Miklos Rozsa


Composer

About

Also Known As
Miklos Rosza
Birth Place
Budapest, HU
Born
April 18, 1907
Died
July 27, 1995
Cause of Death
Pneumonia

Biography

Hungarian-born composer Miklos Rosza's exquisite string arrangements, powerful use of percussion and unconventional approach to composition would revolutionize the film score, raising the field to greater dramatic and evocative heights. A born musician, Rozsa began studying the violin at age five and became steeped in the folk music of his native land, an influence that could be detected...

Family & Companions

Margaret Rozsa
Wife
Married in August 1943; survived him.

Bibliography

"Double Life"
Miklos Rozsa, Wynwood Press (1989)

Notes

Rozsa's contract with MGM stipulated that each year he would be allowed three months off each summer without pay during which time he would compose his concert pieces. --From Robert Horton's article "Music Man", in FILM COMMENT, November/December 1995

Biography

Hungarian-born composer Miklos Rosza's exquisite string arrangements, powerful use of percussion and unconventional approach to composition would revolutionize the film score, raising the field to greater dramatic and evocative heights. A born musician, Rozsa began studying the violin at age five and became steeped in the folk music of his native land, an influence that could be detected in much of his later work. While his parents tried to steer him towards a more practical lifestyle, insisting he major in chemistry at the University of Leipzig, it wasn't long before he was enrolled in Leipzig Conservatory, training in musicology, preparing him for a long, successful and influential career in music.

Having done a good bit of early work as a symphonic composer, even completing a ballet while in his 20s, Rozsa scored the British films "The Squeaker" and "Knight Without Armour" (both 1937) as a way to support himself. Soon after, his work with fellow Hungarians Zoltan and Alexander Korda would bring him worldwide fame and opportunities. His impressive score for Zoltan Korda's "The Four Feathers" (1939) included traditional but rousing adventure themes infused with a fresh use of booming drums and a stirring wailing chorus. Rozsa proved a capable and visionary artist, and was hired to score "The Thief of Bagdad" (1940), directed by the uncredited Kordas, among others. The exotic and sensuous score established Rozsa as a powerfully moving composer and essentially served as his introduction to the American movie system, a medium in which he would work prolifically for over 40 years. Emerging as a versatile and consistently dependable composer, he was always capable of writing a memorable and appropriate score, his expertise extending to such divergent genres as dramatic romance ("That Hamilton Woman" 1941), sharp comedy ("Adam's Rib" 1949), grand epics ("King of Kings" 1961) and film noir ("The Naked City" 1948).

Rozsa began his legendary association with director Billy Wilder with 1943's adventure "Five Graves to Cairo." His score was an especially significant element, building suspense and setting the mood in a film featuring several scenes without dialogue. The composer also accomplished the task of hinting at the deadly silence of the desert, through dropped out musical portions. He followed up with the unforgettable score for the noir classic "Double Indemnity." Unabashedly gloomy and dramatic, Rozsa opened the feature with a foreboding dirge, a march to a dark destiny. The music followed the mood of the film perfectly, both complementing and enhancing Wilder's edgy suspense. For the director's acclaimed 1945 drama "The Lost Weekend," Rozsa masterfully used a theremin, an electronic instrument with an incomparable eerie sound, the perfect expressionistic choice to accompany Ray Milland's disturbing bouts with the DTs. Additional Wilder credits include 1970's "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes," featuring a performance by Holmes of the composer's Violin Concerto, and "Fedora" (1978), with Rosza's score suffering from overediting and underuse in an unremarkable film.

Rosza's dynamic work in the noirish "The Killers" (1946) would prove to be most influential. In addition to the moving operatic ending that melodically underlines Ava Gardner's downfall, the composer created a recurring theme that announced the hit men and marked their every scene. This piece, four solid beats that resound like punches, is later slowed down to the sound of a jail cell closing, illustrating their fate. This portion of the score would later be adapted into the theme song for the popular TV series "Dragnet." Comparably powerful, although much shorter was Rozsa's work for John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950). Very sparsely scored, with real musical accompaniment for the beginning and the end only, the film captured the sound of urban despair in its score, evincing both anxiety and weariness. The musical accompaniment to the film's end is powerful in its simplicity, indicating both desperation and an acceptance of the inevitable negative. The 1947 prison drama "Brute Force" showcased and was served well by Rozsa's evocative soundtrack, his music framing the film's action. The composer's brilliant shaky and despairing reuse of the inspiring and powerful opening theme in the film's final scene proved him a master of dramatic device.

The Hitchcock classic "Spellbound" (1945) gave Rozsa an opportunity to create one of his most breathtaking scores, and won the composer his first Academy Award. He enhanced the romance between Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck with their enthralling and intimate love theme, and punctuated Peck's bouts of conscience with the sinister squeal of a theremin. He additionally won an Oscar for his breakthrough scoring of George Cukor's "A Double Life" (1947), the composer's impeccable music enhancing the compelling and solid melodrama.

