Herbert Stothart - Writer

Composer and Music Director. Nationality: American. Born: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 11 September 1885. Education: Attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison; also studied in Europe. Career: Teacher; then composer and conductor on Broadway in 1920s: composer of musicals (including Rose Marie with Friml) and orchestral music (including Heart Attack: A Symphonic Poem , 1947); 1928—composer for films: became general music director at MGM. Award: Academy Award for The Wizard of Oz , 1939. Died: Of cancer, in Los Angeles, California, 1 February 1949.

Films as Composer or Supervisor:


Konyets Sankta-Peterburga ( The End of St. Petersburg ) (Pudovkin)


Dynamite (DeMille); Devil-May-Care (Franklin)

Herbert Stothart
Herbert Stothart


In Gay Madrid (Leonard); Madam Satan (DeMille); The Rogue Song (L. Barrymore); A Lady's Morals (Franklin); Montana Moon (St. Clair); The Floradora Girl (Beaumont); The Call of the Flesh (Brabin)


The Squaw Man (DeMille); New Moon (Conway); The Southerner ( The Prodigal ) (Pollard)


The Son-Daughter (Brown)


Night Flight (Brown); Rasputin and the Empress (Boleslawsky); Riptide (Goulding); Queen Christina (Mamoulian); The White Sister (Fleming); Peg o' My Heart (Leonard); Turn Back the Clock (Selwyn); The Barbarian (Wood); Going Hollywood (Walsh)


The Barretts of Wimpole Street (Franklin); The Merry Widow (Lubitsch); The Painted Veil (Boleslawsky); Laughing Boy (Van Dyke); What Every Woman Knows (La Cava); The Spectacle Maker (short); Chained (Brown); Stamboul Quest (Wood); Treasure Island (Fleming)


Naughty Marietta (Van Dyke); Mutiny on the Bounty (Lloyd); Ah, Wilderness! (Brown); Biography of a Bachelor Girl (Griffith); The Night Is Young (Murphy); Vanessa (Howard); China Seas (Garnett); Sequoia (Franklin); Anna Karenina (Brown); A Tale of Two Cities (Conway); David Copperfield (Cukor); A Night at the Opera (Wood) (mus d)


After the Thin Man (Van Dyke) (co); Moonlight Murder (Marin) (co); The Robin Hood of El Dorado (Wellman); Small Town Girl (Wellman); The Devil Is a Sissy ( The Devil Takes the Count ) (Van Dyke); Wife vs. Secretary (Brown) (co); Romeo and Juliet (Cukor); Camille (Cukor)


The Firefly (Leonard); The Good Earth (Franklin)


The Girl of the Golden West (Leonard); Of Human Hearts (Brown); Rosalie (Van Dyke); Marie Antoinette (Van Dyke)


Idiot's Delight (Brown); Balalaika (Schünzel); Broadway Serenade ( Serenade ) (Leonard)


Pride and Prejudice (Leonard); Northwest Passage (K. Vidor); New Moon (Leonard); Bitter Sweet (Van Dyke); Susan and God ( The Gay Mrs. Trexel ) (Cukor); Edison the Man (Brown)


Ziegfeld Girl (Leonard); Andy Hardy's Private Secretary (Seitz); Come Live with Me (Brown); Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy); Men of Boys' Town (Taurog); The Chocolate Soldier (Del Ruth) (co); Smilin' Through (Borzage); Waterloo Bridge (LeRoy); They Met in Bombay (Brown)


Rio Rita (Simon); The Human Comedy (Brown); Random Harvest (LeRoy); Mrs. Miniver (Wyler); I Married an Angel (Van Dyke)


Tennessee Johnson ( The Man on America's Conscience ) (Dieterle); Madame Curie (LeRoy); Three Hearts for Julia (Thorpe)


Song of Russia (Ratoff); The White Cliffs of Dover (Brown); Dragon Seed (Conway); A Guy Named Joe (Fleming); Thirty Seconds over Tokyo (LeRoy); Kismet (Dieterle)


National Velvet (Brown); The Picture of Dorian Gray (Lewin); Adventure (Fleming); The Valley of Decision (Garnett)


