Herbert Stothart Poster


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Overview (2)

Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (spinal cancer)

Mini Bio (1)

Of Scottish and German ancestry, Herbert Stothart was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1885. At first, he was slated for a career as a teacher of history. However, he became enamored with music while singing in a school choir, and again, later, while attending the University of Wisconsin. There, he composed and conducted musicals for the Haresfoot Dramatic Club (the actor Otis Skinner was a noted alumnus). The success of one of these amateur productions, "Manicure Shop", which was staged professionally in Chicago, led to further musical studies in Europe, followed by full-time work as a composer for vaudeville and musical theatre.

In 1914, Stothart was hired by legendary lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II as musical director for the Rudolf Friml operetta "High Jinks". After three years on the road with various shows, Stothart scored his first Broadway musical, the farce "Furs and Frills", in October 1917. During the next decade, he continued a string of successful collaborations with top-flight composers, lyricists and playwrights, including Otto A. Harbach and Vincent Youmans. After 1922, Stothart's own original compositions began to be featured, and, within two years, he was able to celebrate his first major hit with the musical "Rose-Marie". "Rose-Marie" was written in conjunction with Rudolf Friml and ran for an impressive 557 performances at the Imperial Theatre. Stothart followed this success with the opera/ballet "Song of the Flame", co-written with George Gershwin. In 1929, the success of 'talking pictures', combined with the popularity of musicals, prompted studio boss Louis B. Mayer to lure Stothart to Hollywood.

Within just a few years, Stothart established himself as MGM's foremost film composer, working exclusively on the studio's prestige output. Many of his scores were for productions derived from literary classics, such as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), The Good Earth (1937) and Pride and Prejudice (1940). Stothart's preferred musical style was subtle and melodic, sometimes mournful, often prominently featuring violins. He was prone to use leitmotifs from classical composers, for example in A Tale of Two Cities (1935) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) (Chopin), or Conquest (1937) and Waterloo Bridge (1940) (Tchaikovsky). In his dual capacity as musical director, Stothart also supervised or orchestrated almost all of the popular Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald operettas. He composed a number of songs, one of the best-known being the 'Donkey Serenade', sung by Allan Jones in The Firefly (1937). Most importantly, perhaps, he became the first composer at MGM to win an Academy Award for a musical score for The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Herbert Stothart spent his entire Hollywood career at MGM. In 1947, he suffered a heart attack while visiting Scotland, and, afterwards, composed an orchestral piece ('Heart Attack: A Symphonic Poem'), based on his tribulations. He worked on another ('The Voice of Liberation'), when he died two years later at the age of 63 from cancer of the spine. He is an inductee in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: I.S.Mowis

Spouse (1)

Mary Wolfe (? - 1 February 1949) (his death) (2 children)

Trivia (6)

M-G-M's "in-house" and most prolific composer from the studio's earliest talkies until his death in 1949.
Scored films exclusively for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M).
Broadway composer who eventually abandoned the stage to compose mostly background music for films.
Although his style of scoring is rather lightly dismissed by some critics in comparison to that of some later M-G-M composers and orchestrators, his adaptation and scoring of the background music in "The Wizard of Oz", much of which he actually composed, is still considered a masterpiece. It won Stothart his only Oscar.
Great-uncle of Norton Buffalo.
Stothart's first wife, Dorothy Wolfe, committed suicide in front of him while he was playing the piano at home and their 4-year-old daughter was in the house. The reasons for her actions are not clear.

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