Charles Bernstein (composer)

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Charles Bernstein (born February 28, 1943)[1] is a composer of film and television music. His credits include the score for A Nightmare on Elm Street.[2][3][4][5] He is a Daytime Emmy Award winner.[2][4][6] He has also been nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Bernstein was born in Minneapolis[8] to mother Mildred Wolf (1910-2011) and father Charles Bernstein, Sr. (????-1952).[2][5][9][10] His mother was a pianist.[2] As for his father, he "was involved in writing and producing music in his early career," according to Bernstein.[2] Bernstein also has a sister Carol Auslander and a stepfather Julius Wolf.[9][10] Bernstein studied music at the Juilliard School.[5]


Bernstein did his first score for the 1969 Oscar-winning documentary, Czechoslovakia 1968. According to Bernstein, "I met the director, Denis Sanders, through friends at UCLA. It was a brilliant film, and I convinced Denis that I knew what sort of music would tell the story of the Russian invasion of its smaller neighbor. The film was unusual because it had no spoken words, only music and occasional sound effects to tell the story."[2]

His first Hollywood score was for the United Artists film, White Lightning (1973), starring Burt Reynolds. The film marked the first of many collaborations between Bernstein and director Joseph Sargent.[5] Bernstein also scored the sequel to the film, Gator (1976).[3] Other films Bernstein scored during the 1970s include Hex (1973), That Man Bolt (1973), Mr. Majestyk (1974), Trackdown (1976), A Small Town in Texas (1976), Viva Knievel! (1977), Outlaw Blues (1977) and Love at First Bite (1979).[4][5][11] He even wrote the dance music in the latter film.[5]

During the 1980s, Bernstein scored the music for the horror films The Entity (1982), Cujo (1983), April Fool's Day (1986) and Deadly Friend (1986).[2][4][12] Bernstein also scored non-horror films such as Foolin' Around (1980).[11]

He continued to score music for documentaries such as Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (1994) and After Innocence (2005), with the former winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary.[4][5] He also scored music for made-for-television movies such as Sadat (1983), Miss Evers' Boys (1997), The Long Island Incident (1998) and Out of the Ashes (2003).[5][13][14]

Bernstein reunited with Cujo director Lewis Teague to score his films, Cante Jondo (2007) and Charlotta-TS (2010).[15]

A Nightmare on Elm Street[edit]

Under the recommendation of his agent, Bernstein met with Wes Craven and was hired to score his film, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). On working with Craven: "Wes was easy to work with, he gave me a lot of freedom, but we could discuss ideas and approaches. In many ways he was an ideal director to communicate with because he listened well and was open to all ideas." Bernstein used an electric score since the film was low budget.[2]

Bernstein did not return to score the music for the other films in the franchise, though Renny Harlin briefly talked to him about scoring the fourth film.[2]

Use of his music[edit]

Quentin Tarantino has included Bernstein's music from White Lightning and The Entity in the soundtracks of his films Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) and Inglourious Basterds (2009).[3][4][5][16][17]

Personal life[edit]

Bernstein is married to Georgianne Cowan.[9][10][18] They have one daughter, Serina. They reside in Los Angeles.[18]

In addition to film composing, Bernstein is also the author of two books.[4][5][7] One of them is titled Film Music and Everything Else.[3] The other is Movie Music: An Insider’s View.[5] He has also taught courses in the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.[4][6]

Bernstein has been a long-serving member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1995.[5][7][19] In addition, he is also in the Board of Directors for both the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Society of Composers & Lyricists.[7] He co-founded the latter organization.[20]

List of work[edit]


Year Film
1969 Stoney
1970 The Man from O.R.G.Y.
1972 Sweet Kill
Daddy's Deadly Darling
1973 This Is a Hijack
Invasion of the Bee Girls
White Lightning
That Man Bolt
1974 Mr. Majestyk
1976 Zebra Force
A Small Town in Texas
1977 Viva Knievel!
Outlaw Blues
1979 Love at First Bite
1980 Coast to Coast
Foolin' Around
1982 The Entity
1983 Independence Day
1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street
1986 April Fool's Day
Deadly Friend
1987 The Allnighter
Evil Town
1993 Excessive Force
1995 Rumpelstiltskin
1997 When Danger Follows You Home
2007 Fighting Words
2008 Shattered!
2010 Street Poet


Television work[edit]

