LOS ANGELES (www.elmerbernstein.com) - Elmer Bernstein, the Oscar-winning composer who scored such movie classics as "The Ten Commandments," "The Magnificent Seven," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Great Escape
" and "True Grit," died Wednesday. He was 82.
Elmer Bernstein was a name in music synonymous with creativity, versatility and longevity. The year 2001 marked his 50th anniversary as a feature film composer who has written the music for over 200 major film and television scores, the only composer working today to have achieved such longevity. He has practiced his craft for the past half century, gracing virtually all creative media with his work.
Elmer Bernstein was born in New York City, April 4, 1922. During his childhood he performed professionally as a dancer and an actor and won several prizes for his painting. He gravitated toward music by his own choice at the age of twelve, at which time he was given a scholarship in piano by Henriette Michelson, a Juilliard teacher who guided him throughout his entire career as a pianist.
Fortunately for Bernstein, Miss Michelson thought she detected other talents and took him, at the age of twelve, to play some of his improvisations for composer Aaron Copland. Mr. Copland was encouraging and selected Israel Citkowitz as a teacher for the young boy. Recognized with countless awards for his work in film, television, stage and audio recording, Bernstein is a fourteen-time Academy Award nominee, winning the Award in 1967 for his score for Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Other nominated scores include The Man with the Golden Arm, The Magnificent Seven, Summer and Smoke, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Return of the Seven, Hawaii, True Grit, Trading Places, The Age of Innocence and Far From Heaven. His Oscar-nominated songs include "Walk on the Wild Side," "My Wishing Doll" from Hawaii and "Wherever Love Takes Me" from Gold.
Bernstein has been recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with Golden Globes for his scores for To Kill a Mockingbird and Hawaii. In 1963 he was awarded the Emmy for excellence in television for his score of The Making of The President, 1960. He is the recipient of Western Heritage Awards for The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Hallelujah Trail (1965). He has received five Grammy nominations from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and garnered two of Broadway's coveted Tony Award nominations for How Now Dow Jones and Merlin.
Additional honors include Lifetime Achievement honors from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), The Society for the Preservation of Film Music, the USA, Woodstock, Santa Barbara, Newport Beach and Flanders International Film festivals and the Foundation for a Creative America.
In 1996, Bernstein was honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard. In 1999, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Five Towns College in New York State and was honored by the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Bernstein again was honored by ASCAP with its marquee Founders Award in 2001.
Bernstein attributes his remarkable longevity to the superb musical training he received from his mentor, the renowned teacher Israel Citkowitz, who was recommended by composer Aaron Copland, who took an early interest in Bernstein's career. Subsequently he studied with Roger Sessions and Stefan Wolpe. This, plus an unconditional love of all music, illustrates how the man who composed much of the ballet music in Jerome Robbins' 1954 stage production of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin, as well as the ballet music for the film Oklahoma, could, 30 years later, score the video of Michael Jackson's Thriller.
Bernstein discovered his love of music growing up with a family interested in the arts and he was encouraged by them in his various creative pursuits. His first career in music was as a concert pianist. World War II provided him with the chance to arrange American folk music and to write dramatic scores for the Army Air Corps Radio Shows. In 1949 Mr. Bernstein was asked to do two shows for United Nations Radio which brought him to the attention of Sidney Buchman, then a Vice President of Columbia Pictures. Mr. Buchman offered him the opportunity to write the music for Saturday's Hero in 1950 and Boots Malone in 1951. He first attracted attention in 1952 with his unusual score for the motion picture Sudden Fear featuring Joan Crawford and Jack Palance.
Mr. Bernstein has lived on the West Coast since 1950.
Through 200 movies and 80 television shows, Bernstein would prove that he could adapt to any kind of music. He is survived by wife his wife, Eve, sons Peter and Gregory, daughters Emilie and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren. A memorial service is pending.
Elmer Brenstein Awards:
- ACADEMY AWARDS: Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1967
- EMMY AWARDS: The Making Of The President: 1960, 1963
- GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS: Hawaii, 1966,
To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962
- DOWNBEAT AWARDS: Toccata For Toy Trains, 1958
Best Scoring of a short feature subject
- WESTERN HERITAGE AWARDS: The Hallelujah Trail, 1965
The Magnificent Seven, 1960