David Raksin
Photograph of David Raksin
Born(1912-08-04)August 4, 1912
DiedAugust 9, 2004(2004-08-09) (aged 92)
OccupationFilm composer
Notable workLaura (1944)

David Raksin (August 4, 1912 – August 9, 2004)[1] was an American composer who was noted for his work in film and television. With more than 100 film scores and 300 television scores to his credit, he became known as the "Grandfather of Film Music."[2].


Trailer for Laura

David Raksin was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States,[1] to Jewish parents (of Russian heritage). His father was an orchestra conductor. Raksin played professionally in dance bands while attending Central High School of Philadelphia. He went on to study composition with Harl McDonald at the University of Pennsylvania,[1] and later with Isadore Freed in New York and Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles. In New York, Raksin worked as an arranger for Harms/Chappell.[1]

One of his earliest film assignments was as assistant to Charlie Chaplin in the composition of the score to Modern Times (1936).[1] He is perhaps best remembered for his score for the film Laura (1944).[1] The theme music for the film, "Laura", with the addition of lyrics by Johnny Mercer, became a major hit.[1] During Raksin's lifetime, "Laura" was said to be the second most-recorded song in history following "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish.

Raksin's theme song "The Bad and the Beautiful" (also called "Love is For the Very Young") for the 1953 film The Bad and the Beautiful (1953) was also a hit,[3] although not as popular as "Laura". Raksin insisted that the song be released as an instrumental, because he had resented having to split the proceeds from "Laura" with a lyricist. Raksin's theme for "The Bad and the Beautiful" was initially disliked by the film's director Vincente Minnelli and producer John Houseman, but was saved from rejection by the intervention of Adolph Green and Betty Comden, who both liked it. The theme has since been praised by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Rosenman, Richard Rodney Bennett, and Alexander Courage. Sondheim reportedly called it "one of the best themes ever written in films".[4]

Raksin also scored the 1958 film Separate Tables, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.[3]

In the 1960s, Raksin wrote the theme song for (and scored the pilot of) the medical drama television series Ben Casey. Later in life, Raksin taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Raksin died in 2004, aged 92.[1] At the time of his death, it was announced that Raksin had completed his autobiography, titled If I Say So Myself.[5] The book was eventually published under the title The Bad and the Beautiful: My Life in a Golden Age of Film Music.

In 2012, he was named for a Lifetime Achievement Award for a Past Film Composer.[6]

His son Alex, is a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times.[7]

Select film and TV scores

Work on Broadway

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "David Raskin". AllMusic. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  2. ^ OBITUARY: David Raksin, 92, Grandfather of Film Music Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine Published: August 11, 2004
  3. ^ a b Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 2036. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ Harmetz, Aljean (August 11, 2004). "David Raksin, the Composer of 'Laura,' is Dead at 92". The New York Times. pp. C13. ProQuest 92788629. According to a 1998 interview with Mr. Raksin done for a "Live From Lincoln Center" broadcast on PBS, Stephen Sondheim considered the composer's theme for 'The Bad and the Beautiful' (1952) to be 'one of the most beautiful themes ever written in films.'
  5. ^ "David Raksin Dead at 92". The Film Music Society. 2004..
  6. ^ "Sammy Film Music Awards for 2011". Archived from the original on 2014-01-06. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
  7. ^ Schott & Co. Ltd. recorder score RMS 850 (1957)