To mark the centenary of the birth of composer Franz Waxman, The Museum of Modern Art presents a retrospective of 21 films that feature a number of his most innovative and influential scores. Franz Waxman: Music for the Cinema, which is presented December 16, 2006 - January 17, 2007, includes early works from Germany and France (Scampolo  and Liliom ), as well as a selection of his landmark Hollywood genre scores, including The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Sunset Blvd. (1950), and Peyton Place (1957). A cabaret evening featuring Ute Lemper singing some of Waxman's songs will take place on December 17, and on January 17 a symposium will be held at MoMA to discuss Waxman's musical and cinematic legacy. The exhibition is organized by Ron Magliozzi, Assistant Curator, Research and Collections, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.
Waxman (German, 1906 - 1967), one of the most influential and honored artists in the age of classic Hollywood film scoring, spent his early career working as a banker to pay for music lessons before moving to Dresden and then to Berlin to study music formally. In Berlin he played in and arranged music for a jazz band, the Weintraub Syncopaters. Before long, he was orchestrating the scores of some of the early German musical films of the late 1920s.
Waxman's first movie work to win international attention - orchestrating and conducting Frederick Hollander's score for Josef von Sternberg's classic The Blue Angel (1930) - led to his first major composing assignment for producer Erich Pommer: Fritz Lang's Liliom. By then, Waxman was living in Paris, where the film was shot, and he subsequently moved to the United States with Pommer for his next arranging project, Joe May's Music in the Air (1934).
Waxman's first original Hollywood score was James Whale's The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), which led to a two-year contract with Universal Studios as head of their music department. He scored 12 of the more than 50 Universal films on which he worked as music director, before accepting a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), where he developed his prolific compositional skills on adventure films, horror films, and comedies. He scored one of his earliest career-making successes with David O. Selznick's Rebecca (1940), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Waxman left MGM in 1943 and began a long association with Warner Brothers, composing music for such films as Vincent Sherman's Old Acquaintance (1943) and Mr. Skeffington (1944), Howard Hawks's To Have and Have Not (1944), and Peter Godfrey's The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947). In 1947 Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival, which presented world and American premieres of major works by composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, Dimitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, William Walton, and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Waxman received 12 Academy Award nominations for the 144 films he scored in his 32 years in Hollywood, finally winning the Oscar in 1950 for Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. He went on to become the only composer to receive the Academy Award for Best Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture two years in a row (A Place in the Sun followed in 1951). His output during the 1950s and 1960s included some of his most important and eclectic scores, including Henry Hathaway's Prince Valiant (1954) and J. Lee Thompson's Taras Bulba (1962), and such epic and jazz-oriented scores as Don Siegel's Crime in the Streets (1956), Billy Wilder's The Spirit of St. Louis (1957), Joshua Logan's Sayonara and Peyton Place (both 1957), and Fred Zinnemann's The Nun's Story (1959).
The series concludes on January 17 with The Musical Legacy of Franz Waxman, a symposium with Royal S. Brown (author of Overtones and Undertones), Max Wilk (veteran theater, music, film, and TV writer), and Jack Sullivan (author of Hitchcock's Music), and moderated by music director John Mauceri. The exhibition opens with the New York premiere of John Goberman's video Waxman Prelude (2006).
For more information, and a screening schedule, visit the MoMA website.