September 6, 2004 by

David Raksin

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Categories: Education, Hollywood, Media, Musicians

draksin.jpgDavid Raksin, the Oscar-nominated composer who wrote the theme to the 1944 film “Laura,” died on Aug. 9 of heart failure. He was 92.
The Philadelphia native was raised to have an appreciation of music. His father ran a music store, conducted an orchestra at a silent movie house and occasionally served as a substitute reed player for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Raksin learned to play several instruments as a child and later attended the University of Pennsylvania. Outside of classes, he moonlighted as a jazz clarinetist and arranger.
Raksin moved to Hollywood in 1935 and launched what would become a six-decade career composing soundtracks for the film industry. He worked with a few temperamental directors — both Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock fired him — and developed scores for more than 100 movies, including “The Bad and the Beautiful,” “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Father of the Bride,” “Force of Evil” and “Al Capone.” He also received two Academy Award nominations, for “Forever Amber” and “Separate Tables.”
But Raksin was best known for composing the mournful theme to “Laura.” One of the most recorded songs in history, it was inspired by a letter Raksin received from his wife asking for a divorce. Cole Porter once remarked that “Laura” was a song he wished he had written.
Raksin’s greatest challenge, however, came during the McCarthy era, when he was forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. After admitting he was a former member of the Communist party and naming 11 Communist sympathizers (all of whom were either dead or previously identified), Raksin was blacklisted for six years.
Raksin also taught film composition at the University of Southern California from 1958 to 2003, and hosted “The Subject Is Film Music” radio show on NPR. A former president of the Composers & Lyricist Guild of America, he was the first film composer invited to establish a collection of his manuscripts in the music division of the Library of Congress. In 1992, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers awarded Raksin the Golden Soundtrack Award for a lifetime of achievement in film and television music.
Theme from "Laura" Download “Laura”

2 Responses to David Raksin

  1. john archer

    “Laura” was ‘our song’, summer on 1968. Myself and Laura Clew, San Antonio, Texas. College freshmen, home for the summer. It haunts me still. Later I was inspired to study harmony by the beautiful changes in “Laura”. A true classic melody by a brilliant composer.

  2. Cecile Coonrod

    A big fan of film noir, lover of mysteries written and filmed, I gave a copy of the song ‘Laura” to my beautiful Laura when she was only six. She loves it as much as I do.

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