David Raksin (August 4, 1912 – August 9, 2004) was an American composer who was renowned for his work in film and television. With over 100 film scores and 300 television scores to his credit, he became known as the "Grandfather of Film Music."
David Raksin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1912. His father was an orchestra conductor. Raksin played professionally in dance bands while attending Central High School of Philadelphia. He went on to study composition with Harl McDonald at the University of Pennsylvania and later with Isadore Freed in New York and Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles. In New York Raksin worked as an arranger for Harms/Chappell.
One of his earliest film assignments was as assistant to Charlie Chaplin in the composition of the score to Modern Times (1936). He is perhaps best remembered for his score for the film Laura (1944). The theme music for the film, "Laura", with the addition of lyrics by Johnny Mercer, became a major hit. During Raksin's lifetime, "Laura" was said to be the second most-recorded song in history following "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish.
Raksin's theme song "The Bad and the Beautiful" (also called "Love is For the Very Young") for the 1953 film The Bad and the Beautiful (1953) was also a hit, although not as popular as "Laura". Raksin insisted that the song be released as an instrumental because he had resented having to split the proceeds from "Laura" with a lyricist. Raksin's theme for "The Bad and the Beautiful" was initially disliked by the film's director Vincente Minnelli and producer John Houseman, but was saved from rejection by the intervention of Adolph Green and Betty Comden, who both liked it. The theme has since been praised by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Rosenman, Richard Rodney Bennett, and Alexander Courage. Sondheim reportedly called it "one of the best themes ever written in films".
In the 1960s, Raksin wrote the theme song for (and scored the pilot of) the medical drama television series Ben Casey. Later in life, Raksin taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Raksin died in 2004, aged 92. At the time of his death, it was announced that Raksin had completed his autobiography, titled If I Say So Myself. The book was eventually published under the title The Bad and the Beautiful: My Life in a Golden Age of Film Music.
In 2012, he was named for a Lifetime Achievement Award for a Past Film Composer.
Selected film and TV scores
- The Day After (1983)
- The Ghost of Flight 401 (1978)
- What's the Matter with Helen? (1971)
- The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again (1970)
- Will Penny (1968)
- A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
- Sylvia (1965)
- Invitation to a Gunfighter (1964)
- The Patsy (1964)
- Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)
- Too Late Blues (1961)
- Ben Casey (1961) TV Series
- Two Faces West (1960) TV Series
- Al Capone (1959)
- Separate Tables (1958)
- Until They Sail (1957)
- Man on Fire (1957)
- 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
- Hellcats of the Navy (1957)
- Hilda Crane (1956)
- Jubal (1956)
- Seven Wonders of the World (1955) (with Sol Kaplan, Jerome Moross, Emil Newman)
- The Big Combo (1955)
- Suddenly (1954)
- Apache (1954)
- The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
- Madeline (cartoon) (1952)
- Carrie (1952)
- Pat and Mike (1952)
- It's a Big Country (1951)
- Across the Wide Missouri (1951)
- The Next Voice You Hear... (1950)
- The Magnificent Yankee (1950)
- Whirlpool (1949)
- Force of Evil (1948)
- Superman (1948)
- Daisy Kenyon (1947)
- Forever Amber (1947)
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
- Fallen Angel (1945)
- Laura (1944)
- Tampico (1944)
- Something to Shout About (1943)
- City Without Men (1943)
- The Men in Her Life (1941)
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
- Stanley and Livingstone (1939)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
- Suez (1938)
- Modern Times (arranger) (1936)
Work on Broadway
- Thumbs Up! (1934) - revue - co-orchestrator
- Parade (1935) - revue - co-orchestrator
- At Home Abroad (1935) - revue - co-orchestrator
- New Faces of 1936 (1936) - revue - co-orchestrator
- If the Shoe Fits (1946) - musical - composer
- Dream (1997) - revue - featured songwriter for "Laura"
- OBITUARY: David Raksin, 92, Grandfather of Film Music Published: August 11, 2004
- "David Raksin Dead at 92". The Film Music Society. 2004..
- David Raksin at the Internet Movie Database
- David Raksin at the Internet Broadway Database
- Brief biography from Otherminds.org
- David Raksin Centennial Tribute
- Obituary The New York Times (August 11, 2004)