Year Title Format
1975 A Shadow in the Streets Television movie
1976 Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby Television movie
Nightmare in Badham County Television movie
1977 Escape from Bogen County Television movie
Special Treat Episode: Five Finger Discount
Four Against the Desert Television movie
1978 Wild and Wooly Television movie
Thaddeus Rose and Eddie Television movie
Cops and Robin Television movie
Who's Watching the Kids? Series
Steel Cowboy Television movie
Fast Lane Blues Television movie
Are You in the House Alone? Television movie
Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold Television movie
The Winds of Kitty Hawk Television movie
1979 Women at West Point Television movie
The House on Garibaldi Street Television movie
1980 Scruples Miniseries
Bogie Television movie
1981 Scruples Television pilot
1983 Sadat Miniseries
1985 Secret Weapons Television movie
Malice in Wonderland Television movie
Generation Television movie
Covenant Television movie
The Long Hot Summer Television movie
Chase Television movie
1986 Rockabye Television movie
1987 CBS Schoolbreak Special Episode: Little Miss Perfect
The Last Fling Television movie
Ghost of a Chance Television movie
The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains Television movie
1988 A Whisper Kills Television movie
1989 Desperate for Love Television movie
Love and Betrayal Television movie
1990 Drug Wars: The Camarena Story Miniseries
Too Young to Die? Television movie
Fall from Grace Television movie
Caroline? Television movie
Ivory Hunters Television movie
She Said No Television movie
The Love She Sought Television movie
1991 Love, Lies and Murder Miniseries
Payoff Television movie
Guilty Until Proven Innocent Television movie
Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus Television movie
1992 Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel Television movie
Trial: The Price of Passion Television movie
Somebody's Daughter Television movie
1993 Between Love and Hate Television movie
The Sea Wolf Television movie
Final Appeal Television movie
1994 My Name Is Kate Television movie
1996 Sophie & the Moonhanger Television movie
Dead Ahead Television movie
Bloodhounds II Television movie
1997 Miss Evers' Boys Television movie
The Ticket Television movie
1998 The Hunted Television movie
The Long Island Incident Television movie
2000 Picnic Television movie
Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble Television movie
American Experience Episode: Return with Honor
2001 The Day the World Ended Television movie
2002 Alejo & Valentina Series
Crossing the Line Television movie
A Christmas Visitor Television movie
2003 Profoundly Normal Television movie
Out of the Ashes Television movie
2004 Family Sins Television movie
2007 Sybil Television movie
2008 Sweet Nothing in My Ear Television movie
2009 Nova Episode: Darwin's Darkest Hour
2015 Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf Television movie


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Exclusive interview!: CHARLES BERNSTEIN [english version]". 14 October 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d Brown, Casey (3 July 2012). "Interview with Charles Bernstein". Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Interview: Charles Bernstein on his score for "A Nightmare on Elm Street"". 21 May 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Malhotra, Anita (19 January 2012). "INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES BERNSTEIN". Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Interview with Film Composer, Charles Bernstein". 30 May 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d Borum, Jeremy (2015). Guerrilla Film Scoring: Practical Advice from Hollywood Composers. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442237308. 
  8. ^ Charles Bernstein biography at The New York Times
  9. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (7 June 2011). "Silent Film Accompanist Mildred Wolf Dies at 101". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c "Mildred Wolf dies at 101". Variety. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Faulkner, Robert R. (1983). Music on Demand. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9781412829236. 
  12. ^ "DEADLY FRIEND (1986)". 28 April 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  13. ^ "Review: ‘Miss Evers’ Boys’". Variety. 20 February 1997. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 
  14. ^ Wright, Rayburn; Karlin, Fred (2013). On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring. Routledge. ISBN 9781135948030. 
  15. ^ Charles Bernstein Interview on YouTube
  16. ^ Quentin Tarantino Discusses Charles Bernstein's Music on YouTube
  17. ^ "RZA Writes Music For Another Medium, Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'". Billboard. 8 November 2003. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  18. ^ a b Marks-Tarlow, Terry (2013). Psyche's Veil: Psychotherapy, Fractals and Complexity. Routledge. ISBN 9781317723646. 
  19. ^ McNamara, Mary (24 March 2002). "Don't Forget to Look Gorgeous". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Gallo, Phil (2 March 2014). "Oscar Music Nominees Honored, and Drenched, at Society of Composers and Lyricists Event". Billboard. Retrieved 3 September 2015. 

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