David Snell (composer)

David L. Snell (10 September 1897 – 27 March 1967) was a pianist, conductor, composer and music director. He composed the music for over 170 shorts, series or feature films.

David L. Snell
Born(1897-09-10)10 September 1897
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Died27 March 1967(1967-03-27) (aged 69)
Known forShadow of the Thin Man

Early years

David L. Snell was born on 10 September 1897 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He became a pianist, and studied at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Wisconsin College and the Meyer Conservatory of Music. He formed his own orchestra, and was the musical director for several stage productions.[1]

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer music director

Snell joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's music department in 1937, turning out music for a range of films from low-cost "B" movies to expensive features.[2] He would spend his entire film career with MGM.[3] He was conductor, composer, and music director for MGM for twenty-one years.'[1] The work could be high pressure. In November 1938 Franz Waxman had just five days to put together the fifty-minute score for A Christmas Carol so it could be released in time for the holiday season. Snell helped out, writing the opening and closing credit cues and half a dozen other cues based on themes provided by Waxman.[4]

Snell wrote music for many full-length films, shorts and B-movie series such as Dr. Kildare, Maisie and The Thin Man. His songs include Under The Stars, Downstream Drifter, Come Back Little Girl Of Mine and Once Over Lightly.[1] Snell's scores often showed first-rate craftmanship, but his work has generally been ignored, perhaps because in most cases he chose to simply underscore the dialog as opposed to contributing complementary musical ideas.[5] However, for the 1947 Lady in the Lake, based on the Raymond Chandler novel and set around Christmas time, Snell chose to use a choir singing a cappella without musical accompaniment, providing an austere and effective "black and white" score to accompany the stark black and white cinematography.[6] The moody music echoed Christmas carols.[7]

David L. Snell died at home in Glendale, California on March 27, 1967.[1]


Snell is credited as composer in many films, including:[8]



  • Brown, Royal S. (1994). Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-08320-2. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • "David Snell". IMDb. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • "Dave Snell". Monstrous Movie Music. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • Helvering, David Allen (2007). Functions of Dialogue Underscoring in American Feature Film. ProQuest. ISBN 978-0-549-23504-0. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • McCarty, Clifford (2000). Film Composers in America: A Filmography, 1911-1970. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511473-7. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • Neumeyer, David; Platte, Nathan (2011-12-06). Franz Waxman's Rebecca: A Film Score Guide. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-8366-6. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • Phillips, Gene D. (2000). Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2700-9. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
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