As a composer, conductor and arranger, Elmer Bernstein wrote for hundreds of films throughout his career. In 1968, he won an Oscar for the original score of “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, by George Roy Hill.
Elmer Bernstein studied composition under Roger Sessions and Stefan Wolpe at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, before joining the U.S. Air Force during the Second World War. Between 1939 and 1950, he regularly performed as a pianist. At the same time, he arranged American songs and composed original music for the radio show "Army Air Corps". Once the war was over, he moved to Hollywood and quickly emerged as a composer, thanks to his scores for drama films such as The Ten Commandments, The Great Escape or The Magnificent Seven. In 1949, the creation of the score for a United Nation radio programme caught the attention of Sidney Buchman, vice-president of Columbia Pictures. Buchman offered him the opportunity to write the score to Saturday’s Hero (1951) and Boots Malone (1952). During the McCarthy era, Bernstein faced censorship due to his political views and had to compose music for low-budget films. This experience gave him the opportunity to add some electronic music to his scores, and he later became a true pioneer among composers of film scores.
Elmer Bernstein was also the author of a musical comedy, How Now Dow Jones, of three orchestral suites and a number of classical compositions. His work has been the recipient of with many awards.
The interest that he expressed towards all musical genres could be seen both in the ballets by Jerome Robbins and in “Thriller”, the 14-minute horror-themed short film by Michael Jackson, in which he composed the scary, additional music.
5 key dates in the life of Elmer Bernstein:
1955: Introduced jazz as a narrative element in the soundtrack of The Man with the Golden Arm by Otto Preminger.
1968: Was awarded an Oscar for his score to Thoroughly Modern Millie by George Roy Hill.
1994: At the Academy Awards, he was nominated for the Best Original Score award for The Age of Innocence by Martin Scorsese.
1996: Honoured with a star on Hollywood Boulevard.
1999: Received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Five Towns College in New York City.