Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stacks of Max

Has anybody ever seen Max Steiner and Miklos Rozsa in a room together?Today marks the birth anniversary of Max Steiner (1888-1971), a man whose name you've seen in the credits over and over. That's becuase he's the composer responsible for a whole bunch of movie scores. It's tough to get an accurate count, largely because in the early days of sound movies, the composer didn't necessarily get much credit for writing the score, in part because the earliest movies often didn't have particularly memorable scores. Sure, songwriters got credit, but for non-musicals, just as much credit would go to the head of the studio's musical department. Max Steiner, in fact, was the head of RKO's musical department in the early 1930s, and got Oscar nominations in that capacity in the days when the Academy honored the studio's music department and not the individual composer. The other thing that makes it difficult to figure out how many movies Steiner gets credit for is the fact that his music has been used for so many later movies. Steiner wrote the theme to A Summer Place. Steiner also wrote the score for King Kong, which has been used in quite a few later movies as well.

Those two movies only begin to scratch the surface of the dozens of movies for which Steiner provided the score. Which one is his most famous? That's hard to say. Probably Gone With the Wind, although it didn't win him an Oscar. Now, Voyager did, as did The Informer and Since You Went Away. One of my personal favorites would be the score to Mildred Pierce. Also, he wrote the score for Casablanca, although he didn't write the song "As Time Goes By".

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