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Murray Cutter (15 March 1902, Nice, France – 19 April 1983, Burbank, California) was a versatile Hollywood orchestrator, working mainly for film composer Max Steiner, with over 150 credits spanning the mid-thirties to early 1960s. Nevertheless, he remains relatively unknown except for the much-loved original arrangement of Judy Garland's Over the Rainbow, which continues to be sampled by modern filmmakers (e.g. recently[when?] Baz Luhrmann's Australia and Gus Van Sant's Milk). Similar to fellow arranger Alexander Courage, Cutter's name has tended to be overshadowed by the popularity of the composers with whom he was most associated.
Cutter was unusual among orchestrators who tended to specialize, in that he was adept in all genres: musicals (New Moon, Kismet, The Desert Song); romantic drama (Waterloo Bridge, A Summer Place); adventure (Northwest Passage, The Caine Mutiny); family/comedy (National Velvet, Sugarfoot); suspense (The Picture of Dorian Gray, Key Largo); epics ("Helen of Troy"); and westerns (The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Johnny Belinda and The Searchers).
An early assignment were the vocal arrangements for the 1937 film version of Rosalie, which ten years before had been orchestrated for Broadway by Steiner. At MGM Cutter worked for Arthur Freed and Mervyn LeRoy on The Wizard of Oz. Under the loose musical direction of Herbert Stothart he contributed the "metallic sound" for the Tin Woodman's If I Only Had a Heart. Cutter told Oz historian Aljean Harmetz for "Over the Rainbow" he made it sound as pretty as he could with lots of strings and a touch of woodwind.
After the war he collaborated most closely with Steiner during his golden period with Warner Brothers. Their work on A Summer Place netted them a US #1 hit for the insistent theme song. Joining ASCAP in 1946, Cutter occasionally wrote original music for the screen but rarely received a credit.
- Harmetz, Aljean, The Making of The Wizard of Oz, Hyperion, New York, 1977, p. 97.
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