David Raksin - Writer

Composer. Nationality: American. Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 4 August 1912. Education: Attended the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Mus. B. 1934; also studied with Schoenberg and Isadore Freed. Family: Married Joanne Carol Kaiser, 1959, two sons and one daughter. Career: 1924—leader of his own band; composer from late 1920s: orchestra and chamber works, and works for ballet and stage; arranger, Harms music publisher, New York; 1936–43—arranger, orchestrator, and collaborator (often with Buttolph and Mockridge) on films; 1950s—composed music for Mr. Magoo cartoons; since 1958—teacher at University of California, Los Angeles.

Films as Composer:


Dancing Pirate (Corrigan) (co)


San Quentin (Bacon) (co); 52nd Street (Young) (co); Wings over Honolulu (Potter) (co); Marked Woman (Bacon) (co); Marry the Girl (McGann) (co); Let Them Live! ( The Stones Cry Out ) (Young) (co); As Good as Married (Buzzell); Midnight Court (McDonald) (co); The Kid Comes Back ( Don't Pull Your Punches ) (Eason) (co); She's Dangerous (Foster and Carruth) (co); The Mighty Treve (Collins) (co)


Suez (Dwan)


Hollywood Cavalcade (Cummings) (co); Stanley and Livingstone (H. King) (co); Mr. Moto's Last Warning (Foster) (co); Frontier Marshal (Dwan) (co); The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes ( Sherlock Holmes ) (Werker) (co)


The Men in Her Life (Ratoff) (co); Dead Men Tell (Lachman) (co); Ride On, Vaquero (Leeds) (co)


The Magnificent Dope (W. Lang) (co); Dr. Renault's Secret (Lachman) (co); Manila Calling (Leeds) (co); The Man Who Wouldn't Die (Leeds) (co); Whispering Ghosts (Werker) (co); Just Off Broadway (Leeds) (co); Thru' Different Eyes (Loring) (co); The Postman Didn't Ring (Schuster) (co); Who Is Hope Schuyler? (Loring) (co)


City without Men (Salkow) (co); The Gang's All Here (Berkeley) (co); The Undying Monster ( The Hammond Mystery ) (Brahm) (co)


Tampico (Mendes); Laura (Preminger)


Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe (Seaton); Attack in the Pacific (doc); Don Juan Quilligan (Tuttle); Where Do We Go from Here? (Ratoff); Fallen Angel (Preminger)


Smoky (L. King); The Shocking Miss Pilgrim (Seaton)


The Homestretch (Humberstone); Forever Amber (Preminger); Daisy Kenyon (Preminger); The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (McLeod)


Fury at Furnace Creek (Humberstone); Apartment for Peggy (Seaton)


Force of Evil (Polonsky)


Whirlpool (Preminger); Grounds for Marriage (Leonard); The Next Voice You Hear (Wellman); Giddyap (cartoon); Right Cross (J. Sturges); The Magnificent Yankee (J. Sturges); The Reformer and the Redhead (Panama and Frank)


Kind Lady (J. Sturges); The Man with a Cloak (Markle); Across the Wide Missouri (Wellman)


Sloppy Jalopy (cartoon); The Girl in White (J. Sturges); Pat and Mike (Cukor); Madeline (cartoon); The Bad and the Beautiful (Minnelli); Carrie (Wyler); It's a Big Country (Weis and others); Just for You (Nugent)


The Unicorn in the Garden (cartoon)


Suddenly (Lewis); Apache (Aldrich)


The Big Combo (Lewis)


Seven Wonders of the World (Tetzlaff and others); Jubal (Daves); Hilda Crane (Dunne); Bigger than Life (Ray)


Man on Fire (MacDougall); Gaslight Ridge (Lyon); The Vintage (Hayden); Until They Sail (Wise)


Twilight for the Gods (Pevney); Separate Tables (Delbert Mann)


Al Capone (Wilson)


Pay or Die (Wilson)


Night Tide (Harrington); Too Late Blues (Cassavetes)


Two Weeks in Another Town (Minnelli)


The Patsy (Lewis); Sylvia (Douglas); Invitation to a Gun-fighter (Wilson)


Love Has Many Faces (Singer)


A Big Hand for the Little Lady (Cook); The Redeemer (Breen)


Will Penny (Gries)


Glass Houses (Singer); The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again (McGowan—for TV)


What's the Matter with Helen? (Harrington)


The Ghost of Flight 401 (Stern—for TV)


The Suicide's Wife (Newland—for TV)


The Day After (Meyer—for TV)


Lady in the Corner (Levin—for TV)

Film as Arranger:


Modern Times (Chaplin)


By RAKSIN: articles—

"Raksin on Film Music," in Journal of University Film Association (Carbondale, Illinois), vol. 26, no. 4, 1974.

