Leonard Rosenman

Leonard Rosenman (September 7, 1924 – March 4, 2008) was an American film, television and concert composer with credits in over 130 works, including Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Barry Lyndon and the animated The Lord of the Rings.[1]

Leonard Rosenman
Background information
Birth nameLeonard Rosenman
Born(1924-09-07)September 7, 1924
Brooklyn, New York, United States
DiedMarch 4, 2008(2008-03-04) (aged 83)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, United States
Occupation(s)Composer, conductor
Years active1955–2001

Life and career

Leonard Rosenman was born in Brooklyn, New York, United States.[1] After service in the Pacific with the United States Army Air Forces in World War II, he earned a bachelor's degree in music from the University of California, Berkeley. He also studied composition with Arnold Schoenberg, Roger Sessions and Luigi Dallapiccola.[2]

Amongst Rosenman's earliest film work was the scores for James Dean movies East of Eden (1955) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955).[1] Rosenman had lived together with Dean whom he gave piano lessons to[3] and it was Dean who introduced him to the director Elia Kazan. Dean also lobbied George Stevens to let Rosenman score Giant, but Stevens preferred the more traditional Dimitri Tiomkin.[4]

Rosenman remarked "The year I did my first film, I had five major performances in New York," however. "The minute I did my first film, I didn't have a performance there for 20 years. They would never say, 'I don't like them'. They wouldn't look at them."[4]

He composed the score for Vincente Minnelli's The Cobweb (1955) regarded as the first major Hollywood score to be written in the Twelve-tone technique. His avant-garde music was used for Martin Ritt's Edge of the City (1956) and John Frankenheimer's The Young Stranger (1957).[1] He composed scores for war films such as William Wellman's biographical Lafayette Escadrille (1958), Lewis Milestone's Pork Chop Hill (1959), Delbert Mann's The Outsider (1961), Don Siegel's Hell is for Heroes (1962) and the Combat! television series (1962). He wrote incidental music for such television series as Law of the Plainsman, The Defenders, The Twilight Zone, Gibbsville and Marcus Welby, M.D..[1]

He went on to compose George Cukor's The Chapman Report then Fantastic Voyage (1966) where he rejected producer Saul David's instructions. Rosenman stated "A producer asked me to write a jazz score, and I asked him why. He said he wanted the picture to be the first hip science fiction movie. I said that's a great idea for an advertising agency, but it doesn't fit the film."[5]

He provided scores to science fiction films such as Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) and the first, animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (1978), Cross Creek (1983) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986).[1] In the 1970s, he composed Bass Concerto Chamber Music 4 for bassist Buell Neidlinger and four string quartets with a second bass.

In 1995, Nonesuch Records issued an album of music from both East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause, played by the London Sinfonietta conducted by John Adams.

In his seventies, Rosenman was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia, a degenerative brain condition with symptoms similar to Alzheimer's disease.

He died March 4, 2008, of a heart attack at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California.[6][7]


Leonard Rosenman earned two Academy Awards:

After receiving his second Oscar he quipped "I write original music too, you know!"[8]

He received two additional Academy Award nominations:

He also received two Emmy Awards:

  • Sybil (1976), for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Special (Dramatic Underscore), with Alan and Marilyn Bergman
  • Friendly Fire (1979), for Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series or a Special



  1. Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 373. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. Fox, Margalit. "Leonard Roseman, 83, Composer for Films" The New York Times, Thursday, March 6, 2008
  3. "James Dean: He was an awkward misfit who irritated his co-stars". Dailymail.co.uk. April 5, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  4. Bergan, Ronald (March 17, 2008). "Obituary: Leonard Rosenman". Theguardian.com. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  5. "Film Music Society". Filmmusicsociety.org. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  6. Jon Burlingame (March 4, 2008). "Leonard Rosenman Dead at 83 : Maverick composer wrote innovative, influential film scores". Filmmusicsociety.org. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  7. "Leonard Rosenman: Oscar-winning film composer who introduced modernism". The Independent. March 11, 2008. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
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