Waxman, Franz, 1906-1967

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In 1955 Waxman was musical director of the Los Angeles Music Festival; in his letter he mentions that it was his 9th season.

From the description of Correspondence to Alma Mahler, 1955, 1957, n. d. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 155864758

FRANZ WAXMAN 1906-1967

A Biographical Memoir by John W. Waxman

[Photo at right: Last portrait of Franz Waxman, taken by Boris Goldenberg in 1965, for the premiere of The Song of Terezín at the Cincinnati May Festival.]

Franz Waxman led a variety of musical lives as composer, conductor and impresario. He was born in Konigshutte, Upper Silesia, Germany, on December 24, 1906, and was the youngest of seven children. No one in the family was musical except Franz, who started piano lessons at the age of six. His father was an industrialist, and not believing his son could earn a living in music, encouraged him in a banking career. He worked for two and a half years as a teller and used his salary to pay for lessons in piano, harmony and composition. He then quit the bank and moved to Dresden and then to Berlin to study music.

During this period he paid for his musical education by playing piano in nightclubs and with the Weintraub Syncopaters, a popular jazz band of the late 1920s. While with the band he began to do their arrangements, and this led to orchestrating some early German musical films. Frederick Hollander, who had written some music for the Weintraubs, gave Waxman his first important movie assignment: orchestrating and conducting Hollander's score for Josef von Sternberg's classic film, "The Blue Angel." The film's producer, Erich Pommer, who was also head of the UFA Studios in Berlin, was so pleased with the orchestration of the score that he gave Waxman his first major composing assignment: Fritz Lang's version of "Liliom" (1933) which was filmed in Paris. Pommer's next assignment, Jerome Kern's "Music in the Air" (Fox Films, 1934), took him to the United States, and he brought Waxman with him to arrange the music.

Waxman's first original Hollywood score was "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), which led to a two-year contract with Universal as head of the music department. He scored a dozen of the more than 50 Universal films on which he worked as music director. Among the best known are "Magnificent Obsession, "Diamond Jim" and "The Invisible Ray."

Two years after he went to Hollywood, Waxman, then 30, signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to compose. He averaged about seven pictures a year, and it was during this period that he scored such famous Spencer Tracy films as "Captains Courageous," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Woman of the Year." In 1937, he was loaned by M-G-M to David O. Selznick for "The Young at Heart" and was nominated for both Best Original Music and Best Score - the first two of 12 Academy Award nominations he was to receive for the 144 films he scored in his 32 years in Hollywood. In 1940 he was again loaned to Selznick, this time for "Rebecca," and was nominated for his third Academy Award.

Waxman left M-G-M in 1943 and began a long association with Warner Brothers. "Old Acquaintance" is from this period. (Selections from three more of his Warner Brothers scores can be heard on RCA albums: "Mr. Skeffington" is included in "Classic Film Scores for Bette Davis" and "To Have and Have Not" and "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" are included in "Casablanca - Classic Film Scores For Humphrey Bogart.")

In 1947 Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival, which he was to head for 20 years. World and American premieres of 80 major works by composers such as Stravinsky, Walton, Vaughan Williams, Shostakovitch and Schoenberg were given at the festival.

By 1947 Waxman had a busy schedule indeed. In addition to devoting a great deal of time to the festival, he was in demand at all the major studios, was guest conducting symphony orchestras in Europe as well as in the United States and was composing concert music. For the film "Humoresque" he wrote a special piece based on themes from Bizet's "Carmen," which was played by Isaac Stern on the soundtrack. The "Carmen Fantasie" has become standard repertoire and was recorded by Jascha Heifetz for RCA. Among Waxman's other concert works are "Overture for Trumpet and Orchestra," based on themes from "The Horn Blows at Midnight;" "Sinfonietta for String Orchestra and Timpani;" a dramatic song cycle "The Song of Terezin," and an oratorio, "Joshua."

