Bernard Herrmann Biography

29 June 1911, New York, USA, d. 24 December 1975, Los Angeles, USA. One of the most highly regarded composers and arrangers of background music for films, from the early 40s through to the 70s. Herrmann studied at New York University and the Juilliard School of Music, before joining CBS broadcasting in 1933. While serving as a composer conductor for radio documentaries and dramas he became associated with Orson Welles, and began his film career by scoring Welles’ legendaryCitizen Kane, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1941. He did win the Oscar that year, not for Citizen Kane, but for his music to All That Money Can Buy (also known as The Devil And Danny Webster amongst other titles), generally thought of as among his best work. His other early scores included another Welles classic, The Magnificent Ambersons, Jane Eyre, Hangover Square, Anna And The King Of Siam, The Ghost And Mrs Muir, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Five Fingers, Beneath The 12 Mile Reef, King Of The Khyber Rifles, Garden Of Evil, The Egyptian (with Alfred Newman), The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit, Prince Of Players and The Kentuckian (1955). Herrmann then proceeded to make several films with Alfred Hitchcock - he became known as the director’s favourite movie composer. They included thrillers such as The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho and Marnie. He was also a consultant on Hitchcock’s sinister The Birds. Herrmann was ‘gravely wounded’ when Hitchcock rejected his score for Torn Curtain in favour of one by John Addison; this decision terminated their relationship.

His other dramatic scores included A Hatful Of Rain, The Naked And The Dead, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, The Three Worlds Of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, Cape Fear, Tender Is The Night, Joy In The Morning, Sisters, It’s Alive. Between 1965 and 1975, Herrmann spent much of his time based in Britain, and composed the background music for a good many European productions, such as Jason And The Argonauts, Fahrenheit 451, The Bride Wore Black, Twisted Nerve, The Battle Of Nereveta, The Night Digger and Endless Night. At the end of his career, as at the beginning, Herrmann was nominated for an Academy Award twice in the same year. This time, however, neither Taxi Driver nor Obsession won the Oscar for Original Score, and Herrmann died, the day after he completed recording the music for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in 1975. The many recordings of his vast output include Classic Fantasy Film Scores conducted by Herrmann, Citizen Kane - Classic Film Scores Of Bernard Herrmann with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, and From Citizen Kane To Taxi Driver (1993) on which Elmer Bernstein conducts the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1992, an hour-long, analytical documentary, Music For The Movies: Bernard Herrmann, which included home movies, interviews, and a scene from Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain accompanied by Herrmann’s original, rejected music, was shown on US television.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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