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Tribute To A Movie Music Legend

Thursday, December 14----The Museum of Modern Art continues its grand tradition of honoring visionary artists from Hollywood's golden age, with a 21-film retrospective of the films of famed film score composer Franz Waxman, on the centenary of his birth. FRANZ WAXMAN: MUSIC FOR THE CINEMA opens on Saturday, December 16 and runs through January 17th at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at New York's citadel of culture, the Museum of Modern Art.

Franz Waxman was one of the best known and most influential film composers of the classic Hollywood period. Born in his native Germany in 1906, Waxman spent his early career working as a banker to pay for music lessons before moving to Dresden and then to Berlin to study music formally. Before long, he was orchestrating the scores of some of the early German musical films of the late 1920s. Waxman’s first movie work to win international attention was his orchestration of Frederick Hollander’s score for the Josef von Sternberg classic THE BLUE ANGEL (1930) starring Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings.

The worldwide success of that film led to his first major composing assignment for producer Erich Pommer, an adaptation of the stage play LILIOM (1932), directed by Fritz Lang. The eager composer eventually followed Pommer to the US, where they both worked on their first Hollywood film, MUSIC IN THE AIR (1934). His first original Hollywood score was the classic horror film THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), directed by British expat director James Whale. The success of that film led to a two-year contract with Universal Studios as head of their music department.

He scored 12 of the more than 50 Universal films on which he worked as music director, before accepting a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), where he developed his prolific compositional skills on adventure films, horror films, and comedies. Among his best known films for MGM was CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (1937), THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) and the Oscar winning REBECCA (1940), produced by David O. Selznick (GONE WITH THE WIND) and the American directorial debut of Alfred Hitchcock.

Waxman left MGM in 1943 and began a long association with Warner Brothers Studios, composing music for such films as OLD ACQUAINTANCE (starring Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins), MR. SKEFFINGTON (starring Davis again with Claude Rains) and TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (the first teaming of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall).

In 1947, Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival, which presented world and American premieres of major works by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Dimitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, William Walton, and Ralph Vaughan Williams at the famed Hollywood Bowl.

In a career that spanned almost 40 years in Hollywood, Waxman was nominated for the Academy Award a record twelve times, before finally winning the coveted award in 1950 for SUNSET BOULEVARD, the classic Billy Wilder tale, starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson.

He then did what no other film composer has done since...he followed up this win with an unprecedented second consecutive Best Score Oscar for his memorable work in A PLACE IN THE SUN, the George Stevens classic which starred Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters.

Waxman continued writing original film scores into the 1950s and 1960s, with such memorable films as PRINCE VALIANT (1954), CRIME IN THE STREETS (1956), PEYTON PLACE (1957), THE NUN'S STORY (1959) and TARAS BULBA (1962). His final film score was for LOST COMMAND (1966), a war film directed by Mark Robson and starring Anthony Quinn. He died that same year at the age of 60.

A number of exciting auxiliary events are being planned to celebrate Waxman's influence and his stature as a film composer of the highest rank. On Sunday, December 17, the famed German cabaret star Ute Lemper will perform some of Waxman's most famous songs. On Monday, December 18, cable network Turner Classic Movies will honor the composer with a Centennial Movie Day, featuring 12 back-to-back films including CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (1937), THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940), SUSPICION (1941), SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948) and SAYONARA (1957).

The series concludes on January 17 with The Musical Legacy of Franz Waxman, a symposium with Royal S. Brown (author of Overtones and Undertones), Max Wilk (veteran theater, music, film, and TV writer), and Jack Sullivan (author of Hitchcock’s Music), and moderated by music director John Mauceri. The exhibition opens with the New York premiere of John Goberman’s video WAXMAN'S PRELUDE (2006). The exhibition is organized by Ron Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, Research and Collections, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

To view schedule and other information, log on to the official website of the Museum of Modern Art:
. Click here: Museum of Modern Art

Sandy Mandelberger
Film New York Editor


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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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