Elmer Bernstein

Active - 1951 - 2002  |   Born - Apr 4, 1922   |   Died - Aug 18, 2004   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Western

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No relation to Leonard Bernstein, American film composer Elmer Bernstein was a graduate of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. He dabbled in all aspects of the arts (including dance) before devoting himself to composing; his first major stint was for United Nations radio. In the early '50s, Bernstein was willing to take any job available just to establish himself -- which possibly explains why his name is on the credits of that "golden turkey" Robot Monster. The composer's big breakthrough came with his progressive jazz score for The Man With the Golden Arm (1955), after which he switched artistic gears with his Wagnerian orchestrations for DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956). Bernstein's pulsating score for The Magnificent Seven (1960) has since become a classic -- so much so that Bernstein is often mistakenly credited for Jerome Moross' similar theme music for The Big Country (1958). As film tastes changed in the late '60s and early '70s, Bernstein's over-arranged compositions seemed a bit anachronistic, a fact that the composer himself apparently realized, as witnessed by his semi-satirical score for National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). Bernstein remained active throughout the '90s, rearranging Bernard Herrmann's original score for the 1991 remake of Cape Fear, underlining the innate romanticism of such films as Rambling Rose (1991), and earning Oscar nominations for his work on The Age of Innocence (1993) and Far From Heaven (2002). In 1967, Bernstein won his only Academy Award for Thoroughly Modern Millie, for which he wrote only the background music and none of the individual songs.

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