Sunday, August 26, 2018

My Ten Favorite Classic Hollywood Film Composers

As I mentioned earlier in August, the inimitable Cordy of Any Merry Little Thought is hosting a Month of Classics blog party this month!  A month-long blog party.  Devoted to classic movies.  How can I resist?


I can't resist.  I must join.  So I hereby present unto you the list of my Ten Favorite Classic Hollywood Film Composers.  It's been much too long since I did a Ten Favorites list, hasn't it?  Anyway, I thought composers would be a worthy thing to think about because movie soundtracks are one of my favorite things to listen to.  I collect them, in a way.  So here are ten composers whose name on a soundtrack will guarantee my interest in it.  They've all scored movies that I love, which helps too ;-)

I've concentrated on the Classic Hollywood era for this, since that's what Cordy's blog party is all about.  All of these composed scores for films made between 1935 and 1965, and many of them were active after that as well.


All of the movie titles I mention here are linked to a piece of music from that film on YouTube so you can get a taste of them!

1.  Elmer Bernstein.  He's actually my favorite film composer from any era.  From The Magnificent Seven (1960) to The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) (both of which I've been known to listen to on repeat until my family begs me to stop) to The Great Escape (1963) to The Sons of Katie Elder (1965), I love the music he wrote.

2.  Henry Mancini.  Nobody wrote cool, snazzy, finger-snapping music like Mancini.  His theme for The Pink Panther (1963) has been a favorite of mine since I could barely walk -- I used to "dance" to it when my parents played their Mancini 8-track on the Hi-Fi.  He wrote music for John Wayne in Hatari! (1962), for Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963), and for Glenn Ford in Dear Heart (1964) -- each score as unique and iconic as the people starring in the films.

3.  Ennio Morricone.  He scored the entire Man with No Name Trilogy, and I think his music did just as much to make Clint Eastwood a star as Eastwood's own charisma.  You no doubt know the main theme for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), but I prefer this song from that soundtrack.  And I love his music for A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965).  He was still composing as recently as 2016, and his music for movies like The Untouchables (1987) and Hamlet (1990) shows how much he's grown over the years.

4.  Miklos Rozsa.  All you really need to know is that he scored Ben-Hur (1959).  That alone would grant him immortality.  But movies as diverse as Ivanhoe (1952) and Double Indemnity (1944) showcase his mastery as well.

5.  Victor Young.  I've just about got his score for Shane (1953) memorized.  I'd love him for that alone, but he scored oodles of John Wayne movies like The Quiet Man (1952), not to mention quite a few other Alan Ladd movies.  I hear a lot of his music these days.

6.  Richard Sherman and Robert Sherman.  I can't separate them.  And I love their music, especially for The Parent Trap (1961) and Mary Poppins (1964).

7.  Jerry Goldsmith.  Another one who continued scoring movies up until recently.  While I love his more modern things, like The 13th Warrior (1999) and The Mummy (1999), it's his classic scores for Hour of the Gun (1967) and Bandolero! (1968) that I listen to a LOT.  (And yes, I realize neither of those is from before 1965, but he DID score films before then, honest.)

8.  Dimitri Tiomkin.  He scored sooooo many westerns that I love, like Giant (1956) and Rio Bravo (1959).  But he did scads of non-westerns that I admire too, like It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and Dial M for Murder (1954) and The Guns of Navarone (1961).  But many people know him best for High Noon (1952).

9.  Max Steiner.  Gone with the Wind (1939) is probably the one everyone knows, but did you know he scored Casablanca (1942) too?  And The Big Sleep (1946)?  And The Searchers (1956)?  Amazing guy.

10.  Alfred Newman.  How the West was Won (1962).  The Seven-Year Itch (1955). The Mark of Zorro (1940).  Wuthering Heights (1939).  This man scored every conceivable genre available!


I hope you enjoy some of this music -- maybe even all of it!  Don't forget to visit the rest of the blog party for more Classic Hollywood fun :-)

21 comments:

  1. I've never thought about my favorite composers. Love seeing yours!

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    1. I've been buying soundtracks for years -- in fact, the first CD I ever bought was a soundtrack. But I didn't pay a ton of attention to individual composers until I became friends with DKoren. She is VERY knowledgeable about film music and film composers, and she's taught me to really pay attention to movie music more. I'm hoping to do a post like this about modern Hollywood composers too.

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  2. I don't know any of this music at all . . . wow.

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    1. Wow! Not even It's a Wonderful Life? Mary Poppins?

