August 21, 2004 by

Elmer Bernstein

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Categories: Musicians

ebernstein.jpgElmer Bernstein, an Academy Award-winning film composer, died in his sleep on Aug. 18. Cause of death was not released. He was 82.
The only child of Ukrainian immigrants, Bernstein was born in New York in 1922. A piano prodigy, he studied under Henriette Michelson, mentored with Aaron Copland and Israel Citkowitz and graduated from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in music education.
During World War II, Bernstein enlisted in the Army Air Forces and wrote dramatic scores for the Army Air Corps Radio Shows. After working on two shows for United Nations Radio in 1949, he moved to Hollywood to compose his first movie score (“Saturday’s Hero”).
For five decades, Bernstein composed music for more than 200 films, including “The Ten Commandments,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Man With the Golden Arm,” “The Great Escape” “Birdman of Alcatraz,” “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” “Meatballs,” “Airplane!,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Age of Innocence,” “A River Runs Through It,” “Devil in a Blue Dress,” “Gangs of New York” and “Far From Heaven.” With practiced ease and surety, his compositions could generate a western atmosphere, inspire hilarity or enhance the dramatic mood of a picture.
Although he was nominated for the Academy Award 14 times, Bernstein won the Oscar only once — for the 1967 film “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” He also won two Golden Globes and an Emmy Award, as well as five Grammy nominations and two nominations for the Tony Award. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and The Society for the Preservation of Film Music each presented Bernstein with lifetime achievement honors. In 1996, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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