Alfred Newman is a legendary personality in the Hollywood film industry whose music caused a sensation in the film community. He wrote music for over 200 films throughout his four-decade career, earning 44 Academy Award nominations and nine awards. His siblings, sons, nephews, grandkids, and grandnephews helped him create a lineage of Hollywood film composers. His is the quintessential rags to riches tale. He was a prodigious boy who schooled himself musically with the support of his mother, despite being born into a horribly poor family. He began his career as a piano accompanist on the vaudeville circuit, quickly rising to direct his first orchestra. He directed Broadway musicals before venturing into the film sector. His musical creations are one-of-a-kind in terms of content, and they present music that is rich in melody and harmony. During his career, he invented the Newman System, which is still used today to synchronize the performance and recording of a musical score with the film. He was nominated for an Academy Award 20 years in a row, from 1938 to 1957, for his remarkable talent in music, including a nine-year span from 1938 to 1946 in which he was nominated for at least two distinct movie soundtracks in each of those years. Read the following lines to learn more about his life and profession in-depth.
Childhood and Adolescence
Alfred Newman was the eldest of ten children born in New Haven, Connecticut to his parents. Despite originating from a humble family, Newman was fortunate enough to receive musical training from his mother.
He quickly outgrew his tutoring and went on to study with the legendary Polish pianist Sigismond Stojowski on a scholarship. He competed in several events and won gold and silver medals in each.
He had to boost the family income because he came from a very impoverished background. Fortunately, he was able to secure a job as a piano soloist at the Strand Theatre with the support of his friends. He was able to hone his musical ability while also earning a living.
He toured the vaudeville circuit with performer Grace LaRue. He also studied composing during this time. He began a career as a conductor of Broadway musicals at the age of twenty, which he pursued for almost a decade.
Alfred Newman’s Career
When he joined Irving Berlin in Hollywood, his career took off like a rocket. He conducted one of the latter’s first cinematic musicals, ‘Reaching for the Moon,’ there. He was hired to compose cinematic music for Samuel Goldwyn and United Artists shortly after finishing his work.
Samuel Goldwyn’s ‘Street Scene’ was his first film as a music composer, released in 1931. The motif employed in the film’s musical scores was reprised multiple times in several of his subsequent works. He went on to write film music for films like “Dodsworth,” “Born to Dance,” “You Only Live Once,” “The Hurricane,” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”
Four of his works received Academy Award nominations in the year 1939-40, including ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘The Rains Came,’ ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ and ‘They Shall Have Music.’
He went on to work as a music director for 20th Century Fox Studios in 1940. He composed the music that plays before the studio logo appears at the start of a Fox production before any film is played. Interestingly, Fox Studios continues to use the song.
Following his employment as Fox’s music director, he worked on a number of films, including “How Green Was My Valley,” “Song of Bernadette,” “The Razor’s Edge,” “Captain from Castille,” “The Robe,” and “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.”
He was the arranger/conductor for the film adaptation of the musical ‘State Fair’ in 1945. He was one of the few arrangers and conductors to work on both film versions of the musical ‘State Fair’ in 1962.
During his time at Fox Studios, he devised the Newman System, a method of syncing the performance and recording of musical composition with the motion picture. It’s worth noting that the system is still operational today.
With the picture ‘The Best of Everything,’ he ended his contract with Fox Studios in 1959. He moved on to seek a career as an independent artist after that. He received an Academy Award nomination for his debut film soundtrack as an independent conductor, for the film ‘Flower Drum Song.’
He then followed up with MGM’s ‘How the West Was Won.’ It is often regarded as his most well-known and popular film score. It’s also on AFI’s 100 Years of Film Scores, and it’s been dubbed his best score ever.
‘The Greatest Story Ever Told,’ ‘Camelot,’ ‘Firecreek,’ and Universal Pictures’ ‘Airport,’ released just before his death in 1970, are among his final works. He oversaw the recording of the film’s music for ‘Airport,’ but was unable to oversee the score’s commercial distribution.
Achievements and Awards
He was nominated for an Academy Award a record forty-five times during his career, winning nine of them. Until 2006, he was the most nominated composer in history and, after Walt Disney and Cedric Gibbons, the third most Oscar winners.
From 1938 to 1957, he was nominated for an Academy Award 20 times in a row, including a nine-year period from 1938 to 1946 in which he was nominated for at least two different movie scores each year. He received 43 nominations for Best Original Score and two for Best Original Song.
He was nominated for four distinct films in 1940, but he lost to Herbert Stothart’s ‘The Wizard of Oz owing to the mechanism of Academy voting, which allows multiple nominations to cancel each other out.
He was nominated for Grammy and Golden Globe awards for his music score in ‘Airport’ after his death, however, he did not win either.
The American Film Institute selected his score in the film “How the West Was Won” as number 25 on their list of the top 25 film scores.
At 1708 Vine Street in Hollywood, California, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording.
Personal History and Legacy
Martha Louise Montgomery, a former actress, and Goldwyn Girl, married in 1947. They were fortunate to have five children.
His two brothers, two sons, a daughter, a nephew, a grandnephew, and a granddaughter, all of whom were legendary music composers and conductors in their own right, led a family of major Hollywood composers.
Due to complications from emphysema, he died on February 17, 1970, one month before his 70th birthday, at his home in Hollywood.
Estimated Net worth
Alfred is one of the wealthiest composers and one of the most well-known. Alfred Newman’s net worth is estimated to be $3 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
This composer and conductor created the logo tune for 20th Century Pictures, which was kept when the business amalgamated with Fox Films to form 20th Century-Fox. It’s still in use nowadays.