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About Steven C. Smith
Steven C. Smith is a four-time Emmy-nominated producer and author whose latest book is Music by Max Steiner: The Epic Life of Hollywood’s Most Influential Composer (Oxford University Press; April 2020). His biography A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, and served as the primary research source for the Oscar-nominated documentary Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann. He has written about film and music for the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly and the Hollywood Reporter. A former supervising producer of the TV series A&E Biography and AMC Backstory, his 200-plus documentaries have received sixteen Telly Awards. They include The Sound of a City: Julie Andrews Returns to Salzburg; The Lure of the Desert: Martin Scorsese on Lawrence of Arabia; and Thou Shalt Not! Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood. Smith lives in Los Angeles.
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Throughout his chaotic life, Steiner was buoyed by an innate optimism, a quick wit, and an instinctive gift for melody, all of which would come to the fore as he met and worked with luminaries like Richard Strauss, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, the Warner Bros., David O. Selznick, Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra, and Frank Capra. In Music by Max Steiner, the first full biography of Steiner, author Steven C. Smith interweaves the dramatic incidents of Steiner's personal life with an accessible exploration of his composing methods and experiences, bringing to life the previously untold story of a musical pioneer and master dramatist who helped create a vital new art with some of the greatest film scores in cinema history.
From his first film (Citizen Kane) to his last (Taxi Driver), Herrmann was a master of evoking psychological nuance and dramatic tension through music, often using unheard-of instrumental combinations to suit the dramatic needs of a film. His scores are among the most distinguished ever written, ranging from the fantastic (Fahrenheit 451, The Day the Earth Stood Still) to the romantic (Obsession, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) to the terrifying (Psycho).
Film was not the only medium in which Herrmann made a powerful mark. His radio broadcasts included Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre of the Air and The War of the Worlds. His concert music was commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, and he was chief conductor of the CBS Symphony.
Almost as celebrated as these achievements are the enduring legends of Herrmann's combativeness and volatility. Smith separates myth from fact and draws upon heretofore unpublished material to illuminate Herrmann's life and influence. Herrmann remains as complex as any character in the films he scored―a creative genius, an indefatigable musicologist, an explosive bully, a generous and compassionate man who desperately sought friendship and love.