Also quite memorable was the composer's work in epic drama, scoring such grand films as "Julius Caesar" (1953), "Ben-Hur" (1959) and "El Cid" (1961). After signing with MGM in the late 40s, Rozsa was hired as the composer for such epics, no doubt on the strength of his previous efforts. He became a student of the history of the films he was to score, meticulously researching to make the filmgoing experience either true to the time (as in the period sound and instrumentation he employed in 1952's "Ivanhoe") or reflective of the characters and themes portrayed (opting for a mesmerizing, lively and vivid lilt for Vincente Minnelli's 1956 Vincent Can Gogh biopic "Lust for Life," while a Wagnerian opera sound would be more consistent with the actual musical atmosphere of the painter's time). While his Oscar-winning score to "Ben-Hur," with its grand drama could be deemed predictable, it remains, nevertheless, unforgettable, Rozsa defining for generations of moviegoers the sound of Biblical drama.

The Hitchcock classic "Spellbound" (1945) gave Rozsa an opportunity to create one of his most breathtaking scores, and won the composer his first Academy Award. He enhanced the romance between Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck with their enthralling and intimate love theme, and punctuated Peck's bouts of conscience with the sinister squeal of a theremin. He additionally won an Oscar for his breakthrough scoring of George Cukor's "A Double Life" (1947), the composer's impeccable music enhancing the compelling and solid melodrama.

Among Rozsa's remarkable later work was his alluring and captivating score for 1977's curious "Providence," his rich and romantic music for "Time After Time" (1979) and his final work, the hard-edged composition for the 1982 noir spoof "Dead Man Don't Wear Plaid" that harkened back to some of the his best earlier work.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Story of Three Loves (1953)
Conductor

Music (Feature Film)

Think Like a Man Too (2014)
Song
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Song
Man on the Moon (1999)
Song
Inspector Gadget (1999)
Song
Spice World (1997)
Song ("Memories (Part 2)")
Cops And Robbersons (1994)
Song
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
Song
Gesucht: Monika Ertl (1989)
Music
Dragnet (1987)
Song
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)
Song
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982)
Music
The Atomic Cafe (1982)
Conductor (Frankenland State Symphony Orchestra)
The Atomic Cafe (1982)
Music ("Theme From Brute Force" "Theme From 'The Killers'")
Eye Of The Needle (1981)
Music
Time After Time (1979)
Music
Last Embrace (1979)
Music
Last Embrace (1979)
Song
Fedora (1978)
Music
Providence (1977)
Music
The Private Files Of J. Edgar Hoover (1977)
Music
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)
Music
Friday on My Mind (1970)
Selections from the film Music of
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
Music: score and concerto for violin and orch, opus 24
The Green Berets (1968)
Music
The Power (1968)
Music comp & Conductor
The V.I.P.s (1963)
Music
Sodom and Gomorrah (1963)
Music
El Cid (1961)
Music
El Cid (1961)
Love theme
King of Kings (1961)
Music
The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)
Music
Ben-Hur (1959)
Music
A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958)
Music
The Seventh Sin (1957)
Music
Something of Value (1957)
Music
Tip on a Dead Jockey (1957)
Music
Lust for Life (1956)
Music
Diane (1956)
Music
Bhowani Junction (1956)
Music Supervisor
Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)
Music
The King's Thief (1955)
Music
Green Fire (1955)
Music
Moonfleet (1955)
Music
Green Fire (1955)
Composer
Dragnet (1954)
"Danger Ahead" theme
Knights of the Round Table (1954)
Music
Valley of the Kings (1954)
Music
Crest of the Wave (1954)
Music
Men of the Fighting Lady (1954)
Composer
Young Bess (1953)
Music
Julius Caesar (1953)
Music
All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953)
Music
The Story of Three Loves (1953)
Music
Ivanhoe (1952)
Music
Ivanhoe (1952)
Composer
Plymouth Adventure (1952)
Music
Quo Vadis (1951)
Music
The Light Touch (1951)
Music Director
East Side, West Side (1950)
Music
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
Music
The Miniver Story (1950)
[Music] adapt
Crisis (1950)
Music
Criss Cross (1949)
Music
Command Decision (1949)
Music Score
Adam's Rib (1949)
Music
The Bribe (1949)
Music Score
Madame Bovary (1949)
Music
The Red Danube (1949)
Music
Madame Bovary (1949)
Composer
Secret Beyond the Door (1948)
Music
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948)
Music
The Naked City (1948)
Music
A Woman's Vengeance (1948)
Music
A Double Life (1948)
Music
Desert Fury (1947)
Music Score
Song of Scheherazade (1947)
Music Adapted and Director
The Other Love (1947)
Music
Brute Force (1947)
Music
Time Out of Mind (1947)
Music
The Red House (1947)
Music
The Macomber Affair (1947)
Music Director
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
Music Score
Because of Him (1946)
Music Score
The Killers (1946)
Music Director
The Killers (1946)
Composer
Spellbound (1945)
Music
A Song to Remember (1945)
Music Adapted
Lady on a Train (1945)
Music Score
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Music Score
Blood on the Sun (1945)
Music
Dark Waters (1944)
Music score and Director
The Hour Before the Dawn (1944)
Music Score
The Man in Half Moon Street (1944)
Music Score
Double Indemnity (1944)
Music Score
Five Graves to Cairo (1943)
Music Score
The Woman of the Town (1943)
Music Score
Sahara (1943)
Music Score
So Proudly We Hail! (1943)
Music Score
Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book (1942)
Music
Jacaré (1942)
Original Music and Music Director by
Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book (1942)
Composer
Sundown (1941)
Music Score
That Hamilton Woman (1941)
Music
Lydia (1941)
Music
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Music Score
The Thief of Bagdad (1940)
Composer
U-Boat 29 (1939)
Music Composition
The Four Feathers (1939)
Music Score
The Divorce of Lady X (1938)
Music Score
Murder on Diamond Row (1937)
Music Score
Knight Without Armor (1937)
Music Score

