Fred Steiner

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For American scholar of architecture, see Frederick Steiner.
Frederick "Fred" Steiner
Born (1923-02-24)February 24, 1923
New York City, U.S.
Died June 23, 2011(2011-06-23) (aged 88)
Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico
Occupation(s) Composer, conductor, orchestrator, film historian

Frederick "Fred" Steiner (February 24, 1923 – June 23, 2011) was an American composer, conductor, orchestrator, film historian and arranger for television, radio and film. Steiner wrote the theme music for The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Perry Mason and The Bullwinkle Show.[1] In film, Steiner was one of the team of composers for the 1985 film, The Color Purple, which received an Oscar nomination and was an uncredited composer for Return of the Jedi.[1]

Steiner was most active in television series during the 1950s and 1960s. His numerous composition credits included music for Hogan's Heroes, Have Gun–Will Travel, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, Star Trek and Rawhide.[1]

Early life[edit]

Steiner was born in New York City, the son of Hungarian-born film composer George Steiner. (They were not related to Hollywood film composer Max Steiner.)

He received a degree in music composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1943. He was awarded an honorary doctor of music degree from Oberlin College in 2007.


As a composer for radio, Steiner's credits include the dramatic anthology series On Stage, CBS Radio Workshop, Suspense, and This is Your FBI.


Steiner wrote for a number of television series, including the many episodes of the original Star Trek series to which he contributed scores, more than any other composer. An article he wrote for the Library of Congress, "Music for Star Trek: Scoring a Television Show in the Sixties", outlines and defines the contributions of all the original underscore composers of this series.

Perhaps the best-known of Steiner's works, "Park Avenue Beat", is the Perry Mason TV theme. It was used from 1957 to 1966 for the original Perry Mason series and was re-recorded by Dick DeBenedictis for the subsequent made-for-TV movies in 1985. The tune was covered by The Blues Brothers for the soundtrack of the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000. Steiner said he wrote such a jazzy theme because he envisioned lawyer-sleuth Mason as a flamboyant, film noir type often out on the town, but Mason as portrayed in the series was a somewhat reserved character seen mostly in his office or in court.

Steiner also composed the main theme to The Bullwinkle Show and Follow That Man and contributed music to episodes of Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone, and Amazing Stories.

Feature film work[edit]

His feature film work included original scores to films such as Run for the Sun (1956), Man from Del Rio (1956), Della (1964), Hercules and the Princess of Troy (1965), First to Fight (1967), Carter's Army (1970), Heatwave! (1974) and The Sea Gypsies (1978), as well as orchestration/adaptation (sometimes uncredited) for other composers including The Man with the Golden Arm (1956), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

His Academy Award nomination for "Best Music, Original Score" was for The Color Purple (1985). It was a shared nomination with Quincy Jones, Jeremy Lubbock, Rod Temperton, Caiphus Semenya, Andraé Crouch, Chris Boardman, Jorge Calandrelli, Joel Rosenbaum, Jack Hayes, Jerry Hey, and Randy Kerber. [1]

Musicological work[edit]

Steiner held a doctorate in Musicology from the University of Southern California (1981). His thesis was about the early career of film composer Alfred Newman. Scholarly articles on film music appear in The Cue Sheet, Film Music Quarterly and the Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress.


Fred Steiner died on June 23, 2011, at his home in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico, after suffering a stroke at the age of 88.[1] He was survived by his wife of 64 years, Shirley Steiner; two daughters, singer-songwriter Wendy Waldman and Jillian Sandrock of Ajijic, Mexico; his sister, Kay Gellert; two nieces Willa and Robin; one nephew Adam; two great-nieces Samantha and Rebecca; three great-nephews Lorenzo, Max and Ezra; two grandchildren Saida and Abe; and two great-grandchildren Hannah and Otto.[2]

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