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Elmer Bernstein is the only active composer with a body of feature film work spanning a half-century: the year 2001 marked his 50th anniversary as a working movie composer. Far from Heaven is his most recent project of the over 150 feature films that he has scored.
Bernstein has received 13 Academy Award nominations, winning the Oscar for his score of George Roy Hill's Thoroughly Modern Millie(1967). His other Oscar nominations were for scoring Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (which also earned him a Grammy Award nomination), John Landis' Trading Places, Henry Hathaway's True Grit, George Roy Hill's Hawaii (for which he won a Golden Globe Award), Burt Kennedy's The Return of the Seeven, Robert Mulligan's To Kill a Mockingbird (for which he won a Golden Globe Award), Peter Glenville's Summer and Smoke, John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven, and Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm; and, in the Best Song category, for "Walk on the Wild Side" (from Edward Dmytryk's movie of the same name), "My Wishing Doll" (from George Roy Hill's HAWAII), and "Wherever Love Takes Me" (from Peter Hunt's Gold).
He won an Emmy Award for scoring the television program The Making of the President (1960), directed by Mel Stuart; and was nominated again for the epic miniseries Captains and the Kings, directed by Douglas Heyes and Allen Reisner. He has also been nominated for four additional Grammy Awards, and twice for a Tony Award.
Bernstein's career honors include Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association; the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP); the Society for the Preservation of Film Music; the Foundation for a Creative America; and, most recently, the Flanders International Film Festival. In 1996, he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. In 1999, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Five Towns College in New York State; and was honored by the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
His many scores also include Martin Scorsese's Bringing out the Dead and Cape Fear (1991; for which Bernstein adapted Bernard Herrmann's original score from the 1962 version of the film); Martha Coolidge's award-winning Introducing Dorothy Dandridge (for HBO), Lost in Yonkers, and Rambling Rose; Stephen Frears' The Grifters; Jim Sheridan's The Field and Academy Award-winning My Left Foot; George Roy Hill's Funny Farm, Slap Shot, and The World of Henry Orient; Ivan Reitman's Ghostbuster's and Stripes; John Landis' "Thriller" music video, An American Werewolf in London, and National Lampoon's Animal House; Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker's Airplane!; Don Siegel's The Shootist; Robert Mulligan's Baby the Rain Must Fall, Love with the Proper Stranger, and Fear Strikes Out; Martin Ritt's Hud; John Sturges' The Great Escape; John Frankenheimer's The Gypsy Moths and Birdman of Alcatraz; Vincente Minnelli's Some Came Running; Alexander Mackendrick's Sweet Smell of Success; Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956); Fred Zinnemann's Oklahoma! (for which Bernstein scored the ballet music); and David Miller's Sudden Fear.
The New York City native discovered his love of music growing up in a family interested in the arts, and was encouraged by them in his various creative pursuits. He was mentored by the renowned composer Aaron Copland, taught by Henriette Michelson and Israel Citkowitz, and subsequently studied with Roger Sessions and Stefan Wolpe. He began as a concert pianist and, during World War II, arranged American folk music and wrote dramatic scores for the Army Air Corps Radio Shows. Two shows that he did for United Nations Radio brought him to the attention of Columbia Pictures Vice President Sidney Buchman, and Bernstein was given the opportunity to write his first film scores.
He is a founding life member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He has also been a vice president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; and president of the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America. He is currently president of the Film Music Museum, established for the preservation of, and home for, film music; and continues as Professor at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, where he teaches the course "Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television."