Max Steiner (1888/1971)
Fábio Massaine Scrivano

One of the best film composers of all time, Max (imilian Steiner) was born in Vienna, Austria, on May 10th of 1888. He arrived in United States in 1914, and worked on Broadway as a conductor and orchestrator until 1929, when he moved to Hollywood to become RKO studio’s musical director and composer.

The first “real” movie composer, writing full-scores for early “talkies” like Symphony of Six Million (1932), King Kong (1933) and The Informer (1935),  Steiner left RKO in 1936, and started partnerships with independent producer David Selznick, for whom he wrote the unforgettable music of Gone With the Wind (1939), and Warner Bros., where, along Erich W. Korngold, he established the melodious, richly orchestrated style of the 19th century european romantic composers as the sound of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Steiner’s career at Warners is amazingly productive and versatile, and includes great scores for the studio’s major stars: Bette Davis (Jezebel, Dark Victory, Now Voyager), Humphrey Bogart (Casablanca, adapting Herman Hupfeld’s “As Time Goes By”, The Big Sleep, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), Errol Flynn (The Charge of the Light Brigade, Dodge City, Adventures of Don Juan) and James Cagney (City for Conquest, White Heat). Among the many other Warner pictures enhanced by his music  are: The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Mildred Pierce (1945), Johnny Belinda (1948) and The Searchers (1956). Between 1936 and 1947, Steiner´s scores were orchestrated by Hugo Friedhofer, and after that by Murray Cutter.

Max Steiner won Oscars for The Informer (1935), Now Voyager (1942) and Since You Went Away (1944), and a Golden Globe for Life With Father (1947). In 1960, Percy Faith’s orchestra had a big hit with Steiner’s theme for A Summer Place (1959). Steiner married four times, the last time with Leonnette Blair, his wife since 1947 until the end of his life. The composer´s son, Ronald (born in 1940), commited suicide in 1962. The legendary composer, one of the true geniuses of motion picture music, died in December of 1971. “Notes to You”, his autobiography started in 1963, was not concluded.

         Max Steiner´s Filmography, from Internet Movie Database.

BACK TO COMPOSERS PAGE