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Franz Waxman Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: GK
Date: Oct 1996

Biographical History

FRANZ WAXMAN 1906-1967

A Biographical Memoir by John W. Waxman

Last portrait of Franz Waxman, taken by Boris Goldenberg in 1965, for the premiere of The Song of Terezín at the Cincinnati May Festival[Photo at right: Last portrait of Franz Waxman, taken by Boris Goldenberg in 1965, for the premiere of The Song of Terezín at the Cincinnati May Festival.]

Franz Waxman led a variety of musical lives as composer, conductor and impresario. He was born in Konigshutte, Upper Silesia, Germany, on December 24, 1906, and was the youngest of seven children. No one in the family was musical except Franz, who started piano lessons at the age of six. His father was an industrialist, and not believing his son could earn a living in music, encouraged him in a banking career. He worked for two and a half years as a teller and used his salary to pay for lessons in piano, harmony and composition. He then quit the bank and moved to Dresden and then to Berlin to study music.

During this period he paid for his musical education by playing piano in nightclubs and with the Weintraub Syncopaters, a popular jazz band of the late 1920s. While with the band he began to do their arrangements, and this led to orchestrating some early German musical films. Frederick Hollander, who had written some music for the Weintraubs, gave Waxman his first important movie assignment: orchestrating and conducting Hollander's score for Josef von Sternberg's classic film, "The Blue Angel." The film's producer, Erich Pommer, who was also head of the UFA Studios in Berlin, was so pleased with the orchestration of the score that he gave Waxman his first major composing assignment: Fritz Lang's version of "Liliom" (1933) which was filmed in Paris. Pommer's next assignment, Jerome Kern's "Music in the Air" (Fox Films, 1934), took him to the United States, and he brought Waxman with him to arrange the music.

Waxman's first original Hollywood score was "The Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), which led to a two-year contract with Universal as head of the music department. He scored a dozen of the more than 50 Universal films on which he worked as music director. Among the best known are "Magnificent Obsession, "Diamond Jim" and "The Invisible Ray."

Two years after he went to Hollywood, Waxman, then 30, signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to compose. He averaged about seven pictures a year, and it was during this period that he scored such famous Spencer Tracy films as "Captains Courageous," "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Woman of the Year." In 1937, he was loaned by M-G-M to David O. Selznick for "The Young at Heart" and was nominated for both Best Original Music and Best Score - the first two of 12 Academy Award nominations he was to receive for the 144 films he scored in his 32 years in Hollywood. In 1940 he was again loaned to Selznick, this time for "Rebecca," and was nominated for his third Academy Award.

Waxman left M-G-M in 1943 and began a long association with Warner Brothers. "Old Acquaintance" is from this period. (Selections from three more of his Warner Brothers scores can be heard on RCA albums: "Mr. Skeffington" is included in "Classic Film Scores for Bette Davis" and "To Have and Have Not" and "The Two Mrs. Carrolls" are included in "Casablanca - Classic Film Scores For Humphrey Bogart.")

In 1947 Waxman founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival, which he was to head for 20 years. World and American premieres of 80 major works by composers such as Stravinsky, Walton, Vaughan Williams, Shostakovitch and Schoenberg were given at the festival.

By 1947 Waxman had a busy schedule indeed. In addition to devoting a great deal of time to the festival, he was in demand at all the major studios, was guest conducting symphony orchestras in Europe as well as in the United States and was composing concert music. For the film "Humoresque" he wrote a special piece based on themes from Bizet's "Carmen," which was played by Isaac Stern on the soundtrack. The "Carmen Fantasie" has become standard repertoire and was recorded by Jascha Heifetz for RCA. Among Waxman's other concert works are "Overture for Trumpet and Orchestra," based on themes from "The Horn Blows at Midnight;" "Sinfonietta for String Orchestra and Timpani;" a dramatic song cycle "The Song of Terezin," and an oratorio, "Joshua."

Waxman won the Academy Award in 1950 for "Sunset Boulevard" and in 1951 for "A Place in the Sun." He is the only composer to have won the award for Best Score in two successive years. It was during the '50s and '60s that he composed some of his most important and varied scores. These are represented by the above two Academy Award winners as well as by "Prince Valiant" and "Taras Bulba." He had usually been associated with romantic films, but now he progressed to epic and jazz-oriented scores. "Crime in the Streets," "The Spirit of St. Louis," "Sayonara," "Peyton Place" and "The Nun's Story" are also from this period and the complete scores were issued on soundtrack albums. Franz Waxman received many honors during his lifetime, including the Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of West Germany, honorary memberships in the Mahler Society and the International Society of Arts and Letters, and an honorary doctorate of letters and humanities from Columbia College. He died February 24, 1967, in Los Angeles at the age of 60.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Documenting the German-American composer's career from the early 1920s through the late 1960s, the Franz Waxman Papers comprises correspondence, writings, memorabilia, recordings, and scores.