Waxman won the Academy Award in 1950 for "Sunset Boulevard" and in 1951 for "A Place in the Sun." He is the only composer to have won the award for Best Score in two successive years. It was during the '50s and '60s that he composed some of his most important and varied scores. These are represented by the above two Academy Award winners as well as by "Prince Valiant" and "Taras Bulba." He had usually been associated with romantic films, but now he progressed to epic and jazz-oriented scores. "Crime in the Streets," "The Spirit of St. Louis," "Sayonara," "Peyton Place" and "The Nun's Story" are also from this period and the complete scores were issued on soundtrack albums. Franz Waxman received many honors during his lifetime, including the Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of West Germany, honorary memberships in the Mahler Society and the International Society of Arts and Letters, and an honorary doctorate of letters and humanities from Columbia College. He died February 24, 1967, in Los Angeles at the age of 60.

From the guide to the Franz Waxman Papers, 1922-1996, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Miklos Rozsa Papers, 1918-1996 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf Waxman, Franz, 1906-1967. Correspondence to Alma Mahler, 1955, 1957, n. d. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Selznick, David O., 1902-1965. Studio archive, 1904-1980 (bulk 1936-1955). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Leo Reisman collection of sound recordings [sound recording], 1932-1948 The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
referencedIn Johnny Green additional papers, 1923-1989. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Jascha Heifetz Collection, 1802-1987, (bulk 1911-1974) Library of Congress. Music Division
referencedIn Jascha Heifetz Collection, 1911-1972 Archive of Recorded Sound, Stanford University Libraries
referencedIn The Bell Telephone Hour collection of sound recordings [sound recording], 1940-1968 The New York Public Library. Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound.
referencedIn Evelyn Pearl Family Collection, circa 1917-1994 Leo Baeck Institute Archives
referencedIn Nicolas Slonimsky Collection, 1873-1997, (bulk 1920-1990) Library of Congress. Music Division
creatorOf Franz Waxman Papers, 1922-1996 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn Johnny Green additional papers, 1923-1989. Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Vera Zorina papers, 1910-2001 (inclusive), 1933-2001 (bulk). Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. corporateBody
associatedWith Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-1990 person
associatedWith Boosey & Hawkes Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Brerezowsky, Nicolai. person
associatedWith Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990 person
associatedWith Egk, Werner, 1901-1983 person
associatedWith Eluard, Paul, 1895-1952 person
associatedWith Forsyth, James, 1913-2005 person
associatedWith Foss, Lukas, 1922-2009 person
correspondedWith Green, Johnny, 1908-1989 person
associatedWith Groen, John te. person
associatedWith Heifetz, Jascha, 1901-1987 person
associatedWith Huttenback, Dorothy. person
associatedWith Liebermann, Rolf, 1910-1999 person
associatedWith Logan, Joshua. person
associatedWith Los Angeles Music Festival. corporateBody
associatedWith Mahler, Alma, 1879-1964 person
associatedWith Marks, J. person
associatedWith Nicholls, Charlotte. person
associatedWith Organisation Artistique Internationale. corporateBody
associatedWith Pearl, Evelyn person
associatedWith Pfeiffer, John, 1920- person
associatedWith Pressler, Menahem. person
associatedWith Rabinoff, Max. person
associatedWith Rabwin, Marcella. person
associatedWith Reisman, Leo, 1897-1961 person
associatedWith Rózsa, Miklós, 1907-1995 person
associatedWith Rundfunk Hessischer. corporateBody
associatedWith Schary, Dore. person
associatedWith Selznick, David O., 1902-1965. person
associatedWith Sikorski, Hans. person
associatedWith Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995 person
associatedWith Stern, Isaac, 1920-2001 person
associatedWith Stokowski, Leopold, 1882-1977 person
associatedWith Tansman, Alexandre, 1897-1986 person
associatedWith Union of Soviet Composers. corporateBody
associatedWith Von Emlin, Gottried. person
associatedWith Wald, Jerry, 1911-1962 person
associatedWith Walter, Bruno, 1876-1962 person
associatedWith Waxman, John. person
associatedWith Waxman, Lella Simone. person
correspondedWith Zorina, Vera. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
German Americans
Motion picture music
Motion picture music
Orchestral music
Popular culture
Conductors (Music)
Conductors (Music)


Birth 1906-12-24

Death 1967-02-24





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