Max Steiner


Max Steiner was one of the pioneers of Hollywood film scoring, and also one of the most prolific, writing music for more than 250 movies over nearly four decades.

His landmark 1933 music for KING KONG marked the first time that a dramatic underscore played a vital role in the filmmaking process, helping to define characters and create atmosphere in ways that only music can. He also pioneered the use of the click-track, a device that enable precise synchronization of music to film during recording and one that is still in use to this day.

Steiner spent the early part of his career at RKO, serving as music director on such classic Fred Astaire musicals as FLYING DOWN TO RIO and TOP HAT. But his magnum opus was his sweeping, multi-faceted score for MGM’s 1939 classic GONE WITH THE WIND, whose “Tara” theme has become one of the most-recognized melodies ever written for film.

He won Oscars for THE INFORMER, NOW VOYAGER and SINCE YOU WENT AWAY and did much of his best work during a 30-year association with Warner Bros., including such Humphrey Bogart classics as CASABLANCA, THE BIG SLEEP and THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE. He surprised everyone by writing a pop hit at the age of 71: the theme for A SUMMER PLACE spent nine weeks at number 1 in 1960 and won a Grammy as Record of the Year. Steiner died in 1971.

–Jon Burlingame