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18 August 2004
Composer Elmer Bernstein Dies at 82
Elmer Bernstein, the amazingly prolific composer who wrote the memorable theme for The Magnificent Seven among other scores, died Wednesday in his sleep at his home in Ojai, California; he was 82. The recipient of 14 Oscar nominations (winning one for his score for 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie), Bernstein wrote music for a number of classic movies that shaped the landscape of film in the last half of the 20th century. His scores ranged from the epic to the intimate, from classically austere to energetically jazzy, and were the accompaniment to a number of immortal films of the 50s and 60s. A protégé of Aaron Copland, Bernstein worked on B-films like Robot Monster before gaining fame with his jazz-influenced score (a Hollywood first) to 1955's The Man With the Golden Arm, for which he received his first Oscar nomination. A year later, his score for Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments also established his presence in Hollywood, and was quickly followed by scores for Sweet Smell of Success, Some Came Running, The Buccanner, and the TV series Gunsmoke, among others. Bernstein's most famous score came with the 1960 western The Magnificent Seven; its boisterous, rousing theme became of the most memorable pieces of movie music, and was endlessly featured (and imitated) in a number of movies to come; it was also utilized in a series of Marlboro commercials.
Bernstein worked tirelessly through the 60s and 70s, composing four to five scores a year for films as disparate as the Southern coming-of-age drama To Kill a Mockingbird, the sweeping epic Hawaii, the western The Hallelujah Trail, the jailhouse drama Birdman of Alcatraz and the 20s flapper musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. The 70s and 80s saw Bernstein compose more for television as well as film, and he also began composing more for comedy films, scoring Animal House, Airplane! , The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters. In 1991, he worked with Martin Scorsese on Cape Fear, adapting and arranging Bernard Herrmann's score for the original 1961 film, and composed scores for Scorsese's The Age of Innocence and Bringing Out the Dead. Later films included The Rainmaker, Twilight, My Left Foot, The Grifters, and Devil in a Blue Dress. In 2002, Bernstein received his fourteenth Oscar nomination for the soaring, melancholy score for Far From Heaven. --Prepared by IMDb staff