Charles Previn

Charles Previn (January 11, 1888 – September 21, 1973) was an American film composer who was active at Universal in Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s. Before being based in Hollywood, Previn arranged music for over 100 Broadway productions.[1]

Previn was born in Brooklyn to Henrietta Giballe and the rabbi Morris Previn, who a year earlier had immigrated from Graudenz via Glasgow to the United States.[2] He graduated from Brooklyn High School and obtained a bachelor's degree from Cornell University in 1910. He obtained a master's degree from New York College of Music.

From 1936 to 1944, Previn was musical director at Universal, overseeing everything from horror pictures to Arabian Nights fantasies. He was a cousin of the father of German-born composer, pianist, and conductor André Previn and TV and film director Steve Previn (brothers).[3] He died in Los Angeles, aged 85.

Professional career

  • Musician and conductor of vaudeville and musical comedy
  • Conductor of the St. Louis Municipal Opera
  • Conductor of NBC's Camel Pleasure Hour in 1930, featuring cornetist Bix Beiderbecke
  • Conductor on the NBC radio series Silken Strings from 1934 through 1936
  • 1936-1944 Musical director, arranger, composer and conductor at Universal. While there, Previn accumulated over 225 films to his credit, including most of Deanna Durbin's films.
  • 1944 Previn began working at other studios
  • 1945-1947 Previn succeeded Ernö Rapée as music director/conductor of the Radio City Music Hall Symphony
  • 1947 Previn returned to Hollywood and worked at Eagle-Lion and MGM
  • 1947 Ithaca Conservatory of Music awarded Previn an honorary doctorate
  • 1953 Previn retired

While at Universal, Previn composed uncredited stock music for several studio's releases.

Partial filmography


Oscar Award

Academy Award nominations



Morris and Henrietta were married in about 1880. Morris Previn was a rabbi at Ascha-Shorem on 78 Ten Eyck Street in Brooklyn.


  • Rosie (December 1882, Germany – May 1948, New York, NY)
Rose Meyer (married Dr. Joseph H. Meyer)
  • Leo Previn (3 August 1884, Graudenz, Germany – February 1954, New York, NY)
  • Arthur Gerald Previn (14 February 1886 Germany – July 1969, Falls Church, Virginia)
  • Bess (born October 1892, New York City—April 30, 1983, New York City)
Bess Landau (married Saul Albert Landau 19 November 1914 Manhattan, NY)
Bess Nathanson
Bess Kurtzman


General references

  • Biography Index, A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, Volume 1: January 1946 – July 1949, H. W. Wilson Company, New York (1949)
  • Biography Index, A cumulative index to biographical material in books and magazines, Volume 10: September 1973 – August 1976, H. W. Wilson Company, New York (1977)
  • Who Was Who on Screen, Third edition, by Evelyn Mack Truitt, R.R. Bowker, New York (1983)
  • The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, Third edition, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, New York (1966)
  • ASCAP Biographical Dictionary, Fourth edition, compiled for the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, by Jaques Cattell Press, R.R. Bowker, New York (1980)
  • Who's Who in Hollywood, the largest cast of international film personalities ever assembled, two volumes, by David Ragan, New York: Facts on File, New York (1992)

Inline citations

  1. Previn Succeeds Rapee, Stars and Stripes Newspaper, July 27, 1945
  2. Charles' and his older brother Arthur's US passport applications.
  3. Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
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