Franz Waxman - Writer

Composer. Nationality: Polish. Born: Franz Wachsmann in Königshütte, Germany (now Chorzow, Poland), 24 December 1906. Education: Studied at the Dresden Music Academy and the Berlin Conservatory. Career: Piano player in cafes, and with the Weintraub Syncopaters group; 1930—arranged and conducted Hollaender's score for Der blaue Engel ; 1933—original score for Lang's Liliom ; 1934–35—lived in Paris; 1935–36—worked for Paramount, then for MGM, 1936–43, Warner Bros., 1943–48, then freelance; 1947—founding director, Los Angeles Musical Festival; conducted widely in the US and Europe. Awards: Academy Awards for Sunset Boulevard , 1950 and A Place in the Sun , 1951. Died: In Los Angeles, California, 24 February 1967.

Films as Composer:


Das Kabinett des Dr. Larifari (Wohlmuth) (co)


La Petite de Montparnasse (Schwarz)


Ich und die Kaiserin (Hollaender) (co)


Liliom (F. Lang); Gruss und kuss Veronika (Boese); The Only Girl ( Heart Song ) (Hollaender)


The Bride of Frankenstein (Whale); Diamond Jim (Sutherland); The Affair of Susan (Neumann); His Night Out (Nigh); Three Kids and a Queen (Ludwig); East of Java

Franz Waxman
Franz Waxman
(Melford); Remember Last Night? (Whale); The Great Impersonation (Crosland); Magnificent Obsession (Stahl)


The Invisible Ray (Hillyer); Next Time We Love (Griffith); Don't Get Personal (Nigh); Love Before Breakfast (W. Lang); Sutter's Gold (Cruze); Absolute Quiet (Seitz); Trouble for Two ( The Suicide Club ) (Roberts); Fury (F. Lang); The Devil Doll (Browning); His Brother's Wife (Browning); Love on the Run (Van Dyke)


Personal Property (Van Dyke); A Day at the Races (Wood); Captains Courageous (Fleming); The Emperor's Candlesticks (Fitzmaurice); The Bride Wore Red (Arzner); Man-Proof (Thorpe)


Arsene Lupin Returns (Fitzmaurice); Test Pilot (Fleming); Port of Seven Seas (Whale); Three Comrades (Borzage); Too Hot to Handle (Conway); The Shining Hour ; (Borzage); The Young in Heart (Wallace); Dramatic School (Sinclair); A Christmas Carol (Marin)


At the Circus (Buzzell); Honolulu (Buzzell); The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Thorpe) (co); On Borrowed Time (Bucquet); Lady of the Tropics (Conway)


Strange Cargo (Borzage); Florian (Marin); Rebecca (Hitchcock); Sporting Blood (Simon); Boom Town (Conway); Escape ( When the Door Opened ) (LeRoy); Flight Command (Borzage); The Philadelphia Story (Cukor)


The Bad Man ( Two Gun Cupid ) (Thorpe); Kathleen (Bucquet); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Fleming); Unfinished Business (La Cava); The Feminine Touch (Van Dyke); Honky Tonk (Conway); Suspicion (Hitchcock); Design for Scandal (Taurog)


Seven Sweethearts (Borzage); Woman of the Year (Stevens); Her Cardboard Lover (Cukor); Journey for Margaret (Van Dyke); Reunion in France (Dassin)


Air Force (Hawks); Edge of Darkness (Milestone); Old Acquaintance (V. Sherman)


Destination Tokyo (Daves); In Our Time (V. Sherman); Mr. Skeffington (V. Sherman); The Very Thought of You (Daves)


Objective, Burma! (Walsh); To Have and Have Not (Hawks); Hotel Berlin (Godfrey); God Is My Co-Pilot (Florey); The Horn Blows at Midnight (Walsh); Pride of the Marines (Daves); Confidential Agent (Shumlin)


Her Kind of Man (De Cordova)


Nora Prentiss (V. Sherman); The Two Mrs. Carrolls (Godfrey); Possessed (Bernhardt); Cry Wolf (Godfrey); Dark Passage (Daves); The Unsuspected (Curtiz); That Hagen Girl (Godfred); The Paradine Case (Hitchcock)


Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak); No Minor Vices (Milestone)


Whiplash (Seiler); Rope of Sand (Dieterle); Alias Nick Beal ( The Contact Man ) (Farrow); Night unto Night (Siegel); Task Force (Daves)


Johnny Holiday (Goldbeck); Night and the City (Dassin); The Furies (A. Mann); Sunset Boulevard (Wilder); Dark City (Dieterle)


Only the Valiant (Douglas); He Ran All the Way (Berry); A Place in the Sun (Stevens); Anne of the Indies (Tourneur); The Blue Veil (Bernhardt); Red Mountain (Dieterle); Decision Before Dawn (Litvak)


Phone Call from a Stranger (Negulesco); My Cousin Rachel (Koster); Lure of the Wilderness (Negulesco)


