"It was ridiculous; that train was a train of death!"
—Bernard Herrmann, commenting on Richard Rodney Bennett's use of a waltz in Murder On The Orient Express
Bernard Herrmann, born in New York City on June 29, 1911, was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest film composers of all time. Herrmann's music is typified by frequent use of ostinati (short repeating patterns), novel orchestration and, in his film scores, an ability to portray character traits not altogether obvious from other elements of the film. He won an Oscar for The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), his second film score.
In 1934, he joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) as a staff conductor. Whilst at CBS, he met Orson Welles, and wrote scores for his Mercury Theatre broadcasts including the famous adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. When Welles moved to movies, Herrmann went with him, writing the scores for Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), although the score for the latter, like the film itself, was heavily edited by the studio.
Twentieth Century-Fox music director Alfred Newman hired Herrmann to score Jane Eyre (1943), Hanover Square (1945), Anna And The King Of Siam (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
Hermann is most closely associated with the director Alfred Hitchcock. He wrote the scores for every Hitchcock film from The Trouble with Harry (1956) to Marnie (1964), a period which included Vertigo and North by Northwest. He oversaw the sound design in The Birds (1963), although there was no actual music in the film as such, just electronically created bird sounds. Herrmann's most famous music is probably from another Hitchcock film, Psycho. The screeching violin music heard during the shower scene (a scene which Hitchcock originally suggested have no music at all) is probably one of the most famous moments from all film scores. His score for Vertigo is just as masterly. In many of the key scenes Hitchcock essentially gave the film over to Herrmann, whose melodies, echoing Richard Wagner's "Liebestod" from Tristan Und Isolde, dramatically conveys Scotty's obsessive love for the woman he imagines to be Madeleine. Their working relationship was rocky at times; in one film, Hitchcock wanted a scene in a rowboat to have no music, because "How did the orchestra get out in the middle of the lake?" (To which Hermann replied "And how did the cameras get out there?") Herrmann's relationship with Hitchcock came to an end when the latter rejected a score for Torn Curtain.
Herrmann moved to England, where he began working with younger directors, including Francois Truffaut, Brian De Palma, Larry Cohen and Martin Scorsese. His last score was for DePalma's Obsession. He died in his sleep on December 24, 1975.
Herrmann's non-cinematic works include the four-act opera Wuthering Heights. Herrmann also did some television work; he composed the original theme song for The Twilight Zone (used only during the first season), and also scored individual episodes of that series, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Have Gun — Will Travel.
Film Scores Written By Bernard Herrman Include
- Citizen Kane (1941)
- All That Money Can Buy AKA The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
- The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
- Jane Eyre (1943)
- Hanover Square (1945)
- Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
- The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
- On Dangerous Ground (1952)
- 5 Fingers (1952)
- The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
- White Witch Doctor (1953)
- Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953)
- King of the Khyber Rifles (1953)
- The Egyptian (1954) — With Alfred Newman
- Garden of Evil (1954)
- Prince of Players (1955)
- The Kentuckian (1955)
- The Trouble with Harry (1955)
- The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- The Wrong Man (1956)
- A Hatful of Rain (1957)
- Vertigo (1958)
- North by Northwest
- Blue Denim (1959)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)
- The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960)
- Mysterious Island (1961)
- Tender Is the Night (1962)
- Cape Fear (1962)
- Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
- Marnie (1964)
- Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
- The Bride Wore Black (1968)
- Twisted Nerve (1968) (The theme for the main character was later popularized as "Twisted Nerve" when used in Kill Bill.)
- Bezeten - Het gat in de muur (1969)
- The Battle of Neretva (1969)
- The Night Digger (1971)
- Endless Night (1972)
- Sisters (1973)
- It's Alive (1974)
- Taxi Driver (1976)
- Obsession (1976)