Category: GOLDEN AGE.


MIKLOS ROZSA.

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To say that Miklos Rozsa was a prolific composer of music for the cinema is certainly an understatement, plus we should not forget Rozsa was not just a composer of magnificent film scores but also wrote music for the concert hall another area in which he excelled. Born in Budapest Hungary in 1907, Rozsa was the son of an influential industrialist and land owner. Rozsa came from an affluent family and most of his early years were spent at the family’s country estate in the county of NOGRAD which lay close to the Matra mountains. His first encounter wit music came when his was just five years of age, it was then that he began to study the viola and piano, just three years later after celebrating his eighth birthday he began to perform in public and made his initial attempts at composing music. His Father however was convinced that music was not the right career move for his Son, so insisted that Rozsa should set out to get an all round good education. Miklos attended a High school in Budapest for this education, but still remained actively involved in his study of music. After a while he moved to Leipzig where he began to study Chemistry. These studies however were short lived and after some intervention by Herrmann Grabner Rozsa’s Father was persuaded to allow his son to study music on a full time basis and concentrate on making it his career. He began to study at the Leipzig conservatory and in his last years there would often stand in for Tutors giving lectures and also instructing fellow students. Rozsa’s first published orchestral work was a piece entitled HUNGARIAN SERENADE for small orchestra which was given its premiere performance in Budapest during the summer of 1929 by The Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Erno Dohnanyi (sometimes known as Ernst von Dohnányi). The piece was well received and garnered Rozsa much acclaim from composers such as Richard Strauss.

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Rozsa soon established himself as a composer of note and built up an impressive musical canon, he collaborated with his friend and fellow composer Arthur Honegger to stage a concert of their combined musical works at the Salle Debussy in Paris. It was whilst working alongside Honegger that Rozsa heard the composer’s music for the move LES MISERABLES and became interested in the concept of writing music for the cinema and utilizing music to heighten the dramatic impact of film. After watching LES MISERABLES and seeing how music enhanced the images on screen Rozsa decided that composing music for movies was what he wanted to do. In 1936, he travelled to England to work on a ballet entitled HUNGARIA, and whilst there was asked to compose the score for Alexader Korda’s production of KNIGHT WITHOUT ARMOUR (1937).

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The movie and also Rozsa’s musical score were a great success and later that year the composer was engaged to write the music for another Korda production THUNDER IN THE CITY (1937), shortly after this assignment the composer was signed to the permanent staff of London films which was Korda’s production company. Rozsa first major scoring assignment came in 1939, when he wrote the music for THE FOUR FEATHERS, after this he worked on a movie that is probably still regarded by many as the composers most accomplished and memorable work for cinema which was THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940). The film and the music thrilled and delighted audiences all over the world and became a lucrative production for the Korda organisation and was also the score that would lead Rozsa to Hollywood, this was because of the outbreak of WWll and the entire production of the movie including Rozsa being relocated to the United States who at that time were not involved in the conflict. The composer’s first Hollywood score was to come two years later when he penned the soundtrack to Korda’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (1942). The composer made a recording of a suite of music from the movie and also included narration on the recording by the films star Sabu, this was the first time that film music had been released on a recording in the United States and it proved to be very popular.

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In 1945 the composer wrote the score for Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND and his hauntingly mesmerising soundtrack established him even more as a composer of worth and also garnered him an Academy Award for his efforts, in the same year Rozsa composed the music for Billy Wilders THE LOST WEEKEND and for this he employed what is probably the first electronic instrument within the score the Theremin. In 1947 the composer was awarded the Oscar for his music to George Cukor’s A DOUBLE LIFE and one year later Rozsa joined the staff at Metro Goldwyn Mayer, it is probably true to say that it was whilst at M.G.M that the composer was at his most prolific, writing the scores to such movies as QUO VADIS (1951), BEN HUR (1959), EL CID (1961) and KING OF KINGS (1962). He was awarded an Oscar for his monumental soundtrack to BEN HUR and received much acclaim for his epic score to EL CID. The latter becoming a firm favourite among numerous collectors of film music. As the Golden age of film music reached its sunset and the Silver age began to dawn film making trends and practices altered and styles of film production changed (not necessarily for the better) thus many up and coming film makers were attempting to create their own unique approaches to making movies and this did include the way in which music was utilized within film. Younger composers were beginning to break into the film music arena and although not turning their backs on the what had up till then been the traditional way of scoring movies were inventing new sounds and styles.

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Rozsa however still remained busy during this period even though he had himself acknowledged that EL CID was his last major film score. The composer created a number of noteworthy scores that in many connoisseurs opinions were more worthy than the films they were intended to enhance. There were also thankfully a number of production that were creditable vessels for his wonderful themes, these in my opinion included, PROVIDENCE, THE LAST EMBRACE, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, TIME AFTER TIME and DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID, the latter title including a score that parodied Rozsa’s own style and sound that he had employed in movies such as THE NAKED CITY, THE KILLERS and BRUTE FORCE.

