Maximillian Raoul Steiner was born in Vienna on May 10th 1888. He was the grandson of the musical impresario who is credited for discovering Strauss and was also responsible for bringing Offenbach to Vienna and introducing the composer to the Viennese court. With such a full and rich musical home life, it is not a surprise that the young Steiner developed into a musical prodigy. The composers father, also had creative and artistic connections and was a theatrical producer, who had promoted and befriended Brahms, and it was this composer that Steiners father asked to give Max piano lessons. At the age of just 13yrs the young composer/musician had already completed and graduated from the Imperial Academy of Music in Austria, winning the Gold Medal of the Emperor. By the time he had reached his 16th birthday Steiner was already conducting, composing, and continuing his studies under the revered composer Gustav Mahler. Steiner decided to leave Austria in 1905 and journey to England, where he took up the position of conductor at His Majesties Theatre in London. He stayed at the theatre for 9 years and in 1914 with the assistance of his friend The Duke of Westminster Steiner made his way to The United States at first settling in New York where he worked steadily as an arranger on musicals and operettas, it was at this time that he also began to compose and conduct music to accompany silent film screenings. This type of musical work interested Steiner greatly as he could obviously see the potential for such a medium. Whilst working on one such assignment for a movie entitled THE BONDMAN, Steiner became good friends with film maker William Fox, it was this film and this friendship that would eventually lead the composer to Hollywood where in 1929 he worked as an orchestrator on RIO RITA for Ziegfield. But it was at RKO pictures that Steiner was given the opportunity to begin to develop the ideas he had concerning the way in which motion pictures should be scores and also the way in which the music should add to the atmosphere of a film. Adapting the ideas of Richard Wagner,
Steiner developed a style of writing for film that meant the music did not just act as a background heard playing continuously without direction or purpose, the score became part of the film and the action, in essence it became an integral and important factor of the movie. His scores for films such as KING KONG and THE INFORMER were perfect examples of this leitmotif style of music which Steiner would eventually become well known for pioneering in film scoring. Steiner however did have his critics and at the outset of his career in film scoring many referred to his style as Mickey Mousing, but filmmakers and audiences alike took to it immediately, after leaving RKO Steiner went to work for David O Selznick and stated work on GONE WITH THE WIND after the success of this the composer was hired by Warner Brothers where he was to stay for the majority of his working life.
Steiner’s first assignment for the Warner Brothers studio was a movie entitled TOVARICH, and later Steiner utilised a section of this score and turned it into the now familiar Warner Brothers fanfare, which was heard at the beginning of every movie that they released. During his glittering and illustrious career Max Steiner was responsible for scoring more than 250 movies and received no less than 26 Academy award Nominations for his work, he won the coveted Oscar statue on three occasions, this was for his music to, THE INFORMER,SINCE YOU WENT AWAY and NOW VOYAGER.
Max Steiner was certainly a driving force and source of inspiration within the film music arena, and created the blue print which showed others how a film should be scored. The composer passed away on December 28th 1971 after a long battle against cancer and failing eyesight. He still remains The Father of Film music to many dedicated followers, and his music lives on and is still well respected.