Herman Stein

Active - 1952 - 1966  |   Born - Aug 19, 1915   |   Died - Mar 15, 2007   |   Genres - Western, Adventure, Action, Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Herman Stein, like his older, better-known film music contemporaries Alfred Newman and Miklos Rozsa, was a child prodigy. At the age of three, he began playing the piano and by six he'd given his first recital. In his teens he was performing professionally in bars and restaurants, and was completely self-taught in the art of orchestration. By 15, he was working as an arranger for local bands and on one local radio station in Philadelphia. Stein's forte in the 1930's and 1940's was jazz-style big-band orchestration and his clients included such renowned figures as Fred Waring, Tony Pastor, and Bob Crosby. After service in the army during the Second World War, Stein, who was newly married, moved to Los Angeles, where he studied music with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and found work scoring industrial films. His music for a banking industry film got him hired by Universal Pictures in 1950, initially as an arranger and then as a composer. Stein wrote (or more often, given Universal's method of mixing new and library music, co-wrote) the scores for a fascinating array of movies, everything from Westerns to science fiction, including Douglas Sirk's delightful period comedy Has Anybody Seen My Gal; Jack Arnold's crime drama Girls in the Night and Arnold's film noir The Glass Web, plus plus his three science fiction classics It Came From Outer Space, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man; Anthony Mann's The Far Country; and several of Abbott & Costello's early- and mid-'50s films. Stein's name and music were also attached to many very good little B-Westerns that came out of Universal during this period, including The Saga of Hemp Brown and the brilliant, underrated Joe Dakota. His music for science fiction films has achieved a cult following, owing to its vividness as effect music and also the lingering popularity of Universal's genre movies from that period. Stein was also the composer of the score for Roger Corman's groundbreaking 1961 civil rights drama The Intruder, although most of his assignments in the 1960s weren't as distinguished as this title; then again, tens of millions of baby-boomers heard the music that he wrote for King Kong Vs. Godzilla. From the late '50s through the mid- to late '60s, Stein also composed music for various television series, including Wagon Train, Daniel Boone, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. In addition to his film work, Stein has also written works for chamber orchestra in the concert hall. His last screen credit was William Castle's thriller Let's Kill Uncle.

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