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Subject: ARCHIVE: July 27, 1995 ~It was 25 years ago, Hollywood lost famed film composer Miklós Rózsa, best known for his nearly one hundred film scores, aligned w/his concert music, his cinema career earning 17 Oscar nominations, winning for "Spellbound" (1945), "A Double Life" (1947), "Ben Hur" (1959), dies at 88. ...
Hungarian-American composer trained in Germany (1925–1931) and active in France (1931–1935), the United Kingdom (1935–1940) and the United States (1940–1995), with extensive sojourns in Italy from 1953 onward. Best known for his nearly one hundred film scores, he nevertheless maintained a steadfast allegiance to absolute concert music throughout what he called his "double life" (Rózsa, Double Life: The Autobiography of Miklós Rózsa [Tunbridge Wells: Baton Press, 1982), p. 9].)
Rózsa achieved early success in Europe with his orchestral Theme, Variations, and Finale (Op. 13) of 1933, and became prominent in the film industry from such early scores as The Four Feathers (1939) and The Thief of Bagdad (1940). The latter project brought him to America when production was transferred from wartime Britain, and Rózsa remained in the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1946. His notable Hollywood career earned him considerable fame, earning 17 Oscar nominations including three successes for Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1947), and Ben-Hur (1959), while his concert works were championed by such major artists as Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, and János Starker.
Interestingly, his single best-known melody isn't normally attributed to him, and became famous by accident. For the hit men in "The Killers" Rozsa devised a suitably threatening four-note motif. A few years later, composer Walter Schumann inadvertantly used this motto at the beginning of his title music for Jack Webb's tv cop show, "Dragnet". When the similarities were pointed out to Rozsa, he filed suit. Schumann retained sole credit for the "Dragnet Theme" while agreeing to pay Rozsa half the royalties for it. The rest is pop culture history, as Rozsa's portentious little tune became a joking symbol for deadpan authority.