Bernard Herrmann


Bernard Herrmann is probably best known for his remarkable collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock, which produced several suspense classics including VERTIGO, NORTH BY NORTHWEST and PSYCHO. As a musical dramatist, he had few peers, often creating fresh orchestral combinations geared specifically to the nature of the film at hand.

Herrmann came to Hollywood at the request of Orson Welles, for whom he had scored a vast number of CBS radio programs in New York, including the infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast in 1938. His first assignment was CITIZEN KANE, which many critics still consider the finest American film ever made. He won a 1941 Oscar for THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER.

During the ’40s and ’50s, Herrmann became known a specialist in the offbeat, particularly in films made at 20th Century-Fox: a dark piano concerto for HANGOVER SQUARE, weird instrumental combinations for films like THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and WHITE WITCH DOCTOR. The ’50s and ’60s saw a period of colorful scores for fantasy films such as SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD and MYSTERIOUS ISLAND that featured the creations of Ray Harryhausen.

His 10-year collaboration with Hitchcock ended in 1965. Shortly thereafter, he moved to London, but near the end of his life became a favorite of a new generation of filmmakers including Brian DePalma and Martin Scorsese. He died in 1975, just hours after completing the final recording session for Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER.

–Jon Burlingame