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Elmer Bernstein

Elmer Bernstein

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Also Known As: Died: August 18, 2004
Born: April 4, 1922 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: composer, conductor, pianist, dancer, painter, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An extremely prolific composer of more than 100 film scores, Elmer Bernstein was a child prodigy, performing professionally as a dancer and actor and winning several prizes for his painting before gravitating by his own choice to music. Henriette Michelsen, a Juilliard teacher who gave him a scholarship and would guide him in his career as a pianist, had the 12 year-old prodigy play some of his improvisations for Aaron Copland, who in turn selected Israel Citkowski to help further the boy's music education. Bernstein began his concert career in 1939, touring as both a pianist and conductor, only to have it interrupted by World War II. By the time he left the armed services, he had composed the scores for more than 80 radio shows for the Armed Forces Radio Network but returned to the concert stage as a civilian until given the opportunity to write the scores for two programs for United Nations Radio in 1949. These broadcasts caught the attention of Columbia Pictures' vice president Sid Buchman who brought Bernstein to Hollywood to score "Saturday's Hero" (1950). During the early 50s, Bernstein willingly took any job, which explains his name on the credits of "Robot Monster" (1953), but he attracted...

An extremely prolific composer of more than 100 film scores, Elmer Bernstein was a child prodigy, performing professionally as a dancer and actor and winning several prizes for his painting before gravitating by his own choice to music. Henriette Michelsen, a Juilliard teacher who gave him a scholarship and would guide him in his career as a pianist, had the 12 year-old prodigy play some of his improvisations for Aaron Copland, who in turn selected Israel Citkowski to help further the boy's music education. Bernstein began his concert career in 1939, touring as both a pianist and conductor, only to have it interrupted by World War II. By the time he left the armed services, he had composed the scores for more than 80 radio shows for the Armed Forces Radio Network but returned to the concert stage as a civilian until given the opportunity to write the scores for two programs for United Nations Radio in 1949. These broadcasts caught the attention of Columbia Pictures' vice president Sid Buchman who brought Bernstein to Hollywood to score "Saturday's Hero" (1950).

During the early 50s, Bernstein willingly took any job, which explains his name on the credits of "Robot Monster" (1953), but he attracted his first real attention for his stylish score for the Joan Crawford-Jack Palance thriller "Sudden Fear" (1952). Critics praised his ability to translate dramatic action into musical idiom and he exhibited tendencies that would recur throughout his career: the use of exotic instruments and a reliance on solo instruments like the piano and flute. He firmly established himself with his progressive jazz score for "The Man With the Golden Arm" (1955) and his vastly different Wagnerian orchestrations for DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" (1956) pushed him into the front rank of Hollywood composers. His reputation soared as he proved himself a man for all genres with a rousing Western score for "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), yet when film tastes changed in the late 60s, he recognized his over-arranged scores as anachronistic and shifted gears, redefining soundtrack comedy in movies like "National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978) and "Ghostbusters" (1984). Whether it's the good-humored but genuinely creepy horror of "An American Werewolf in London" (1981) or the robust action of "True Grit" (1969), Bernstein has provided stirring, imaginative music snugly rooted in the folksy traditions of Americana and the contemporary trappings of pop culture.

Though his collaborations were many, Bernstein returned to work again and again with three directors. He provided music with an epic sweep for John Sturges ("Magnificent Seven"; "The Great Escape" 1964; "The Hallelujah Trail" 1965 and "McQ" 1974) but toned it down to an insinuatingly idiosyncratic patter for the quietly intense, claustrophobic dramas of Robert Mulligan ("To Kill a Mockingbird" 1963; "Love With the Proper Stranger" 1964; "Baby, the Rain Must Fall" 1965 and "Bloodbrothers" 1979). John Landis gave him the chance to stretch his comic wings ("Animal House", "American Werewolf" and "The Blues Brothers" (1984) and helped revitalize his career. Since then, he has not slowed down, creating scores of understated lyricism for the Irish films, "My Left Foot" (1989) and "The Field" (1990), underlining the innate romanticism of "Rambling Rose (1992) and "A River Runs Through It" (1992) and accenting the repressed passion of Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence" (1993).

