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Erich Wolfgang Korngold

... composed original scores for just 18 films, but forever changed the sound of Hollywood movies with his rich symphonic sound and unabashed romanticism.

A child prodigy in his native Austria, acclaimed by the likes of Mahler, Puccini and Strauss, Korngold came to Hollywood in 1934, the first to arrive with major credentials in the concert world. He thought of film music as opera without singing, creating rapturous melodies, writing recurring themes for characters, and supporting the on-screen action with thrilling orchestral accompaniment.

Nearly all of his films were at Warner Bros., which so respected his contributions that he was highly paid, allowed to choose his own films, and given prominent title-card placement in the credits. He was a key contributor to the studio's handsome costume dramas and historical epics, including swashbuckling music for Errol Flynn in CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, and THE SEA HAWK; romantic themes for Bette Davis in JUAREZ, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ELIZABETH AND ESSEX; and grand-scale scores for ANTHONY ADVERSE and KINGS ROW.

He won two Academy Awards, but when he returned to classical composition after World War II, he found that his romantic style -- which had been so right for Hollywood in the '30s and '40s -- was no longer favored in the concert hall. He died in 1957, thinking that he had been forgotten. Ironically, re-recordings of his movie music in the 1970s led to a resurgence of interest in all of Korngold's output.

--Jon Burlingame

 

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