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During the 1980,s the composer was forced to retire from writing music because of failing eyesight, he passed away on July 27th 1995 aged 88, he left behind a rich and varied tapestry of musical works and is still influencing film music in the 21st Century via his powerful, sumptuous, haunting and innovative style of composing for the motion picture industry.

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HUGO FRIEDHOFER.

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Born in San Francisco on May 3, 1908 Hugo Friedhofer was the son of German parents, his Father who was a cellist had studied in Dresden,Friedhofer followed in his Fathers footsteps and began to take lessons in cello from the age of 13 and after taking instructions in harmony and counterpoint at the University of California took up employment as a cellist with the Peoples Symphony orchestra. In the latter part of 1929 Friedhofer moved to Los Angeles and began to work in orchestras that were performing for Fox Studios. After a few years Friedhofer was employed as an orchestrator for Warner Brothers and whilst working for the studio he carried out orchestrating duties on over 50 motion picture scores.It was whilst he was at Warners that Friedhofer worked on orchestrations for Max Steiner and also because of his German background was also assigned to work with Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Max Steiner in particular relied heavily upon Friedhofer,s skills as an orchestrator to transform his musical sketches into full blown symphonic scores, Friedhofer’s skills as a composer and orchestrator became evident in Hollywood,but for some reason he remained in the background for a number of years his ability being overshadowed by the likes of Steiner and Korngold. in particular. In 1937 Friedhofer was given his first opportunity to score a film himself, which was THE ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO and although he still remained busy as an orchestrator he began to gradually receive more and more assignments and commissions as a composer in his own right. It was in 1946 that the composer wrote the score that was to become a milestone in his career.

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THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, was directed by William Wyler,and Friedhofer was hired to write the music on the recommendation of fellow Hollywood music-smith Alfred Newman. The music that he composed earned Friedhofer an Oscar for best original score in 1947 being selected over soundtracks by Miklos Rozsa, Bernard Herrmann, Sir William Walton and Franz Waxman. In later years Friedhofer was no stranger to Oscar nominations receiving recognition from the Academy for his work on films such as AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER, THE YOUNG LIONS, THE BISHOPS WIFE,JOAN OF ARC and ABOVE AND BEYOND. He was greatly admired and respected within the film music composing fraternity. He passed away on May 17th 1981.

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ERICH WOLFGANG KORNGOLD.

 

 

 

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Born in Vienna on May 12th 1897,Erich Wolfgang Korngold, was destined to become one of the worlds most celebrated and revered composers of music for the cinema. His musical aptitude being so advanced that he was able to play piano proficiently by the age of just five. He found it relatively easy to play melodies and tunes on the instrument after hearing them just moments beforehand. By the time he had reached his seventh birthday Korngold was able to write music, he was looked upon as a genius by many and hailed as a child prodigy. His Father took the advice of a number of composers such as Mahler, that it would be a waste of time to send the young musician to study at a conservatory, he was so advanced in his musical knowledge that it was highly improbable that he would actually learn anything or gain anymore knowledge from doing so. At just eleven years of age Erich Korngold had his first important musical work performed, it was entitled THE SNOWMAN. This was in Vienna at the Court Opera, in the presence of honoured guests which included, Emperor Franz Josef. After this Korngold composed works for chamber orchestra and also symphonic works. In 1915, at the age of eighteen, Korngold wrote two operas. Four years after this he composed his first score for the theatre, this was a production of William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. In 1920, his opera THE DEAD CITY made it’s debut, this transpired to be the composers most successful work and is regarded even by today’s musical experts as one of the major operatic works of the twentieth century. Korngold’s first foray into writing for the cinema came in 1934, this is when the composer went to America and in Hollywood supervised the music for Max Reinhardt’s cinematic version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM, the play had been a huge success at the Hollywood bowl and Warner brothers films were keen to have it transferred to celluloid. Reinhardt told the film company that he would agree to do the movie, but only if he could retain the stage score by Mendelssohn and also told Warner’s that Korngold was the only person he trusted to adapt it and enlarge the score for the film, he also wanted Korngold to conduct the music, Warner’s agreed. Korngold’s work on the production assisted its impact and also its overall presentation. The composer received much recognition for his work on the production and it was this that prompted Warner Brothers to offer the composer another scoring assignment which was CAPTAIN BLOOD.

 

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Cover of Captain Blood

 

The scoring schedule on BLOOD was very tight indeed, the movie needed an hour of fully symphonic music and Korngold had just three weeks to create it. Because of the scoring timetable that Warner’s had imposed on Korngold for the film, the composer decided to utilize sections of symphonic poems by Franz Liszt. The composer using the sections, PROMETHEUS, for the final sword fight between the films two main protagonists, played by Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone, he also used Liszt’s MAZEPPA for the films sea battle sequence with the French fleet which came at the end of the movie. Warner Brothers were more than pleased with the score that Korngold had written for their swashbuckler, and the composer was almost immediately offered a contract with the studio. Korngold was to become the first composer known internationally to have a contract with a film studio, and Warner’s were so pleased that they had managed to secure the composers services that the contract might as well have been written by Korngold himself. It stipulated that he did not have to do any movie he did not like, also it stated that he would only have to work on three scores during a two year period, and that his music would remain his property at all times. The composers contract with the studio came to an end in 1946,and after scoring the Bette Davies movie DECEPTION, Korngold decided to retire from scoring films. Because his last few movies had been less than runaway success’s at the box office the composer began to loose interest in film.

 

 

 

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In 1956 Korngold suffered a stroke and was almost completely paralyzed, just over a year later on November 29th 1957,the composer had a heart attack and died, he was sixty years of age. Korngold’s film music career may have been short lived, but in a handful of years the composer created numerous scores that would become an important part of film music history and also a part of the history of cinema, his music is grand, operatic and oozing with vibrant and passionate themes, ANTHONY ADVERSE, JUAREZ, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD,THE SEA HAWK, KINGS ROW,THE CONSTANT NYMPH,OF HUMAN BONDAGE,THE SEA WOLF and numerous others all benefited greatly from the lush and highly romantic and dramatic music of Korngold, film music has been a poorer art form since his passing.

FRANZ WAXMAN.

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Franz Waxman, was born in Upper Sielesia in Germany on Christmas eve 1906. Waxman was the youngest of six children and came from a family that was not musical in any way, His Father was a successful industrialist who felt that Franz would be better suited to a career in banking as he was of the opinion that no one could make a living out of music. The young Waxman however did have piano lessons from the age of 7 yrs, when he started working he went into banking as his Father wanted and worked as a clerk for some two and a half years using his wages to fund his lessons in piano ,composition and counterpoint. After this period Waxman resigned from the banking job and moved to Dresden but stayed there for only a short time, he eventually moved to Berlin to study music proper. His musical education was paid for by money he earned from playing the piano in nightclubs and also from working with a band called the Weintraub Syncopaters who were very popular jazz ensemble at the time. Waxman also began to do arrangements for the band and this led him into orchestrating some early German musical films. Fellow composer Frederich Hollander, who had written music for the band gave Waxman his first significant scoring assignment, this was to perform the orchestrations and also to conduct his score for THE BLUE ANGEL. The films producer Erich pommer was impressed with the way in which Waxman orchestrated the score and he offered the composer work at UFA Studios in Berlin. Waxmans first job there was to score Fritz Lang’s version of Liliom (1933), which again was successful for Waxman. Pommers next movie was Jerome Kern;s MUSIC IN THE AIR which was for Fox films in 1934, this meant that the producer had to travel to the United States and he asked Waxman to accompany him to work on the arrangements for the film. Waxman soon became noticed by other filmmakers and in 1935 he worked on James Whale’s THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which was his first Hollywood film score.
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Bride of Frankenstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This assignment led to a two year contract with Universal studios as head of their music department. He worked on more than 50 movies during this time as music director and composed the scores to at least 15 of these. Among the best known of these are THE INVISIBLE RAY and MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION. In 1936 aged 30, the composer was offered a long term contract with M.G.M. as a composer, during this time Waxman scored approx; seven movies a year and whilst with M.G.M. he worked on movies such as, DR.JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS and WOMAN OF THE YEAR.  
 
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 It was also whilst at M.G.M. that Waxman came into contact with David O Selznick and in 1937 worked on YOUNG AT HEART for the filmmaker, which was a score that the composer received two Academy Award nominations for, for best original music and best score.  Four years later Waxman was again loaned to Selznick by M.G.M. this time to work on REBECCA for which he was again nominated for an Academy Award. The composer left M.G.M. in 1943 and began a long and fruitful collaboration with Warner Brothers films. In 1947 the composer founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival, which he was head of for some 20 years. In 1950 he won the Oscar for his music to Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BOULEVARD and again in 1951 for George Stevens  A PLACE IN THE SUN. The 1950s and 1960s proved to be a busy time for the composer and it was also during these decades that Waxman produced some of his most memorable works for the cinema, CRIME IN THE STREETS, TARAS BULBA, THE NUNS STORY, SAYONARA PRINCE VALIANT, THE SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS and PEYTON PLACE being just a few titles from his impressive assignment list. It was also during this period that Waxman more or less re-invented the way in which he wrote music progressing from the romantic to at times hard hitting jazz infused scores and also big epic sounding works. He passed away on February 24th 1967 in Los Angeles at the age of just 60. 

ALFRED NEWMAN.

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Alfred Newman was born in Connecticut 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 tutalage 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 Newmans 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. 
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 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 FOR 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. Newmans 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 music for MODERN TIMES and CITY LIGHTS, it is also Newmans 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. 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 Hugo Friedhofer and 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 sons David and Thomas carried on the family tradition by themselves becoming highly respected and sought after film music composers and 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.
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Alfred Newman passed away in February 1970, his last film score AIRPORT received an Oscar nomination just one month later.  Newman’s rich and sweeping soundtracks brought a new dimension to the movies he worked on and also 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.