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October 20, 1901|
Rumford, Maine, U.S.
|Origin||Rumford, Maine, U.S.|
May 14, 1942 (aged 40)|
Castaic, California, U.S.
Frank Churchill (October 20, 1901 – May 14, 1942) was an American film composer. He wrote most of the music for Disney's 1937 movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, including "Heigh-Ho", "Whistle While You Work", and "Some Day My Prince Will Come". Other Disney films that he worked on include Dumbo, Bambi, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.
Churchill was born in Rumford, Maine, on October 20, 1901.
Churchill began his career playing piano in cinemas at the age of 15. After dropping out of medical studies at UCLA to pursue a career in music, he became an accompanist at the Los Angeles radio station KNX (AM) in 1924.
In 1937, he was chosen to score Disney's first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His catchy, artfully written songs played a large part in the film's initial success and continuing popularity.
Because of the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Churchill became supervisor of music at Disney, as well as helping write music for movies like The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and Peter Pan when those two were in production. He shared credit with Jack Lawrence for the deleted song "Never Smile at a Crocodile" from Peter Pan. In 1942, Churchill and fellow composer Oliver Wallace won an Oscar in the category "Scoring of a Musical Picture" for cowriting the score for Dumbo. He also shared an Oscar nomination with Ned Washington for the song "Baby Mine" from Dumbo for Best Song. A year later, Churchill received two posthumous Oscar nominations; the first for cowriting the score to Bambi with Edward Plumb, and the second for cowriting the song "Love is a Song" from Bambi with lyricist Larry Morey (1905–1971).
Frank Churchill committed suicide on May 14, 1942, at his ranch north of Los Angeles in Castaic. He is purported to have died "at the piano" of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Although there is some speculation that his suicide was a result of negative discourse with Walt Disney regarding his latest scores for Bambi, it was more likely due to his deep depression and bout with heavy drinking after the deaths of two of his closest friends and fellow Disney orchestra members who had died earlier that year within a month of each other. He was buried in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.