Bernstein did not confine himself to writing exclusively for films. He won an Emmy for his music for ABC's "The Making of the President: 1960" (1963) and scored the themes for "The Big Valley" and "Gunsmoke" as well as such miniseries as "The Chisholms" (CBS, 1979), "Moviola" (NBC, 1980) and "Gulag" (HBO, 1985). He earned Tony nominations for his involvement in two Broadway productions, "How Now, Dow Jones" (1967) and "Merlin" (1973) but managed only one Academy Award, in spite of his dozen nominations, for his original score for "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (1967).

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 From Noon Till Three (1976) Songwriter
4.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1934:
Auditioned for Aaron Copland at age 12 (date approximate)
:
Worked with Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band, preparing popular arrangements of American folk songs
:
Composed first dramatic scores for the Armed Forces Radio Network during World War II; after war scored two programs for United Nations Radio (1949)
1946:
Performed as concert pianist in NY, Chicago and Philadelphia
:
Invited to Hollywood by Columbia Pictures' vice president Sid Buchman
1951:
First film as composer, "Saturday's Hero"
1952:
Attracted attention with his score for "Sudden Fear", with Joan Crawford and Jack Palance
:
Composed opening and closing themes for TV's, "The General Electric Theater"
1955:
"The Man with the Golden Arm" established him as one of the foremost composers in Hollywood; reputedly first to use modern jazz integrally in film score
:
Composed more than twenty film scores and received eight Academy Award nominations
1958:
First TV series scoring, "Take 5"
1963:
Received Emmy Award for scoring "The Making of the President: 1960" (ABC)
1967:
Won Academy Award for Best Original Music Score for "Thoroughly Modern Millie"
1980:
Provided 20 seconds of perfect music for John Belushi's vision of God in "The Blues Brothers" (credited as God Music: Elmer Bernstein)
1989:
His understated lyrical score graced "My Left Foot"
1993:
Accented the repressed passion of Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence"
1995:
Scored "Devil in a Blue Dress", starring Denzel Washington
1996:
Received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (March 28)
2000:
Wrote music for "Bringing Out the Dead"
2002:
Scored "Gangs of New York", directed by Scorsese
2002:
Scored "Far From Heaven"; received an Oscar nomination
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

New York University: New York , New York -
Walden School: New York , New York -
The Juilliard School: New York , New York -

Notes

Bernstein has scored more than 100 films and is a United Artists recording artist.

In addition to his awards, Bernstein has been nominated for 12 Oscars: "The Man With the Golden Arm" (original score, 1955), "The Magnificent Seven" (original score, 1960), "Summer and Smoke" (original score, 1961), "Walk on the Wild Side" (song "Walk on the Wild Side", 1962), "To Kill a Mockingbird" (original score, 1962), "Hawaii" (song "My Wishing Doll" and for original score, 1966), "Return of the Seven" (score adaptation, 1966), "True Grit" (song "True Grit", 1969), "Gold" (song "Wherever Love Takes Me", 1974), "Trading Places" (score adaptation, 1983); and "The Age of Innocence" (original score, 1993).

He was nominated for three Tony Awards: Best Musical and Best Composer and Lyricist (with Carolyn Leigh) for "How Now, Dow Jones" in 1968 and Best Score (with Don Black) for "Merlin" in 1983.

As conductor, built the San Fernando Valley Symphony into a fine community performing organization

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Pearl Glusman. Married on December 21, 1946; divorced.
wife:
Pearl Glusman. Clergyman, poet.
wife:
Eve Adamson. Married on October 25, 1965.
wife:
Eve Adamson. Has three children from his previous marriage, including daughter Kaiye Liana.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Edward Bernstein. Adopted four.
mother:
Selma Bernstein. Survived him.
son:
Peter Matthew Bernstein. Composer. Mother, Pearl Glusman.
son:
Peter Matthew Bernstein. Had three; survived him.
son:
Gregory Eames Bernstein. Screenwriter. Mother, Pearl Glusman.
son:
Gregory Eames Bernstein. Mother, Lisa Bonder.
daughter:
Emily Adamson. Mother, Eve Adamson.
daughter:
Emily Adamson. Coal miner.
daughter:
Elizabeth Campbell. Mother, Eve Adamson.
daughter:
Elizabeth Campbell. Has three; Kennedy is the third of four.
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