Sunday, April 3, 2011

Composer of the Month: David Raksin

If Laura was the only film that David Raksin ever scored, then his legacy in film music would still have been secured. Melodic, haunting, and lush--Raksin's score, and especially his title theme, are integral to the success of Otto Preminger's classic film noir. If you've forgotten just how beautiful his Laura theme is (or just want to hear it again), click on the link below:

Raksin's theme was so popular that Johnny Mercer added lyrics in 1945. The song "Laura" was been covered by dozens of artists from Duke Ellington to Johnny Mathis to Carly Simon. I always liked the rendention by Matt Monro (the "British Frank Sinatra"). 

Of course, Raksin did much more than just write the music for Laura. He worked regularly in film and then television for four decades. His film scores include: Whirlpool (with Preminger and Gene Tierney again), the TV series Ben Casey, and The Bad and the Beautiful (the theme is also known as "Love Is for the Very Young"). He earned Oscar nominations for his scores for Forever Amber and Separate Tables. One of his first Hollywood jobs was arranging the music for Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times.

Like many other classic film composers, such as Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Raksin wasn't properly recognized until the 1970s. In 1975, RCA released an album with David Raksin and the New Philharmonic Orchestra playing selections from Laura, The Bad and the Beautiful, and Forever Amber. Subsequent Raksin albums have followed over the years.

Later in life, David Raksin taught at USC and UCLA. He died in 2004.


  1. Great composer pick, Rick. He did so many types of music in different movie and TV genres. Of course Laura is his masterpiece. And I have always thought his score for Forever Amber was simply beautiful. I remember very well his music for Ben Casey, and also Medical Center. I watched those TV shows all the time, and those themes are still in my brain register! Very interesting composer.

  2. Good post Rick! BTW, Raskin recorded suites for Laura, The Bad and the Beautiful and Forever Amber. It's available at Arkiv Music under their Arkiv selections.

  3. A great composer, David Raksin, will always be remembered for his uniquely atmospheric scores.

  4. I agree, if Raskin hadn't written anything else, he'd be remembered for LAURA. A terrific film with a great score.

    Great post.

  5. I have always loved this exquisite, romantic score of "Laura." Thanks for bringing Raksin's masterpiece and other works to our attention, Rick. What a joy to listen to as I write!

  6. Rick, the theme he created for Laura was wonderful--and it played an integral part in the picture itself. That's when you know your music is powerful.