Raoul Kraushaar

Active - 1939 - 1980  |   Born - Aug 20, 1908   |   Died - Oct 13, 2001   |   Genres - Western, Action, Adventure, Drama

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Raoul Kraushaar was one of the busiest and most successful music directors in movies and television for more than three decades -- his name is attached to some of the most popular movies ever made by Gene Autry, as well as classic genre films in science fiction and film noir, and the kinds of television series that today populate cable channels such as TV Land and Nick-At-Nite. Although usually identified as a composer, Kraushaar most often served as a music supervisor, "packaging" scores by hiring composers -- usually working anonymously -- to write the actual score for whatever project was at hand. Indeed, in later years, after decades in which his name ended up attached to some very famous theme material, it proved very difficult to ascribe a style or sound to Kraushaar, as relatively little of the music for which he was most famous had actually been written by him. Born in France in 1908, Kraushaar was the son of an orchestral musician, and following the death of his mother, he was raised by an aunt. In the mid-'20s, while still in his teens, he stowed away on a ship bound for New York and spent the rest of his life in the United States. Kraushaar studied music arranging at Columbia University and moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where he first got work as an arranger for various big bands of the era. He began working at the music department at Republic Pictures in the late '30s, getting his first screen credit (as a songwriter) on the 1937 feature The Sea Racketeers. Two years later, he received his first screen credit for Musical Supervision, for the film Rovin' Tumbleweeds, starring Gene Autry. Over the few years, most of Kraushaar's time was spent supervising the scoring of Westerns starring Autry and other Republic cowboy heroes. As the movie business began retrenching after WWII, he branched out to other production companies, working on films made for Allied Artists and other smaller studios. It was during this period that Kraushaar became associated with various sci-fi genre films such as Prehistoric Women, Invaders From Mars, and The Unknown Terror. Several of the films to which Kraushaar contributed his talents during the early '50s are today considered highly respectable, even classics of their respective genres, most notably Fritz Lang's The Blue Gardenia and William Cameron Menzies' Invaders From Mars. Kraushaar also began an association with Abbott and Costello (on Abbott & Costello Meet Captain Kidd) in 1952 that resulted in his writing the theme music for The Abbott & Costello Show for television. The small screen was where Kraushaar made most of his mark (and his money) during the 1950s and early '60s, as musical supervisor and sometime composer for series such as Lassie, Mr. Ed, the cartoon shows Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, The Untouchables, Dennis the Menace, My Three Sons, The Donna Reed Show, and The Fugitive. It was also the medium, however, in which his creative contribution has proved to be the most suspect -- for example, for decades Kraushaar's name had appeared on the composer credit for the theme from Lassie, but it has since been well established (principally through the work of scholar Paul Mandell) that the Lassie theme was actually written as a work-for-hire by William Lava, a veteran film and television composer. This kind of arrangement was typical during the early '50s, when work was increasingly scarce for composers and nobody was sure precisely what (if any) lasting commercial impact television would have. Kraushaar continued working on low-budget movies through the 1960s and 1970s, though most of his work was centered on television through the 1980s, when he retired.

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