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Overview for Franz Waxman
Franz Waxman

Franz Waxman



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Also Known As: Franz Wachsmann Died: February 24, 1967
Born: December 24, 1906 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Konigshutte, Germany Profession: Music ... composer pianist bank clerk


Began his film career with UFA in 1930 and scored a number of German films before leaving the country in 1934. Waxman subsequently moved to the US, where he emerged as one of Hollywood's finest and most prolific composers of the 1940s and 50s. Adept at psychologically laden scores and romantic or fantastic material, Waxman contributed to several Hitchcock films, notably "Rebecca" (1940) and "Rear Window" (1954); other outstanding credits include "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), "Mr. Skeffington" (1944), "Humoresque" (1946) and "Sunset Boulevard" (1950).

(Following courtesy of

Franz Waxman® led a variety of musical lives as composer, conductor and impresario. He was born in Konigshutte, Upper Silesia, Germany, on December 24, 1906, and was the youngest of six children. No one in the family was musical except Franz, who started piano lessons at the age of seven. His father was an industrialist, and not believing his son could earn a living in music, encouraged him in a banking career. He worked for two and a half years as a teller and used his salary to pay for lessons in piano, harmony and composition. He then quit the bank and moved to Dresden and then to Berlin to study music.

During this period he paid for his musical education by playing piano in nightclubs and with the Weintraub Syncopaters, a popular jazz band of the late 1920s. While with the band he began to do their arrangements, and this led to orchestrating some early German musical films. Frederick Hollander, who had written some music for the Weintraubs, gave Waxman his first important movie assignment: orchestrating and conducting Hollander's score for Josef von Sternberg's classic film, "The Blue Angel." The film's producer, Erich Pommer, who was also head of the UFA Studios in Berlin, was so pleased with the orchestration of the score that he gave Waxman his first major composing assignment: Fritz Lang's version of "Liliom" (1933) which was filmed in Paris after their exodus from Germany. Pommer's next assignment, Jerome Kern's "Music in the Air" (Fox Films, 1934), took him to the United States, and he brought Waxman with him to arrange the music.

Waxman's first original Hollywood score was James Whale's "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), which led to a two-year contract with Universal as head of the music department. He scored a dozen of the more than 50 Universal films on which he worked as music director. Among the best known are "Magnificent Obsession, "Diamond Jim" and "The Invisible Ray."

Two years after he went to Hollywood, Waxman, then 30, signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to compose. He averaged about seven pictures a year, and it was during this period that he scored such famous Spencer Tracy films as "Captains Courageous," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Woman of the Year." In 1937, he was loaned by M-G-M to David O. Selznick for "The Young at Heart" and was nominated for both Best Original Music and Best Score - the first two of 12 Academy Award nominations he was to receive for the 144 films he scored in his 32 years in Hollywood. In 1940 he was again loaned to Selznick, this time for "Rebecca," and was nominated for his third Academy Award.

Waxman left M-G-M in 1943 and began a long association with Warner Brothers. "Old Acquaintance" is from this period. (Selections from three more of his Warner Brothers scores can be heard on RCA albums: "Mr. Skeffington" is included in "Classic Film Scores for Bette Davis," "To Have and Have Not," and "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" are included in "Casablanca - Classic Film Scores for Humphrey Bogart, and "Objective, Burma!" are on "Captive Blood" - Classic Film Scores for Errol Flynn)

In 1947 Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival, which he was to head for 20 years. World and American premieres of 80 major works by composers such as Stravinsky, Walton, Vaughan Williams, Shostakovitch and Schoenberg were given at the festival.

By 1947 Waxman had a busy schedule indeed. In addition to devoting a great deal of time to the festival, he was in demand at all the major studios, was guest conducting symphony orchestras in Europe as well as in the United States and was composing concert music. For the film "Humoresque" he wrote a special piece based on themes from Bizet's "Carmen," which was played by Isaac Stern on the soundtrack. The "Carmen Fantasie" has become standard repertoire and was recorded by Jascha Heifetz for RCA. Among Waxman's other concert works are "Overture for Trumpet and Orchestra," based on themes from "The Horn Blows at Midnight;" "Sinfonietta for String Orchestra and Timpani;" a dramatic song cycle "The Song of Terezin," and an oratorio, "Joshua."