Come Back, Little Sheba (Daniel Mann); I, the Jury (Essex); Man on a Tightrope (Kazan); Stalag 17 (Wilder); A Lion Is in the Streets (Walsh); Botany Bay (Farrow)


Prince Valiant (Hathaway); Elephant Walk (Dieterle); Demetrius and the Gladiators (Daves); Rear Window (Hitchcock); This Is My Love (Heisler); Miracle in the Rain (Maté)


The Silver Chalice (Saville); Untamed (H. King); Mister Roberts (Ford and LeRoy); The Virgin Queen (Koster); The Indian Fighter (De Toth)


Crime in the Streets (Siegel); Back from Eternity (Farrow)


The Spirit of St. Louis (Wilder); Peyton Place (Robson); Sayonara (Logan)


Run Silent, Run Deep (Wise); Home Before Dark (LeRoy)


Count Your Blessings (Negulesco); The Nun's Story (Zinnemann); Career (Anthony); Beloved Infidel (H. King)


The Story of Ruth (Koster); Cimarron (A. Mann); Sunrise at Campobello (Donohue)


Return to Peyton Place (J. Ferrer); My Geisha (Cardiff); King of the Roaring Twenties—The Story of Arnold Rothstein (Newman)


Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (Ritt); Taras Bulba (Lee Thompson)


Lost Command (Robson)


The Longest Hundred Miles (Weis)

Films as Musical Director:


Der blaue Engel (von Sternberg)


Music in the Air (May)


The Ice Follies of 1939 (Conway) (co)


I Love You Again (Van Dyke)


I Married a Witch (Clair)


Roughly Speaking (Curtiz); San Antonio (Butler and Walsh)


Humoresque (Negulesco)


Love in the Afternoon (Wilder)


Dino (Carr)


By WAXMAN: articles—

Hollywood Quarterly , Winter 1950.

In Film Score , edited by Tony Thomas, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1979.

Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 6, no. 21, March 1987.

On WAXMAN: articles—

Films in Review (New York), August-September 1968.

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

International Film Collector , May 1973.

Frankenstein, Alfred, in Film Music Notebook (Calabasas, California), Spring 1975.

Positif (Paris), November 1976.

Ecran Fantastique (Paris), no. 6, 1978.

Rivista del Cinematografo (Rome), April 1982.

Lacombe, Alain, in Hollywood , Paris, 1983.

Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 5, no. 19, September 1986.

Palmer, Christopher, in The Composer in Hollywood , New York, 1990.

Waxman, John, in Films in Review (New York), September-October 1991.

Larson, R.D., "Franz Waxman (1907–1967): Two Unrecorded Scores from 1936: 'Fury' and 'Devil Doll'," Film Score Monthly (Los Angeles), no. 39, November 1993.

Handzo, Stephen, "The Golden Age of Film Music," in Cineaste (New York), Winter-Spring 1995.

Smith, Jack, "The Soundtrack," in Films in Review (New York), September-October 1996.

* * *

Part of the ironic benefit bestowed on the American film industry by the Nazi regime, Franz Waxman was the most prominent of the German musicians who advanced the craft of film scoring in Hollywood. Aside from his distinguished work in films, Waxman was a fine conductor, and invested much of his time in creating and guiding the Los Angeles Music Festival, which began in 1947 and lasted until his death 20 years later. He won Oscars for Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun , and he was the only composer to set the style for a whole genre; his first dramatic score in Hollywood, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), written for Universal, was subsequently used, either in pieces or in imitation, for dozens of horror movies made by that studio in the following decade.

Waxman began piano studies at six but was not encouraged by his businessman father to pursue music as a career. At the age of 16 he began work as a bank teller in his hometown of Königshütte, but within a year he made the decision to enroll in the Dresden Music Academy. In 1923 Waxman went to Berlin to study composition and conducting at the conservatory and supported himself by playing the piano in night clubs and cafes. He was hired by the Weintraub Syncopaters, then a popular jazz band, and began making arrangements in addition to playing the piano. He was befriended by the composer Frederick Hollaender (also an emigré to Hollywood during the Nazi period), who persuaded the producer Erich Pommer at UFA to engage Waxman as an arranger in 1930.

One of his first assignments was arranging Hollaender's songs for The Blue Angel , the success of which assured Waxman continuous work. In 1933 Fritz Lang gave him his first job writing an original dramatic score, Liliom , filmed in Paris. Because of the adverse political climate in Berlin, Waxman decided to stay there, but after only one assignment he was called to Hollywood by Pommer, who was filming Jerome Kern's Music in the Air , to be the music director. It resulted in a two-year contract from Universal, followed by terms with MGM and Warners. In addition to his two Oscars, Waxman was nominated for The Young in Heart , Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , Objective , Burma! , Humoresque , The Silver Chalice , The Nun's Story , and Taras Bulba. Very much a serious composer, he felt deeply about the value of film as an outlet for contemporary composers and resented the disregard of most American music critics toward the medium. "There are still too many who look down their noses at anything written for films. This is a very silly attitude, and it does not exist in Europe, where critics have not condemned composers because they write for the screen."

—Tony Thomas

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: