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Elmer Bernstein

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Elmer Bernstein


Elmer Bernstein (4 April 1922, New York City - 18 August 2004, Ojai, Calif.) was a prolific composer of film scores.

Bernstein studied at New York University and the Juilliard School of Music. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942, where he arranged and composed for almost 80 Armed Forces Radio Services programs. After his discharge, he was a concert pianist for a three-year period before heading to Hollywood. Norman Corwin then hired him, to score music for radio dramas. This led to him composing music for films.

Though Bernstein began composing for film in 1952, he quickly ran afoul of the House Committee on Unamerican Activities, which accused him of being a communist. He wasn’t exactly blacklisted for not naming names -- he testified that he had never attended a meeting of the Communist Party in his life -- but he was relegated to working on less-than-prestigious films, like Robot Monster and Cat-Women of the Moon.

He rose to prominence with his score to the 1955 film The Man With the Golden Arm. He also scored music for such hit films as The Magnificent Seven 1960), The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), To Kill a Mockingbird (1963), National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Ghostbusters (1984), and Wild Wild West (1999), in all more than 150 film scores over a five-decade caree.

Elmer was not related to Leonard Bernstein.

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  • Elmer Bernstein, Wikipedia
  • Rehrig, William H. (2005). The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music: Complete CD ROM Edition. np: The Robert Hoe Foundation.