David and Thomas Newman stepped into the film music arena and when their sister Maria began to write classical music for concert hall performance as well as performing viola and piano. And to the wealth of rich and vibrant music that continues to be realized by the Newman family.

David is the eldest being born in 1954, he began his film scoring career aged thirty back in 1984 when he worked on a short movie for a then unknown director Tim Burton, the film was a Walt Disney production entitled Frankenweenie. Two years later Newman scored a few low budget movies these included Critters, The Kindred and My Demon Lover. It was during the 1980’s that Newman began to establish himself as a composer of film music and it soon became evident that he had inherited his father’s innovative and inventive talent for creating music that was effective within the films he worked on and also remained attractive and affecting away from the screen images. In 1987 Newman worked on several movies and scored the first of many animated features which was Brave Little Toaster directed by Jerry Rees. It was also in 1987 that the composer wrote the music for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. In the same year David scored Throw Momma from the Train which was his first collaboration with Danny De Vito as director and produced an electronic score for the movie Heathers.

As the eighties ended Newman worked with De Vito again in 1989 when he wrote the music for The War of the Roses. The 1990’s were to prove even more productive for the composer creating memorable scores for movies such as Mr Destiny, Bill and Teds Bogus Adventure, Duck Tales the Movie, The Mighty Ducks, Hoffa, I love Trouble, Boys on the Side, Matilda, Jingle all the Way, Galaxy Quest, Bowfinger, The Nutty Professor, The Phantom, and Brokedown Palace to identify but a few.

In recent years David Newman in my opinion has become a brilliant ambassador for film music and has conducted many concerts of music from the movies in the United States and in Europe, promoting the art of movie music to all. He most recently acted as an arranger adapting the music of Leonard Bernstein for the Steven Spielberg version of West Side Story, which was Newman’s first collaboration with the filmmaker.


From David to his younger brother Thomas, who is arguably the busiest composer of the second generation of Newman’s. He has worked on many motion pictures in Hollywood and has also scored two Bond movies as well as working with some of the worlds most recognised filmmakers. It was his music for the Sam Mendes movie American Beauty that probably first attracted me to his music.

At times the composer going for a more subdued and slightly more intimate sound within his scores for motion pictures. However, he has produced some vibrant and robust works for movies such as Bridge of Spies in 2015, plus Road to Perdition and The Shawshank Redemption.

I must admit to not being a great fan of his music for the James Bond franchise, I found it to be too subtle at times, and it seemed as if it was just a musical wallpaper that kind of covered the cracks in some of the two films plots.

The bombastic style of Barry and Arnold for me at least suited the characteristics of Bond better. There is (in my opinion) a sameness within Thomas Newman’s work at times the composer not really altering sound or style to accommodate characters and scenarios. Thomas was born in 1955 and began his film scoring career in the same year as his elder brother David 1984.

His first scoring assignment being Reckless for director James Foley, swiftly followed by Revenge of the Nerds and Desperately Seeking Susan. He scored a total of fifteen movies during the eighties, working on films such as The Lost Boys, The Man with One Red Shoe and Less than Zero. In the 1990’s Thomas was like his sibling very busy, and in that decade established himself as a composer of worth amongst his peers and fans, applying his Midas touch to movies such as The Player, Scent of a Woman, Little Women, Up Close and Personal, The War, Phenomenon, Meet Joe Black, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Red Corner. It was in the 2000’s that the composer further established himself creating affecting scores for Road to Perdition, Erin Brokovich, Finding Nemo, The Salton Sea, Wall-E, and Revolutionary Road. In 2012 he scored Skyfall which was his first Bond movie for director Sam Mendes and returned to 007 in 2015 providing the score for Spectre. After which he went on to write the music for Finding Dory, Tolkien, and 1917 amongst others. His most recent assignments include Operation Mincemeat for director Joe Madden, which is a Netflix film and, in the pipeline, he has a score coming for the Channing Tatum directed movie Dog which will be released in 2022. Both Thomas and David continue their father’s musical vision for marrying music to images in film and increasing the impact and depth of cinematic storylines with emotive, and dramatic compositions. Both employ very different styles in bringing these notions to fruition.


The Newman brother’s sister Maria is also a composer and an accomplished performer and conductor. Born Maria Louise Newman on January 18, 1962, She, is the youngest of Alfred Newman’s children, Maria holds the Louis and Annette Kaufman Composition Chair; and the Joachim Chassman Violin Chair at the Montgomery Arts House for Music and Architecture in Malibu, California, and is a founder of the Malibu Friends of Music. Her library of original works represents a range of genres, from large-scale orchestral works, works for the ballet, chamber works, choral and vocal works, to new collaborative scores for vintage silent film. She has been presented with several awards and commissions, including musical commendations from the United States Congress (2009), the California State Senate (2009), the California State Assembly (2009), the City of Malibu (2010), and the Annenberg Foundation (2011). She also writes scores for silent movies.


Randy Newman is a cousin and is a composer that we all know and love, he is more than a composer, he is a producer, singer, and song writer. Sadly, some film score fans do dismiss him, thinking he is a composer who is restricted to penning sweet little songs such as You Got Friend in Me from the Toy Story series. But there is much more to this talented and versatile music-smith.

He has written glorious sounding scores for movie such as Seabiscuit, The Natural, The Paper, Avalon, Maverick, Pleasantville, and created emotional sounding scores for movies such as Awakenings, and Ragtime. But it is probably true to say that he is better known for his musical contributions to the world of animated cinema in the form of his music for A Bugs Life, Monsters Inc and of course Toy Story.

For me personally the score for The Natural is one of his best works. But saying that how do select the best from so many scores and albums all of which are varied and different. His best-known songs as a recording artist are Short People (1977), I Love L.A. (1983), and You’ve Got a Friend in Me (1995), while other artists have enjoyed more success with cover versions of his Mama Told Me Not to Come (1966), I Think It’s Going to Rain Today (1968) and You Can Leave Your Hat On (1972).

Born in Los Angeles in 1943 to an extended family of Hollywood film composers, Randy Newman began his song writing career at the age of just 17, with hits for acts such as the Fleetwood’sCilla BlackGene Pitney, and the Alan Price Set. In 1968, he made his formal debut as a solo artist with the self-titled album Randy Newman. Four of his non-soundtrack albums have charted in the US top 40: Sail Away (1972), Good Old Boys (1974), Little Criminals (1977), and Harps and Angels (2008).


The Newman dynasty continues in movie music with Joey Newman, who is already an Emmy Nominated composer. Joey’s grandfather was Oscar-winning composer and conductor Lionel Newman, who passed away in 1989 his great uncle was Alfred Newman. Joey’s father, Joe Frank Carollo, played bass and sang in the famed 1970s rock group “Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds.” Joey is a drummer conductor and an orchestrator and has worked with his cousin Randy Newman on occasion. He has written the music for several movies as well as scoring video games and composing music for TV projects and provided arrangements for recording artists such as Rufus Wainwright and Broadway composers Marcy & Zina and Cinco Paul.

As a conductor and orchestrator, Joey has worked across the media spectrum including orchestrating for Bill Ross and conducting alongside Michael Tilson Thomas and John Williams. His scoring credits for films and TV include, Any Day Now, The Space Between, Raised by Wolves, My Uncle Rafael, and Diary of a future President. He also scored the video game Lineage, which is worth more than a fleeting listen. The influence of the Newman family upon movie music is far reaching and continues to be a dominant feature of contemporary film music.