The Green Years (Saville); They Were Expendable (Ford)


High Barbaree (Conway); If Winter Comes (Saville)


Three Daring Daughters ( The Birds and the Bees ) (Wilcox); Hills of Home (Wilcox); Desire Me (Cukor); The Three Musketeers (Sidney)


Big Jack (Thorpe)

Other Films:


The Cat and the Fiddle (Howard) (mus d)


Viva Villa (Conway) (arranger)


Rose Marie (Van Dyke) (mus d); San Francisco (Van Dyke) (mus d)


Maytime (Leonard) (mus d); Conquest (Brown) (mus d)


Sweethearts (Van Dyke) (mus d)


The Wizard of Oz (Fleming) (mus d)


Cairo (Van Dyke) (mus d)


Thousands Cheer (Sidney) (mus d)


Son of Lassie (Simon) (arranger)


Undercurrent (Minnelli) (mus d); The Yearling (Brown) (arranger)


The Unfinished Dance (Koster) (mus d); Sea of Grass (Kazan) (arranger)


By STOTHART: article—

"Film Music," in Behind the Screen , edited by Stephen Watts, London, 1938.

On STOTHART: articles—

Films (New York), Winter 1940.

Stothart Jr., Herbert, in Films in Review (New York), December 1970.

Lacombe, Alain, in Hollywood , Paris, 1983.

Rosar, W.H., "Herbert Stothart Tribute at U.S.C.," in Cue Sheet (Hollywood), January 1984.

Hemming, Roy, "Hollywood Bowl Orchestra: Hollywood Dreams," in Stereo Review , October 1991.

Neumeyer, David, "Melodrama as a Compositional Resource in Early Hollywood Sound Cinema," in Current Musicology , January 1995.

* * *

Herbert Stothart's place in the history of film music is clearly marked. It spanned the 20 years between 1929 and 1949, and it was a period spent entirely at MGM. It is further marked by the fact that it was Stothart who scored most of the MGM films derived from classic literature, such as Treasure Island , The Barretts of Wimpole Street , David Copperfield , Anna Karenina , A Tale of Two Cities , Camille , and Romeo and Juliet , in addition to the music direction of the studio's operettas. Almost all the MGM films of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, whether together or separately, were supervised and conducted by Stothart. It was a period in which the studio had a definite musical sound, a somewhat softer and less assertive style than the others, the orchestration often favoring the strings, and it was a sound very much devised by this composer. Stothart's first contact with music was as a choirboy, and during his school years he developed a strong interest in composing and conducting. He chose a career as a teacher, but his involvement in staging amateur theatrical productions gradually took up more of his time and interest. The success of Manicure Shop in Chicago, a musical he had written for the University of Wisconsin, spurred him to take up the theatre professionally and he proceeded to study composition in Europe. In 1914 Stothart was hired by producer Arthur Hammerstein as the conductor of the touring company of the Rudolf Friml musical High Jinks . After five years with touring companies he was brought by Hammerstein to New York and then spent all of the 1920s as a conductor of musicals on Broadway, including those written by Friml, Youmans, and Gershwin. In many instances Stothart contributed songs of his own to these productions; two of the songs in Rose Marie , for example ("Hard Boiled Herman" and "Why Shouldn't We?"), are his.

With the coming of sound on film in 1929, he was invited to MGM by Louis B. Mayer and from then until his death from cancer in 1949 Stothart worked constantly as an arranger, conductor, and composer on a total of 130 films. In style and substance he was very much a musician of Hollywood's Golden Years, and no retrospective of MGM in those years can overlook his contributions. Asked about his technique he said: "The composer, through experience, learns what elements generate certain moods. Anger can be generated by what I call red tones, which slightly clash in orchestrations, and so, mentally irritate. A tranquil mood can be inspired by quiet, gently flowing melody. Alarm can be created by clashing harmonies; unrest by monotonous beat of tomtoms and by effects strange in musical principle, and hence, played to unaccustomed ears. Sonorous bells and deep tones of the organ inspire reverence. These are all matters of elemental psychology. By deciding to what extent to use them, one gets the shades in between the basic classifications."

—Tony Thomas

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