Alfred Newman


The single most honored composer in the history of the Academy Awards – winning a record nine Oscars out of 45 nominations – Alfred Newman scored more than 250 films and, as general music director for 20th Century-Fox for two decades (beginning in 1939), was influential not only in creating the overall musical sound of the studio but also in giving opportunities to many other composers during his tenure.

Newman began his career as a piano-playing child prodigy in New Haven, Conn., and, throughout the 1920s, as the hottest young conductor on Broadway (conducting musicals by the likes of Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Jerome Kern). He came to Hollywood in 1930 and launched a film-scoring career with STREET SCENE, whose bustling-urban-city theme was later frequently reprised in Fox films. His Fox fanfare became the most widely recognized of all studio musical signatures and is still in use today.

Considered the finest conductor in films, he also supervised many of Hollywood’s greatest musicals, including THE KING AND I, SOUTH PACIFIC and CAMELOT. His range as a composer was vast, including romantic dramas (WUTHERING HEIGHTS), religious films (THE SONG OF BERNADETTE, THE ROBE, THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD) and such cinema classics as HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, ALL ABOUT EVE, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK and HOW THE WEST WAS WON. His last score, in 1970, was AIRPORT.

He was also the patriarch of an entire dynasty of Newmans in Hollywood: His brothers Emil and Lionel followed in his footsteps as conductors and composers; brother Marc became a top agent; brother Robert, a studio executive; and brother Irving, a Beverly Hills physician and father of popular songwriter and composer Randy Newman. Alfred’s sons David and Thomas also became well-known film composers; daughter Maria is a classical composer.

–Jon Burlingame