Miklos Rozsa had Old World values, a benefit of being born and raised in the waning years of the Old World. As a conservatory student in Budapest between the wars, he was destined to compose great symphonies. Writing music for the movies, as his friend Arthur Honegger did to support himself between commissions, seemed beneath his talents. Fortunately for us, Rozsa quickly abandoned his prejudices and relocated to London, where his successes included the scores for The Four Feathers
and The Thief of Baghdad
. He emigrated to Los Angeles in 1939, joining a bevy of European expats including old pal Billy Wilder. Rozsa's stirring work on Double Indemnity
and The Lost Weekend
led to Alfred Hitchcock's commission for Spellbound
, noteworthy as the first film score to use the theremin. After that, Rozsa was in constant demand for the next two decades. He had the ability to apply his gifts to almost any genre, from film noir (The Killers
) to romantic tragedy (Madame Bovary
) to Biblical epic (Ben Hur
). His richly potent scores were more than ear candy, however; they lent gravity and class to potentially overripe material and performances. (Paging Mr. Heston.) Rozsa ended up scoring more than 80 Hollywood films, while preserving both his dignity and his artistry. You could say he did pretty well in the New World.
"Legendary Composer: Miklos Rozsa" features more than 15 films. Today, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and Madame Bovary screen together as a double feature.
Dec. 28-Jan. 3, 2007