"Whatever Became of Movie Music?," in Film Music Notebook (Calabasas, California), Fall 1974.

In Knowing the Score , by Irwin Bazelon, New York, 1975.

Interview with Elmer Bernstein in Film Music Notebook (Calabasas, California), vol. 2, nos. 2 and 3, 1976.

With Charles Berg, "'Music Composed by Charlie Chaplin': Auteur or Collaborator?," in Journal of University Film Association (Carbondale, Illinois), Winter 1979.

Interview with Jeannie Pool, in Cue Sheet (Hollywood), vol. 10, no. 1–2, Spring 1993–1994.

On RAKSIN: articles—

Morton, Lawrence, in Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television (Berkeley, California), Winter 1951.

Thomas, Anthony, in Films in Review (New York), January 1963.

Films in Review (New York), October 1971.

Thomas, Tony, in Music for the Movies , South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1973.

Film Music Notebook (Calabasas, California), Fall 1974.

Films in Review (New York), June/July 1981.

Lacombe, Alain, in Hollywood , Paris, 1983.

Score , no. 90, March 1994.

Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 13, March 1994.

Cue Sheet (Hollywood), vol. 10, no. 3–4, 1993–94.

Cue Sheet (Hollywood), vol. 12, no. 1, January 1996.

* * *

Arriving in Hollywood in 1935, David Raksin was perhaps the first American film composer to set out with the idea of being one. At that time, most of the men employed in film scoring had come from the theater or the concert halls. The idea of music in films had fascinated the young Raksin, whose father conducted accompaniment to silent films in Philadelphia. Raksin Sr. also operated a music store, in which Raksin worked while attending Central High School. He studied piano and with the aid of his clarinetist father mastered that instrument. At the University of Pennsylvania, Raksin studied composition with Harl McDonald and earned his tuition playing in dance bands and the orchestra of the CBS radio station in Philadelphia. At 21 he was in New York, playing in, and arranging for, a number of dance bands, which led to a position as arranger on the staff of the music publishing house of Harms, Inc. After a year with Harms, two Hollywood orchestrators, Eddie Powell and Herbert Spencer, recommended Raksin to Alfred Newman, who needed someone to work with Charlie Chaplin on the score the comedian wanted to devise for Modern Times . Although he had a keen sense of the use of music in films and could invent melodies, Chaplin could neither play the piano nor write music.

The success of the score bolstered Raksin's belief that this was the area of composition in which he wanted to be active. Over the next six years, he was engaged in arranging, adapting, and writing music for a large number of features, shorts, cartoons, and documentaries. He received wide attention in 1944 with his score for Laura , the main theme of which would become a song standard, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and one of the most often recorded of all melodies. The score is regarded as a textbook example of the effective use of music in film.

Speaking with a voice very much his own, Raksin's scores tended to be more modernistic than the average and stylistically ahead of their time. He was nominated for an Oscar for Forever Amber and Separate Tables . Other of his scores highly regarded by students of film composition include Force of Evil , The Bad and the Beautiful , Carrie , Too Late Blues , Will Penny , and What's the Matter with Helen? In 1958 Raksin began his association with the University of California, Los Angeles, conducting classes in film music theory and technique. Since 1968 he has also taught urban ecology. One of the most recounted of film music anecdotes is attributable to Raksin. When Alfred Hitchcock was making Lifeboat at Twentieth Century-Fox in 1944, Raksin, then on staff, let it be known he would be interested in writing the score. An intermediary informed the composer, "Mr. Hitchcock feels that since the entire action of the film takes place in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean, where would the music come from?" Replied Raksin, "Ask Mr. Hitchcock to explain where the cameras come from and I'll tell him where the music comes from."

—Tony Thomas

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