Oscar-Winning Composer Elmer Bernstein Dead at 82
Thu Aug 19, 2004 02:05 PM ET

By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning composer Elmer Bernstein, who wrote some of Hollywood's most memorable music, including scores for "The Magnificent Seven" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie," has died at age 82, his publicist said on Thursday.

Bernstein, whose work spanned some 200 films and TV shows over six decades, succumbed to a lengthy, undisclosed illness on Wednesday at his home in Ojai, California, about 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles, according to spokeswoman Cathy Mouton.

A native New Yorker who frequently collaborated with such filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, John Landis and Ivan Reitman, Bernstein earned 14 Academy Award nominations in all, winning for the 1967 film "Thoroughly Modern Millie."

His first Oscar nomination was for the 1955 Frank Sinatra film "The Man with the Golden Arm." He was most recently nominated for the 2002 melodrama "Far From Heaven," which starred Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid.

Other memorable projects included 1956's "The Ten Commandments," 1962's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and 1960's "The Magnificent Seven," whose rousing theme became part of the long-running advertising campaign for Marlboro cigarettes and was recently resurrected in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Bernstein scored the last seven films of actor John Wayne, including "True Grit" and Wayne's final movie, "The Shootist," in 1976.

He also scored music for some of the biggest hit comedies of the 1970s and '80s, including "National Lampoon's Animal House," "Meatballs," "Airplane!," "Ghostbusters" and "Three Amigos."

His television credits include the popular westerns "Gunsmoke" and "The Big Valley."

"Gray-listed" in Hollywood ruing the McCarthy era of the 1950s for his left-leaning political sympathies, Bernstein was relegated to work on two low-budget science fiction films -- "Robot Monster" and "Cat Women of the Moon" -- which have since become cult favorites.

Bernstein began his career as a concert pianist and auditioned at age 12 for legendary composer Aaron Copland, who selected renowned instructor Israel Citkowitz as a teacher for the boy. He started out in Hollywood writing the music for the 1951 big-screen sports drama "Saturday's Hero" and 1952's horse-racing drama "Boots Malone."

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