Alex North

Last updated
Alex North
Birth nameIsadore Soifer
Born(1910-12-04)December 4, 1910
Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedSeptember 8, 1991(1991-09-08) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Film score, theatre, classical, jazz
Occupation(s)Composer
Website www.alexnorthmusic.com

Alex North (born Isadore Soifer, December 4, 1910 – September 8, 1991) was an American composer best known for his many film scores, including A Streetcar Named Desire (one of the first jazz-based film scores), Viva Zapata! , Spartacus , Cleopatra , and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? [1] He was the first composer to receive an Honorary Academy Award, but never won a competitive Oscar despite fourteen nominations.

Contents

Early life

North was born Isadore Soifer in Chester, Pennsylvania, US, to Russian Jewish parents. [2]

Career

North managed to integrate his modernism into typical film music leitmotif structure, rich with themes. One of these became the famous song, "Unchained Melody". [1] Nominated for fifteen Oscars but unsuccessful each time, North is one of only two film composers to receive the Lifetime Achievement Academy Award, the other being Ennio Morricone. North's frequent collaborator as orchestrator was the avant-garde composer Henry Brant. He won the 1968 Golden Globe award for his music to The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968).

His best-known film scores include A Streetcar Named Desire , Death of a Salesman , Viva Zapata! , The Rainmaker , Spartacus , The Misfits , Cleopatra , Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , Dragonslayer and Under the Volcano . [1] His music for The Wonderful Country makes use of Mexican and American motifs.

His commissioned score for 2001: A Space Odyssey is notorious for having been discarded by director Stanley Kubrick. Although North later incorporated motifs from the rejected score for The Shoes of the Fisherman , Shanks and Dragonslayer , the score itself remained unheard until composer Jerry Goldsmith rerecorded it for Varèse Sarabande in 1993. In 2007, Intrada Records released the 1968 recording sessions on CD from North's personal archives.

North was also commissioned to write a jazz score for Nero Wolfe , a 1959 CBS-TV series based on Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe characters, starring William Shatner as Archie Goodwin and Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe. [3] A pilot and two or three episodes were filmed, but the designated time slot was, in the end, given to another series. [4] [5] North's unheard score for Nero Wolfe and six recorded tracks on digital audio tape are in the UCLA Music Library Special Collections. [6] He also wrote the music for various other television shows, such as the anthologies Climax! and Playhouse 90 . [1]

Though North is best known for his work in Hollywood, he spent years in New York writing music for the stage; he composed the score, for the original Broadway production of Death of a Salesman . It was in New York that he met Elia Kazan (director of Salesman), who brought him to Hollywood in the 1950s. North was one of several composers who brought the influence of contemporary concert music into film, in part marked by an increased use of dissonance and complex rhythms. But there is also a lyrical quality to much of his work which may be connected to the influence of Aaron Copland, with whom he studied.[ citation needed ]

His classical works include two symphonies and a Rhapsody for Piano, Trumpet obbligato and Orchestra. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his score for the 1976 television miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man , and went on to score the sequel Rich Man, Poor Man Book II and the 1978 miniseries The Word . North is also known for his opening to the CBS television anthology series Playhouse 90 and the 1965 ABC television miniseries FDR.

He was recognized for his lifetime achievement in 2004 from the Sammy Film Music Awards.

In 2016, the Library of Congress added North's 1951 recording of his score to "A Streetcar Named Desire" to its National Recording Registry.

North died on September 8, 1991 in Los Angeles, California. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.

Awards

The American Film Institute ranked North's score for A Streetcar Named Desire #19 on their list of the greatest film scores. His scores for the following films were also nominated for the list:

North was nominated for fifteen Academy Awards throughout his career, one for Best Original Song, the rest in the Best Original Score category, making him the most-nominated composer to have never won. He was however awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1986; he was the first composer to receive it.

Golden Globe Awards for Original Score:

ASCAP Award for Original Score:

Grammy Awards for Original Score:

Selected filmography

Related Research Articles

<i>A Streetcar Named Desire</i> 1947 play by Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire is a play written by Tennessee Williams that opened on Broadway on December 3, 1947. The play dramatises the life of Blanche DuBois, a Southern belle who, after encountering a series of personal losses, leaves her aristocratic background seeking refuge with her sister and brother-in-law in a dilapidated New Orleans apartment building.

<i>Viva Zapata!</i> 1952 film by Elia Kazan

Viva Zapata! is a 1952 biographical film directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando. The screenplay was written by John Steinbeck, using Edgcomb Pinchon's 1941 book Zapata the Unconquerable as a guide. The cast includes Jean Peters and, in an Academy Award-winning performance, Anthony Quinn.

Maurice Jarre French composer

Maurice-Alexis Jarre was a French composer and conductor. Although he composed several concert works, Jarre is best known for his film scores, particularly for his collaborations with film director David Lean. Jarre composed the scores to all of Lean's films from Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on. Notable scores for other directors include The Train (1964), Mohammad, Messenger of God (1976), Lion of the Desert (1981), Witness (1985), Fatal Attraction (1987) and Ghost (1990).

<i>Dragonslayer</i> (1981 film) 1981 film by Matthew Robbins

Dragonslayer is a 1981 American dark fantasy film directed by Matthew Robbins, from a screenplay he co-wrote with Hal Barwood. It stars Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam and Caitlin Clarke. The film is a co-production between Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Productions: Paramount handled North American distribution while Disney's Buena Vista International handled international distribution. The story, set in a fictional medieval kingdom, follows a young wizard who experiences danger and opposition as he attempts to defeat a dragon.

