Alex North  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Alex North (December 4, 1910September 8, 1991) was an American composer responsible for the first jazz-based film score (A Streetcar Named Desire) and one of the first modernist scores written in Hollywood, (Viva Zapata!).

Born Isadore Soifer in Chester, Pennsylvania, North was an original composer probably even by the classical music standards of the day. However, he managed to integrate his modernism into typical film music leitmotif structure, rich with themes. One of these became the famous song, "Unchained Melody". Nominated for 15 Oscars but unsuccessful each time, North and Ennio Morricone are the only film composers to receive the Lifetime Achievement Academy Award. North's frequent collaborator as orchestrator was the avant-garde composer Henry Brant. He won the 1968 Golden Globe award for his music to The Shoes of the Fisherman.

Some of his best-known film scores include The Rainmaker (1956), Spartacus (1960), The Misfits (1961), Cleopatra (1963), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), and The Devil's Brigade (1968). His commissioned score for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was discarded by the director, but has since been released on CD.

Though North is best known for his work in Hollywood, he spent years in New York writing music for the stage. It was in New York that he met Elia Kazan, who brought him to Hollywood in the 50s. North was one of several composers who brought the influence of contemporary concert music into film, in part marked by an increased use of dissonance and complex rhythms. But there is also a lyrical quality to much of his work which may be connected to the influence of Aaron Copland, with whom he studied.

His classical works include a Rhapsody for Piano, Trumpet obbligato and Orchestra. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his score for the 1976 television miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man. North is also known for his opening to the CBS television anthology series Playhouse 90.

Broadway credits

Academy Award Nominations

  • 1952: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Death of a Salesman; A Streetcar Named Desire)
  • 1953: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Viva Zapata!)
  • 1956: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (The Rose Tattoo)
  • 1956: Best Music, Original Song ("Unchained Melody", co-written with Hy Zaret)
  • 1957: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (The Rainmaker)
  • 1961: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Spartacus)
  • 1964: Best Music, Score - Substantially Original (Cleopatra)
  • 1966: Best Music, Score - Substantially Original (The Agony and the Ecstasy)
  • 1967: Best Music, Original Music Score (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
  • 1969: Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture not a Musical (The Shoes of the Fisherman)
  • 1975: Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Shanks)
  • 1976: Best Music, Original Score (Bite the Bullet)
  • 1982: Best Music, Original Score (Dragonslayer)
  • 1985: Best Music, Original Score (Under the Volcano)




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Alex North" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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