It’s about time for Hollywood to pat itself on the back again at the annual Academy Awards show in a couple of weeks, and this year, like most, sees several first-time nominees in the pack.
It must be incredibly exciting to earn a chance at walking away with Hollywood’s highest honor even once.
But can you imagine what it feels like to be nominated for an Oscar 45 times?
Me neither. And in truth only three men in history know this feeling: producer Walt Disney with 59 nominations, and composers John Williams and Alfred Newman who are tied for second-place with 45 nods each.
Alfred Newman, who died on this date in 1970, was for forty years one of the most respected composers in Hollywood. (It’s easy to find yourself adding the middle initial “E” when discussing Alfred Newman, but as any “Mad Man” knows, the “what me worry” character is actually named Alfred E. Neuman.)
Newman composed scores for over 200 films, and took home the Oscar nine times for such works as Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Tin Pan Alley, The Song of Bernadette, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Call Me Madam, The King and I, and Camelot. Newman was nominated for an Oscar every year between 1938 and 1957 – an incredible streak of twenty years in a row!
Newman was considered to be a musical prodigy from the age of five when he first took up the piano. He soon began playing on the vaudeville circuit and at the age of 20 began a decade-long career playing on Broadway. Newman followed his friend Irving Berlin to Hollywood in 1930 and was soon working with Charlie Chaplin as the musical director on City Lights. By 1940 he was contracted to 20th Century Fox studios where he conducted the famous fanfare, a variation of which (recorded by his son David) still introduces Fox films to this day. While at Fox Newman also created the Newman System, a method of synchronizing scores to films that is still in use.
Newman continued working until 1970, when he concluded his illustrious career by scoring the film Airport. He died on February 17, 1970, exactly one month before his 70th birthday.
Newman left a powerful lasting legacy of music, both on screen and through his family. His brothers Lionel and Emil scored nearly a hundred films between them, and sons David and Thomas, and daughter Maria, have another couple of hundred scoring credits, with ten Oscar nominations for Thomas. Nephew and I Love L.A. composer Randy Newman has also won an Oscar, and grandnephew Joey has a host of scoring credits to his name as well.