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:

1936

Dancing Pirate (Corrigan) (co)

1937

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)

1938

Suez (Dwan)

1939

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)

1941

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

1942

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)

1943

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

1944

Tampico (Mendes); Laura (Preminger)

1945

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)

1946

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

1947

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

1948

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

1949

Force of Evil (Polonsky)

1950

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)

1951

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

1952

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)

1953

The Unicorn in the Garden (cartoon)

1954

Suddenly (Lewis); Apache (Aldrich)

1955

The Big Combo (Lewis)

1956

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

1957

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

1958

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

1959

Al Capone (Wilson)

1960

Pay or Die (Wilson)

1961

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

1962

Two Weeks in Another Town (Minnelli)

1963

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

1965

Love Has Many Faces (Singer)

1966

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

1968

Will Penny (Gries)

1970

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

1971

What's the Matter with Helen? (Harrington)

1978

The Ghost of Flight 401 (Stern—for TV)

1979

The Suicide's Wife (Newland—for TV)

1983

The Day After (Meyer—for TV)

1989

Lady in the Corner (Levin—for TV)

Film as Arranger:

1936

Modern Times (Chaplin)

Publications

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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