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    2. Oh! Yeah, I missed Mary Poppins. I have seen that movie, as a kid (although I did not like it because it "wasn't like the book" . . . lol!) I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life.

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    3. Jessica... I don't like the books cuz they're not as fun and sweet as the movie. Dark and kinda weird and freaky, as I recall.

      Anyway, oh man, OH MAN. I reeeeeeally think you would like It's a Wonderful Life. It's dark and moody and full of intense questions about the meaning of existence. I read this great article arguing that it's really film noir more than antyhing, and I'm convinced that's true. It's astonishingly good. I know you're not a big fan of B&W, but like TKAM, I think you will actually find the B&W works FOR the movie in terms of atmosphere and such.

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    4. No, they're definitely not fun and sweet like the movie--they really are dark and sorta creepy. But you see, I LOVED that, as a child . . . and still today . . . I felt at home at once. Like a I-have-found-my-people feeling. They are very aesthetically pleasing, to me.

      Dark and moody and full of intense questions? HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. *is intrigued* I might actually really enjoy that!

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    5. Haha! Yeah, and it was the creepiness that turned me off. Though I actually read a couple of them several times, partly because my mom didn't like them and I was being all rebellious, heh.

      Yeah, people act like IAWL is a super-happy joyfest or something, and it does have a really happy ending... but it goes through a LOT of angst and existential questions and bleakness to get there.

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  3. Often, when I watch a new-to-me-classic movie, as soon as I hear the opening notes and see either the Warner Brothers or 20th Century Fox logo, I'll say "Steiner score!" or "Alfred Newman!"—and 90% of the time I'll be right. :)

    Bernstein is one of my top favorites too. My favorite piece by Rozsa is his gorgeous theme for Spellbound (a movie I didn't even like!); and I absolutely love Jerry Goldsmith's score for The Homecoming, the Waltons pilot movie. And of course Victor Young's opening theme for Rio Grande is one of my favorite movie themes ever.

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    1. Elisabeth, too funny! I do that kind of thing with westerns a lot. And some film noir. And basically any John Wayne or Alan Ladd movie cuz a lot of them got scored by the same people.

      I don't care for Spellbound either, but I'll have to look up the score for it.

      Jerry Goldsmith could and did score just about every kind of movie imaginable. And wrote so many good TV show theme songs. Amazing talent.

      I think the very best thing I can say about Victor Young is that I listened to the Shane score basically every day while writing and revising Cloaked, and I'm not sick of it. A lot of times when I have one score that works perfectly for a story, by the time I'm done with the book, I'm done with that score too, and I won't listen to it again for a year or so. Not so with Shane.

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  4. So much musical goodness! Several of these composers will definitely be featured in my favorite composers blog series.

    Ben-Hur's score is instantly, epicly nostalgic for me. Love it. (I actually like the score better than the movie itself.)

    Hour of the Gun! The Sherman Brothers! The Man With No Name!

    Don't mind the fangirling. ;)

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    1. Fangirl away, Eva! I look forward to seeing what you have to say about several of these composers.

      Cowboy's first Christmas gift to me was the complete score to Ben-Hur. Now that's love.

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    2. I remember you telling me that when I spotted the soundtrack in all its glory at your house. :) Very sweet.

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  5. Victor Young may have had the greatest influence on my musical taste when I combine his movie scores with his arrangements of popular music for people such as Connie Boswell and Bing Crosby.

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    1. Caftan Woman, that's very cool! He certainly was a prolific musician, wasn't he?

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  6. Probably doesn't fit whatever criteria you are using to define classic, but I love the soundtracks to both Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan movies, True Lies, RoboCop, Red Dawn, The Hunt for Red October, and Starship Troopers. All done by Basil Poledouris. I have sat in the theater for most of the above (the ones after Conan anyway where I first watched to see who did the music), and correctly guessed it was Poledouris' music.

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    1. Quiggy, yeah, the blog event defined classic as 1935-1965, which is basically considered "Classic Hollywood," so that's what I went with. I'd like to do a list like this for modern composers too.

      I really like Poledouris' soundtrack for Red October, and I'm just discovering this week how good his score for Quigley Down Under is. A pity he's gone now.

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  7. Some of these I am very familier with, others not so much. I am just learning to have a deep interest in movie soundtracks, so I will have to listen to some of these again! What a fun list!

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    1. MC, that's cool you're getting interested in film scores! I hope you enjoy the ones I listed :-)

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  8. Reading your post made me realize that I really need to pay more attention to film composers!

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    1. Brittaney, yeah, sometimes it's easy to overlook people like film composers or costume designers and so on -- but they add so much to a movie experience!

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