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

En quete des soeurs Papin (2001)
Other

Music (Short)

One Who Came Back (1951)
Music Composer

Life Events

1912

Began studying violin (date approximate)

1939

Scored Zoltan Korda's impressive adventure "The Four Feathers"

1940

Wrote an ornate dramatic score for "The Thief of Bagdad"

1942

Scored "The Jungle Book"

1943

Began association with Billy Wilder with his extraordinary score for the director's "Five Graves to Cairo"

1944

Wrote memorable noir music for the Wilder classic "Double Indemnity"

1945

Employed the eerie harmonics of a theramin in his score for "The Lost Weekend"

1945

Composed the enchanting Oscar-winning score for "Spellbound"

1947

Won second Academy Award for his work on "A Double Life"

1950

Composed the spare but powerful music of "The Asphalt Jungle"

1953

Scored Joseph L Mankiewicz's "Julius Caesar"

1956

Wrote the moving score for the Vincent Van Gogh biopic "Lust for Life"

1959

Scored the Biblical epic "Ben-Hur", winning his third Academy Award

1961

Wrote an appropriately grand score for the epic "El Cid"

1974

Returned to Hungary for first time since he left

1977

Served as music director for Alain Resnais' "Providence"

1979

Scored the time travel tale "Time After Time"

1982

Wrote the score for the film noir spoof "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid"

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Lost Weekend, The - (Original Trailer) Academy Awards® for Best Picture, Actor, Director and Screenplay went to this groundbreaking study of alcoholism.
Julius Caesar - (Re-issue Trailer) Marlon Brando heads an all-star cast in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1953).
Crest of the Wave - (Original Trailer) An American demolitions expert (Gene Kelly) creates waves when he heads a British Royal Navy project in Crest of the Wave (1954).
Bhowani Junction - (Original Trailer) An Anglo-Indian beauty (Ava Gardner) falls for a British officer (Stewart Granger) as her country fights for independence.
Quo Vadis (1951) - (Original Trailer) A Roman commander falls for a Christian slave girl as Nero intensifies persecution of the new religion in Quo Vadis (1951) starring Robert Taylor.
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid - (Original Trailer) A private eye (Steve Martin) interacts with classic film noir characters to help a beautiful woman in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982).
Criss Cross - (Re-issue Trailer) Burt Lancaster is an armored-car driver pulled into a bank heist in the film noir classic Criss Cross (1949).
King's Thief, The - (Original Trailer) David Niven takes a rare villainous role in the swashbuckling adventure The King's Thief (1955) co-starring George Sanders and Roger Moore.
Valley of the Kings - (Original Trailer) Archaeologists clash with graverobbers during the search for a priceless Egyptian treasure in Valley of the Kings (1954) starring Robert Taylor.
Green Fire - (Original Trailer) Stewart Granger has to decide which to take: the emeralds in the mine or beautiful coffee plantation owner Grace Kelly in Green Fire (1955).
So Proudly We Hail! - (Original Trailer) Nurses caught behind enemy lines during World War II fight to survive in So Proudly We Hail! (1943) starring Claudette Colbert and Paulette Goddard.
King of Kings (1961) - (Original Trailer) Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause) tells the life of Jesus Christ in King of Kings (1961).

Family

Edith Jankay
Sister
Born c. 1914; survived him.
Julia Rozsa-Brown
Daughter
Survived him.
Nicholas Rozsa
Son
Survived him.

Companions

Margaret Rozsa
Wife
Married in August 1943; survived him.

Bibliography

"Double Life"
Miklos Rozsa, Wynwood Press (1989)

Notes

Rozsa's contract with MGM stipulated that each year he would be allowed three months off each summer without pay during which time he would compose his concert pieces. --From Robert Horton's article "Music Man", in FILM COMMENT, November/December 1995