The Newman Century
Having just observed the centenary of the birth of one of the all-time greatest names in popular music, it’s entirely appropriate to segue from the incomparable Frank Sinatra into a commemoration for today’s 100th anniversary of the birth of a gifted and influential musician whom Sinatra called one of the funniest men in Hollywood. Lionel Newman (1916-1989) came to work in 1943 as a rehearsal pianist at Twentieth Century Fox, where his brother Alfred headed the music department, and retired from the studio 41 melodic, hard-working years later as general director of music. His prodigious output in those years included composing, conducting or supervising more than 250 film and TV scores, including those by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alex North, Hugo Friedhofer, Cyril Mockridge, David Raksin, Bronislau Kaper, Dominic Frontiere and others. In 2013, the Fox Music Department building was renamed in his honor, and on the occasion of its rededication, Williams, who first worked with Newman on the TV series Lost in Space and whom Newman nicknamed “Little Dimitri” after Dimitri Tiomkin, told The Hollywood Reporter: "At 5 o’clock there was cocktail hour. Most of the good music that was written in this building was between the hours of 5 and 7 in the evening." From that same article: “Randy Newman spoke of his uncle’s passion for music, his sharp-witted tongue and his infectious humor. ‘He was enormously serious about music. I look at those pictures of him conducting, and I think that’s what was most real for him.’" What’s also quite real is that at least a dozen Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray releases from the 1950s through the 1970s bear the meticulous Newman podium imprint as conductor/music director, with future titles anticipated in the months ahead. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards® in a 31-year period across the categories of Best Song, Scoring of a Musical Picture or Adaptation Score, he finally won an Oscar® (along with Lennie Hayton) for his exuberant work on 1969’s Hello, Dolly! For all the music he lovingly orchestrated, composers whose careers he championed and movies and TV shows thrillingly enhanced with his exacting stewardship, Newman wields a big baton and a huge influence in the annals of Hollywood scoring.