Elmer Bernstein: Wikis


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Elmer Bernstein
Born April 4, 1922(1922-04-04)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died August 18, 2004 (aged 82)
Genres Film scores
Occupations Composer, Conductor, Songwriter
Years active 1951–2004

Elmer Bernstein (April 4, 1922–August 18, 2004) was an American film score composer known for The Ten Commandments, The Man with the Golden Arm, The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven, Meatballs, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ghostbusters, and Airplane!.


Early life

Bernstein was born in New York City, the son of Selma (née Feinstein) and Edward Bernstein.[1] Although not related to the celebrated composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, the two were friends.[2] Within the world of professional music, they were distinguished from each other by the use of the nicknames Bernstein West (Elmer) and Bernstein East (Leonard).[3]

During his childhood, Bernstein performed professionally as a dancer and an actor, in the latter case playing the part of Caliban in The Tempest on Broadway, and he also won several prizes for his painting. He gravitated toward music at the age of twelve, at which time he was given a scholarship in piano by Henriette Michelson, a Juilliard teacher who guided him throughout his entire career as a pianist. She took him to play some of his improvisations for composer Aaron Copland, who was encouraging and selected Israel Citkowitz as a teacher for the young boy.[4] Bernstein's music has some stylistic similarities to Copland's music, most notably in his western scores and in his spirited score for the 1958 film adaptation of Erskine Caldwell's novel God's Little Acre.

Throughout his life, Bernstein demonstrated an enthusiasm for an even wider spectrum of the arts than his childhood interests would imply and, in 1959, when he was scoring The Story on Page One, he considered becoming a novelist and asked the film's screenwriter, Clifford Odets, to give him lessons in writing fiction.


Bernstein wrote the theme songs or other music for more than 200 films and TV shows, including The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Ten Commandments (1956), The Man with the Golden Arm, To Kill a Mockingbird, Robot Monster, Ghostbusters and the fanfare used in the National Geographic television specials.[4] His theme for The Magnificent Seven is also familiar to television viewers, as it was used in commercials for Marlboro cigarettes. Bernstein also provided the score to many of the short films of Ray and Charles Eames.



In addition to his film music, Bernstein wrote the scores for two Broadway musicals, How Now, Dow Jones, with lyricist Carolyn Leigh, in 1967 and Merlin, with lyricist Don Black, in 1983.[5]


Along with many in Hollywood, Bernstein faced censure during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. He was "gray-listed" (not banned, but kept off major projects) due to sympathy with left-wing causes, and had to work on low-budget science fiction films such as Robot Monster and Cat-Women of the Moon.[4]


John Landis grew up near Bernstein, and befriended him through his children. Years later, he requested Bernstein do the music for National Lampoon's Animal House, over the studio's objections. He explained to Bernstein that he thought that Bernstein's score, playing it straight as if the comedic Delta frat characters were actual heroes, would emphasize the comedy further. Bernstein accepted the job, and it sparked a second wave in his career, where he continued to do high-profile comedies such as Stripes and Airplane!, as well as most of Landis's films for the next 15 years.

Cape Fear

When Martin Scorsese announced that he was re-making Cape Fear, Bernstein adapted Bernard Herrmann's original score to the new film. Bernstein leapt at the opportunity to work with Scorsese, and to pay homage to Herrmann. Scorsese and Bernstein subsequently worked together on two more films in the 1990s. Bernstein had previously conducted Herrman's original unused score for Alfred Hitchcock's 1966 Torn Curtain.[6]


Over the course of his career, Bernstein won an Academy Award, an Emmy Award, and two Golden Globe Awards.[7] In addition, he was nominated for the Tony Award three times [5] and a Grammy Award five times.

He received 14 Academy Award nominations and was nominated at least once per decade from the 1950s thru 2000s, but his only win was for Thoroughly Modern Millie for Best Original Music Score. Bernstein was recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with Golden Globes for his scores for To Kill a Mockingbird and Hawaii. In 1963, he won the Emmy for Excellence in Television for his score of the documentary The Making of The President 1960. He is the recipient of Western Heritage Awards for The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Hallelujah Trail (1965).[7]

He received five Grammy nominations from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and garnered two Tony Award nominations for the Broadway musicals How Now Dow Jones and Merlin.

Additional honors included Lifetime achievement awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), The Society for the Preservation of Film Music, the USA, Woodstock, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach and Flanders International Film Festivals and the Foundation for a Creative America.

In 1996, Bernstein was honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard.[8] In 1999, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Five Towns College in New York and was honored by the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Bernstein again was honored by ASCAP with its marquee Founders Award in 2001 [8] and with the NARAS Governors Award in June 2004.


Bernstein died of cancer[citation needed] in his sleep at his home in Ojai, California, on August 18, 2004.[9]


Broadway theatre


  1. ^ Biographyelmerbernstein.com
  2. ^ [1]bbc.co.uk
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ a b c Biographysongwritershalloffame.org, retrieved December 21, 2009
  5. ^ a b Internet Broadway Database listingibdb.com, retrieved December 21, 2009
  6. ^ "Talk on the Wild Side"bernardherrmann.org, June 2003
  7. ^ a b Internet Movie atabase listing, Awardsimdb.com, retrieved December 21, 2009
  8. ^ a b Biographyfilmreference.com, retrieved December 21, 2009
  9. ^ "Great Escape composer dies at 82"BBC News, 19 August 2004

External links


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