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Overview for Dimitri Tiomkin
Dimitri Tiomkin

Dimitri Tiomkin



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Also Known As: Dmitri Tiomkin,Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin,Dmitri Tiomkin Died: November 11, 1979
Born: May 10, 1899 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: St Petersburg, , RU Profession: Music ... composer conductor songwriter producer author concert pianist director


One of the most influential European film composers of the 20th Century, Dimitri Tiomkin made the unlikely leap from post-revolutionary Russia to Hollywood thanks to a rich melodic sound which effortlessly captured the American spirit. A favorite of several legendary directors, classically-trained pianist Tiomkin first struck up a creative partnership with Frank Capra on "Lost Horizon" (1937), which later resulted in the first of a staggering 22 Oscar nominations with "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939). Tiomkin then moved into Western territory for a number of Fred Zinnemann films including "High Noon" (1952), whose box-office success was widely attributed to a hit theme tune which unarguably introduced the concept of the blockbuster soundtrack. Showcasing his versatility, Tiomkin also scored four Alfred Hitchcock classics, changed the course of science fiction music on Howard Hawks' "The Thing" (1951) and enhanced the epic nature of "The Land of the Pharaohs" (1955). Tiomkin's 'golden decade' ended in 1958 but he continued to court awards attention with his expansive scores for "Town Without Pity" (1961), "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964) and his final work, "Chaikovsky" (1969), and also made a major impact on the small screen with his memorable theme to "Rawhide" (CBS, 1959-1965). His 1979 death closed the book on one of Hollywood's most visionary composing careers.

Born in Kremenchuk in 1894 to a pathologist father and music teacher mother, Tiomkin was encouraged to pursue a career as a professional pianist from a young age and after studying under Alexander Glazunov and Felix Blumenfeld at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, landed his first job playing piano accompaniment for several Russian silent films. Disillusioned with the lack of work for classical musicians in the wake of the Russian revolution, Tiomkin moved to Berlin where he made his performing debut with the city's Philharmonic Orchestra, before relocating again, first to Paris, and then to New York, where alongside roommate Michael Khariton and a ballet troupe run by future wife Albertian Rasch, he became a staple of the Keith/Albee and Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Heavily inspired by the Romanticism of George Gershwin, Tiomkin was then invited to perform at the European premiere of the composer's "Concerto in F" at the Paris Opera in 1928, and the pair coincidentally ended up making the same career move when they both joined the film industry in the early '30s.

Tiomkin's first notable film score project was "Alice in Wonderland" (1933), and after an arm injury put pay to his ambitions of becoming a concert pianist, he began to focus all his efforts on Hollywood, achieving his big break when Frank Capra hired him to write and perform the music for the fantasy drama, "Lost Horizon" (1937), in the same year that Tiomkin also became a U.S. citizen. The pair enjoyed a fruitful working relationship over the next decade on the likes of "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" (1939), "Meet John Doe" (1941) and "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946), with Tiomkin picking up the first of 22 Oscar nominations for his work on the former. The duo also collaborated on "Why We Fight," a series of propaganda films commissioned by the US government to explain the merits of war, and Tiomkin later cited Capra as the inspiration for his move away from European Romanticism to the story-based American style that would become his calling card.

Tiomkin further honed this sound on a number of westerns including "Duel in the Sun" (1946), "Red River" (1948) and "The Men" (1950), and forged a second major partnership with the director of the latter, Fred Zinnemann. Tiomkin was credited with transforming the fortunes of their second collaborative effort, "High Noon" (1952), when the success of its theme song, "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin' (The Ballad of High Noon)" inspired a previously hesitant United Artists studio to release the film which had tested terribly without music four months earlier. The movie subsequently became a box-office smash and picked up seven Oscar nods, with Tiomkin winning two for Best Original Music and Best Song. Tiomkin added to his catalog of Western soundtracks with the likes of "The High & The Mighty" (1954), for which he won a third Academy Award and famously thanked the European classical composers who had inspired him in his acceptance speech, "Giant" (1956), "Friendly Persuasion" (1956) and "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (1957).

However, his golden decade also saw him tackle various other genres with equal aplomb. Having previously worked on Alfred Hitchock's "Shadow of a Doubt" (1943), Tiomkin then teamed up with the Master of Suspense for three consecutive films, "Strangers on a Train" (1951), "I Confess" (1953) and "Dial M For Murder" (1954). "The Thing" (1951) saw Tiomkin experiment with distorted instrumentation to revolutionise the sound of science-fiction music, while swashbuckling romance "Cyrano de Bergerac" (1950) military drama "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell" (1955) and historical epic "Land of the Pharaohs" (1955) all benefited from Tiomkin's golden touch. Tiomkin also picked up the fourth and final Oscar of his career for his work on the adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's fable "The Old Man and the Sea" (1958), and a year later ventured into television for the first time to produce the unforgettable theme tune for long-running Western drama "Rawhide" (CBS, 1959-1965).

Tiomkin spent much of the early 60s in familiar Western territory, scoring the John Wayne classic "The Alamo" (1960), reuniting with Zinnemann on "The Sundowners" (1960) and adding John Huston to his list of legendary collaborators on "The Unforgiven" (1960). But he also continued to display his versatility on the likes of British-American action-adventure "The Guns of Navarone" (1961), courtroom drama "Town Without Pity" (1961) and European-made epics "55 Days at Peking" (1963) and "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964). Tiomkin's work-rate then slowed down considerably and after picking up the final Oscar nomination of his once-prolific career for his work on the biopic of the iconic Russian composer, "Chaikovsky" (1969), he retired from the film world altogether. Two weeks after suffering a bad fall, Tiomkin died from his resulting injuries at his London home in 1979 at the age of 85, leaving behind a pioneering body of work that no other European film composer can match.

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