The Correspondence-subject files contains both incoming and outgoing letters and related material, most of which was generated between 1922 and 1967. Correspondence encompasses that of conductors (Eugene Ormandy, William Steinberg, Leopold Stokowski, Bruno Walter); composers (Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss, Rolf Liebermann, Igor Stravinksky, Alexander Tansman); family members (Alice Waxman, John Waxman, Lella Waxman); motion picture producers, directors, and associates (Louis R. Lipstone, Joshua Logan, Marcella Rabwin, Dore Schary, Jerry Wald, Hal B. Wallis, Jack L. Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck); musicians (Johnny Green, Menahem Pressler, Jascha Heifetz, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern); and music managers (Dorothy Huttenback, William McKelvey Martin). Other correspondents include playwright James Forsyth; dance director J. Marks; music publisher Hans Sikorski; singer Herva Nelli; and UCLA Fine Arts Department faculty Frances Inglis and William W. Melnitz. In addition, the Correspondence-Subject Files incorporates the letters of music publishers (Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., Theodore Presser Company, Salabert, Inc.); music associations and professional organizations (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers [ASCAP], International Society for Contemporary Music, Musicians Mutual Protective Association, Southern California Symphony Association, Union of Soviet Composers); and theatrical agencies (Herbert Barrett Management, Inc., Columbia Artists Management, Inc., Basil Horsfield Management Ltd., Organisation Artistique Internationale). Other correspondents include CBS News, Ford Foundation, and Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. Also, letters, clippings, programs, and publicity document the history of the Los Angeles Music Festival from 1947 through 1966. Other performance-based materials relate to the "Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Concert" and "The Song of Terezin."

Writings contains essays, notebooks, transcripts of speeches, and miscellaneous notes.

Encompassing a broad assortment of personal and printed documents, as well as a variety of formats, Memorabilia includes a music-related autograph collection; financial records; photographs of Waxman, other music professionals, and performances; printed material, including clippings (1928-1967), program notes (1940-1996), and publicity; scores by others, many bearing annotations by Waxman; and scripts for some of the films and theatrical productions with which Waxman was associated.

Recordings consists of more than a thousand recordings, at least 70% of which are not commercial releases, including rehearsals, concert performances, festival performances, personal recordings, and so on. Formats include tape and film as well as vinyl, shellac, and lacquer discs.

The collection contains a small number of Scores by others. These includes more than fifty annotated by Waxman and three arranged by Waxman.

Scores by Waxman contains original and reproduction scores for motion picture, radio and television productions.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Writings are arranged alphabetically by type. Memorabilia is arranged alphabetically by type. Recordings are physically arranged and housed depending on format and size, but are listed in the inventory alphabetically by title, subdivided into personal and professional recordings. Scores by others are subdivided by Waxman's connection (annotated by, arranged by, etc.) and within that arranged alphabetically by title. Scores by Waxman are arranged alphabetically by title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

See also the papers of Miklos Rozsa and the Christopher Palmer Collection of Roy Webb Scores.

Additional material relating to Waxman's work for the movie industry may be found in the Warner Bros. Archives at the University of Southern California, 20th Century Fox's Fox Rental Library, and the Paramount Studio holdings at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Additional material relating to Sayonara may be found in the Irving Berlin Collection held by the Library of Congress.

Subject Headings


Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-1990.
Brerezowsky, Nicolai.
Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990.
Egk, Werner, 1901-1983.
Eluard, Paul, 1895-1952.
Forsyth, James, 1913-2005.
Foss, Lukas, 1922-2009.
Green, Johnny, 1908-1989.
Groen, John te.
Heifetz, Jascha, 1901-1987.
Huttenback, Dorothy.
Liebermann, Rolf, 1910-1999.
Logan, Joshua.
Mahler, Alma, 1879-1964.
Marks, J.
Nicholls, Charlotte.
Pressler, Menahem.
Rabinoff, Max.
Rabwin, Marcella.
Schary, Dore.
Sikorski, Hans.
Stern, Isaac, 1920-2001.
Stokowski, Leopold, 1882-1977.
Tansman, Alexandre, 1897-1986.
Von Emlin, Gottried.
Wald, Jerry, 1911-1962.
Walter, Bruno, 1876-1962.
Waxman, Franz, 1906-1967.
Waxman, John.
Waxman, Lella Simone.

Corporate Bodies

American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Boosey & Hawkes Inc.
Los Angeles Music Festival.
Organisation Artistique Internationale.
Rundfunk Hessischer.
Union of Soviet Composers.


Composers -- United States.
Conductors (Music) -- United States.
German Americans.
Motion picture music -- Scores.
Motion picture music -- United States.
Music -- 20th century.
Musicians -- United States.
Orchestral music -- Scores.

Genres and Forms

16mm (photographic film size)
35mm (photographic film size)
78 rpm records.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Digital file formats.
Long-playing records.
Musical scores.
Phonograph records.
Sheet music.
Sound recordings.
Speeches (documents)
Tape reels.


Conductors (Music).

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Franz Waxman Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Majority, gift of estate of Franz Waxman.

Some items, gift of John Waxman.

Stadium Concerts Review program, gift of New York Philharmonic, 2014.

Table of Contents

Correspondence-subject files




Scores by others

Scores by Waxman