Joseph LoDuca is an American television and film score composer best known for his work writing television scores for the series Spartacus, Leverage, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, Young Hercules, The Librarians TV series, American Gothic and Jack of All Trades. Originally an accomplished jazz guitarist in the Detroit area, LoDuca frequently provides music for producer/director Robert Tapert, producer/director Sam Raimi, producer/director Dean Devlin and actor Bruce Campbell's films and series. Prior to his work on The Evil Dead, his first film, he released a jazz LP titled Glisten.

Grant Kirkhope Scottish video game composer

Grant Kirkhope is a British video game composer who is best known for his work at Rare, working on games such as Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, GoldenEye 007, and Perfect Dark, among many others. Kirkhope has been nominated for various BAFTA, ASCAP, and IFMCA awards for his contributions to video game music.

<i>Julius Caesar</i> (1953 film) 1953 film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Julius Caesar is a 1953 epic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film adaptation of the play by Shakespeare, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also wrote the uncredited screenplay, and produced by John Houseman. The original music score is by Miklós Rózsa. The film stars Marlon Brando as Mark Antony, James Mason as Brutus, John Gielgud as Cassius, Louis Calhern as Julius Caesar, Edmond O'Brien as Casca, Greer Garson as Calpurnia, and Deborah Kerr as Portia.

Hy Zaret was an American Tin Pan Alley lyricist and composer best known as the co-author of the 1955 hit "Unchained Melody," one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century.

Riz Ortolani Italian film composer (1926-2014)

Riziero "Riz" Ortolani was an Italian film composer. Ortolani scored over two-hundred films working mostly within the Italian genres of Mondo, Giallo, and the Spaghetti Western. Ortolani also scored many Hollywood films and has had some of his compositions reused in films like Drive and Django Unchained. Ortolani's most famous composition is More, which he wrote for the infamous film Mondo Cane. It won the 1964 Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Theme and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 36th Academy Awards. The song was later covered by Frank Sinatra, Kai Winding, Andy Williams, Roy Orbison, and others.

<i>A Streetcar Named Desire</i> (1951 film) 1951 drama film by Elia Kazan

A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1951 American drama film, adapted from Tennessee Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1947 play of the same name. It tells the story of a southern belle, Blanche DuBois, who, after encountering a series of personal losses, leaves her aristocratic background seeking refuge with her sister and brother-in-law in a dilapidated New Orleans apartment building. The Broadway production and cast was converted to film with several changes.

George James Hopkins was an American set designer, playwright and production designer.

The 2001: A Space Odyssey score is an unused film score composed by Alex North for Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

<i>Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?</i> (film) 1966 film by Mike Nichols

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 American black comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols in his directorial debut. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is an adaptation of Edward Albee's 1962 play of the same name. It stars Elizabeth Taylor as Martha, Richard Burton as George, George Segal as Nick, and Sandy Dennis as Honey.

Kenneth Lorin Darby was an American composer, vocal arranger, lyricist, and conductor. His film scores were recognized by the awarding of three Academy Awards and one Grammy Award. He provided vocals for the Munchkinland mayor in The Wizard of Oz (1939), who was portrayed in the film by Charlie Becker. Darby is also notable as the author of The Brownstone House of Nero Wolfe (1983), a biography of the home of Rex Stout's fictional detective.

Alex Heffes is a British film composer. His film scores include those for the BAFTA-winning Touching the Void, and Oscar-winning movies One Day in September, The Last King of Scotland, and Inside Job. Heffes was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for his work on Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

<i>Cleopatra</i> (1963 soundtrack) 1963 soundtrack album by Alex North

Cleopatra: Original Soundtrack Album is the soundtrack from the film of the same name, released by 20th Century Fox Records in 1963. The music of Cleopatra was composed and conducted by Alex North, and was recorded and produced in 1963.

<i>Let My Children Hear Music</i> 1972 studio album by Charles Mingus

Let My Children Hear Music is an album released by Columbia Records in 1972 of music by composer Charles Mingus, produced by Teo Macero. The music is scored for large jazz orchestra and Mingus worked with several arrangers, orchestrators and conductors, most notably Sy Johnson and Alan Raph, to realize some of his most ambitious compositions. In the original liner notes, Mingus described it as "the best album I have ever made".

Robin McLeavy is an Australian actress.

The 6th British Academy Film Awards, retroactively known as the British Academy Film Awards, given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) in 1953, honoured the best films of 1952. The Sound Barrier won the award for Best Film.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 308/9. ISBN   1-85227-937-0.
  2. Henderson, Sanya Shoilevska (2009). Alex North, Film Composer. McFarland. p. 7. ISBN   9780786443338.
  3. The Billboard , April 20, 1959, pp. 38 + 40
  4. Shepard, Richard F., The New York Times, April 9, 1959
  5. Ewald, William F., Television in Review (syndicated column), April 9, 1959
  6. Wrobel, Bill, Film Score Rundowns, "CBS Collection 072 UCLA," Blog 42, June 25, 2010. The film score researcher identifies 30 CBS digital audio tapes in the UCLA Music Library Special Collections (p. 168), with tracks 86–91 of DAT #11 being the Nero Wolfe music of Alex North (p. 174). The score, CPN5912, is in Box #105 (p. 51).