Waxman won the Academy Award in 1950 for Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" and in 1951 for George Stevens' "A Place in the Sun." For over half a century, he was the only composer to have won the award for Best Score in two successive years. It was during the '50s and '60s that he composed some of his most important and varied scores. These are represented by the above two Academy Award winners as well as by "Prince Valiant" and "Taras Bulba." He had usually been associated with romantic films, but now he progressed to epic and jazz-oriented scores. "Crime in the Streets," "The Spirit of St. Louis," "Sayonara," "Peyton Place" and "The Nun's Story" are also from this period and the complete scores were issued on soundtrack albums. Franz Waxman® received many honors during his lifetime, including the Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of West Germany, honorary memberships in the Mahler Society and the International Society of Arts and Letters, and an honorary doctorate of letters and humanities from Columbia College. He died February 24, 1967, in Los Angeles at the age of 60.

Together with Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman a United States postage stamp was issued in 1999. During the recent Waxman centenary a street in his birthplace was named Franz Waxmanstrasse. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and Turner Classic Movies held tributes. The Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a 24 picture retrospective; this was the first time that MoMA honored a composer. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra recently performed the complete score THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN live to film.

Franz Waxman® Bibliography:

Crawford, Dorothy, Lamb: A WINDFALL OF MUSICIANS Hitler's Emigres and Exiles in Southern California pages 169-175. Yale University Press, New Haven & London. 2009. ISBN 9 780300 127348

Palmer, Christopher: THE COMPOSER IN HOLLYWOOD, "Franz Waxman®" pages 94-117, Marion Boyars Publishers, London & New York 1990, ISBN: 0-7L45-2884-4

Darby, William & Du Bois, Jack: AMERICAN FILM MUSIC: Major Composers, Techniques, Trends, 1915-1990, "Franz Waxman®" pages 116-156, McFarland & Company Inc. Publishers, Jefferson North Carolina & London 1990, ISBN: 0-89950-468-X

Thomas, Tony: MUSIC FOR THE MOVIES, "Franz Waxman®" page 92-102, Silman-James Press, Los Angeles 1997, ISBN: 1-879595-37-1

Thomas, Tony: Ed: FILM SCORE: A View From the Podium, "Franz Waxman®" pages 49-59 A.S. Barnes & Co. South Brunswick & New York 1979 ISBN: 0-498-02358-3

Karlin, Fred: LISTENING TO MOVIES: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music "Franz Waxman" Schirmer Books, New York 1994 ISBN: 0-02-873315-0

Brown, Royal: OVERTONES & UNDERTONES: Reading Film Music, "Franz Waxman®", University of California Press, Berkeley, ISBN: 0-520-08544-2

Evans, Mark: SOUNDTRACK: The Music of the Movies "Franz Waxman®" Hopkinson & Blake, New York, ISBN: 0-91974-19-9

Marmorstein, Gary: HOLLYWOOD RHAPSODY: Movie Music & Its Makers 1900 to 1975 "Franz Waxman®" Shirmer Books, New York ISBN: 0-02-864595-2

Cleslinski, Marek, Kosma, Franz Waxman®: The Winner of Oscars from Konigshutte.' Chorzow 2006., November 2007. Chorzow, Poland, ISBN 83-60360-05-7


albatros1 ( 2007-10-04 )

Source: Wikipedia The Internet Encyclopedia

Franz Waxman (December 24, 1906 – February 24, 1967) was a Jewish German American composer, known for his bravura Carmen Fantasie for violin and orchestra, based on musical themes from the Bizet opera Carmen, and for his musical scores for films. Waxman was born Franz Wachsmann in Königshütte (Chorzów) in the German Empire's Prussian Province of Silesia. He orchestrated Frederick Hollander's score for the 1930 film Blue Angel (1930) and wrote original scores for several German films in the early 1930s. With the Nazis in power from 1933, he worked briefly in France, composing the music for Fritz Lang's French version of Liliom, but arrived in the United States by 1935. He received 12 Academy Award nominations, winning in consecutive years for Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun. In addition to his film scores, Waxman composed concert works and, in 1947, founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival. Waxman headed this festival for twenty years. During the twenty years of his tenure, the festival served as the venue for world and American premieres of 80 major works by composers such as Igor Stravinsky, William Walton, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Dmitri Shostakovich and Arnold Schönberg. According to the autobiography of fellow composer Miklós Rózsa, Waxman conducted a performance of the Stravinsky composition Greeting Prelude (based on the song Happy Birthday). The performance lasted exactly sixty seconds. In this book, A Double Life, Rózsa stated that Stravinsky gave precise instructions that a performance of this piece should last exactly sixty seconds. Consequently, Stravinsky was very happy with Waxman's conducting of the work. Waxman died of cancer in Los Angeles, California, at age 60.

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