Max Steiner | All photographs courtesy of Steven C. Smith Max Steiner wrote a number of the iconic scores of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his biographer and writer of Music By Max Steiner: The Epic Life of Hollywood’s Most Influential Composer, Steven C. Smith says the “theatrical dynasty” he was born into in
Max Steiner | All photographs courtesy of Steven C. Smith
Max Steiner wrote a number of the iconic scores of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his biographer and writer of Music By Max Steiner: The Epic Life of Hollywood’s Most Influential Composer, Steven C. Smith says the “theatrical dynasty” he was born into in Vienna in 1888 launched him in that route.
Steiner’s grandfather was a stage producer who was buddies with Johann Strauss, Jr., and satisfied the composer to attempt his hand at writing for the stage, resulting in such operetta successes as Die Fledermaus. Steiner’s father, Gabor, labored with Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss, producing concert events and operas, and was an early adopter of movement footage, as a part of his “Venice in Vienna” theme park on the Prater.
Having studied classical music, Max went first to London, the place he performed well-liked music revues (together with one with Fanny Brice) earlier than going to New York. There he labored with George & Ira Gershwin and Jerome Kern on Broadway, and constructed up his data of well-liked music kinds, and orchestration.
Steiner relocated to California simply as Hollywood was transitioning from the silent period to talkies, working at RKO as a composer, arranger, and conductor. “It was the case of the right individual on the excellent time,” Steven Smith says. “As a result of Max not solely had all of this musical schooling, however he had developed this great intuition, writing and accompanying individuals on the stage, for drama.” Within the very early days, music in movies was utilized in a really totally different method, and much more sparingly. Steiner is credited with having modified what individuals anticipated from movie music: melodic themes related to characters and extra of a ‘wall-to-wall’ underscoring strategy.
He was Musical Director at RKO when he wrote the rating for King Kong (1933), which has been known as the primary nice film rating. A long time of scores would observe, with iconic movies like Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, displaying his talents as a composer of a variety of kinds of music, all the time supporting the motion and emotion on display.
Max Steiner conducting the rating to “King Kong”
Max Steiner conducting the rating to “Gone with the Wind”
The goal of the biography was to color a portrait of Max Steiner, the individual, fairly than simply the long-lasting composer. “He was not a tall man, he was about 5’4,” Smith explains. “He all the time had a cigar in his mouth, he had a variety of power, so he may sound like the standard Hollywood sort, however he was a deeply romantic individual, and in contrast to lots of people in Hollywood, he actually beloved individuals and was beloved by individuals.” He was additionally flawed, with a weak point for playing and a drive for work that took its toll on his private relationships and 4 marriages.
Certainly one of his later successes, Steven Smith says, was the rating he wrote for 1959’s A Summer time Place. Since working with the Gershwins and Jerome Kern in New York within the Nineteen Twenties, he’d needed to have success writing a pop tune. “Theme from A Summer time Place” was the primary file in America for 9 weeks in early 1960, what Billboard known as “essentially the most profitable instrumental single of the rock period.” It was so well-liked, Steiner used it (with a wink) as incidental music in a later movie, and it’s lived on in motion pictures as a go-to tune when a scene requires an easy-listening scene-setter.
Though Steiner didn’t compose all of them, as music supervisor, he “touched” about 300 movie scores. He beloved what he did, and took his craft very severely, dwelling to the age of 83. Smith says Max Steiner was “excellent firm for a biographer… It’s a narrative that has a really satisfying mixture of nice triumph, of unhappiness, of perseverance.”
Jeffrey is an arts producer for KUSC and our sister station, Classical KDFC, in San Francisco.