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date: 20 February 2020

Stothart, Herbert (Pope)free

  • Kate Daubney
  •  and William Rosar

(b Milwaukee, WI, 11 Sept 1885; d Los, Angeles, CA, 1 Feb 1949). Composer and conductor. He was educated in Milwaukee and then became involved in conducting and composing for theatrical productions at the University of Wisconsin. He began working as a conductor on Broadway in 1920, writing songs with the lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, and collaborating with the composers Rudolf Friml, George Gershwin, and Vincent Youmans. In 1929 he moved to Hollywood to work for MGM, where he remained until his death, conducting and composing for more than 100 films. As a music director he was associated mainly with film musicals, notably The Wizard of Oz, for which he won an Academy Award, and those starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. As a composer he worked on almost all of MGM's prestige productions of the 1930s and 40s. His idiom incorporates thematic quotation from other composers, including Chopin (A Tale of Two Cities, 1935, The Picture of Dorian Gray 1945), Delius (The Yearling, 1947), and Tchaikovsky (Conquest and Romeo and Juliet, both 1937). This was partly a response to an emphasis at MGM on broadening the experience of its audience through the inclusion of “classical music” in film. His scoring technique also reflects his interest in Wagner's operas and the leitmotif: this traditional conception of film music also reflects his experience as a songwriter for music theater, and his career on Broadway gave him an understanding of how music might be integrated with dramatic action. His scoring was versatile and he wrote music for films from a range of genres, including Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), David Copperfield (1935), The Good Earth (1937), and Mrs Miniver (1942). He was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, for scoring both dramatic and musical pictures, and his songs, including “I wanna be loved by you,” appeared in over 50 films.

Works

(selective list)

Stage

(all are musicals and, unless otherwise stated, have librettos and lyrics by O. Hammerstein II and O. Harbach; dates are those of first New York performance)

Wildflower, collab. V. Youmans, 7 Feb 1923

Rose-Marie, collab. R. Friml, 2 Sept 1924

Song of the Flame, collab. G. Gershwin, 30 Dec 1925

Golden Dawn, collab. E. Kálmán, 30 Nov 1927

Good Boy (libretto by Hammerstein and Harbach; lyrics by B. Kalmar), collab. H. Ruby, 5 Sept 1928

Film scores

The Squaw Man, 1931

Night Flight, 1933

Treasure Island, 1934

Anna Karenina, 1935

David Copperfield, 1935

Mutiny on the Bounty, 1935

A Tale of Two Cities, 1935

Camille, 1937

Conquest, 1937

The Good Earth, 1937

Romeo and Juliet, 1937

Marie Antoinette, 1938

Northwest Passage, 1940

Waterloo Bridge, 1940

Mrs. Miniver, 1942

The Human Comedy, 1943

Random Harvest, 1943

Madame Curie, 1944

Dragon Seed, 1944

The White Cliffs of Dover, 1944

National Velvet, 1945

The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945

The Yearling, 1947

Choral

China: a Sym. Narrative (H. Kronman), pageant, spkrs, chorus, orch, 1943

Voices of Liberation (Stothart), male vv, orch/pf, 1947

Bibliography

  • M.N. Fisher: “‘Milwaukeean’ New Victor Herbert,” Milwaukee Journal (1 April 1934), 4, 11
  • H. Stothart: “Il problema della musica nel film storico,” Cinema, no.17 (Rome, 1937), 178
  • H. Stothart: “Film Music,” Behind the Screen: How Films are Made, ed. S. Watts (London, 1938), 139–44
  • H. Stothart, Jr: “Herbert Stothart,” Films in Review, xxi (1970), 622–30 [incl. list of film scores]
  • W. Rosar: “Herbert Stothart: a Biographical Sketch,” Cue Sheet, i/1 (1984), 3–5
  • C. Palmer: The Composer in Hollywood (London, 1990)
  • W. Darby and J. Du Bois: American Film Music: Major Composers, Techniques, Trends, 1915–1990 (Jefferson, NC, 1991)