Alex North, Film Composer

A Biography, with Musical Analyses of A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus, The Misfits, Under the Volcano, and Prizzi’s Honor


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About the Book

Alex North (1910–1991) was one of America’s most renowned film composers. His musical scores enhanced more than 60 major motion pictures—A Streetcar Named Desire, Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf among them. He had 15 Oscar nominations, and received the Lifetime Achievement Oscar.
This book begins with his early life in Pennsylvania, and moves through his studies at Juilliard and in Russia and Mexico, his early experiences in modern dance, documentaries, and theater, and his major work in film. The book also offers analyses of North’s musical scores for Streetcar, Spartacus, The Misfits, Under the Volcano, and Prizzi’s Honor. Appendices include a bibliography, a filmography, a listing of other North compositions, a discography, and a listing of awards.

About the Author(s)

A musicologist and award-winning pianist, Sanya Shoilevska Henderson works as a performer, teacher, and composer in Los Angeles.

Bibliographic Details

Sanya Shoilevska Henderson
Foreword by John Williams
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 278
Bibliographic Info: 163 photos, facsimiles, discography, filmography, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009 [2003]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4333-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2683-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by John Williams      ix

Acknowledgments      xi

Preface      1


1. From West to East: Search for Knowledge      7

2. Music and Movement: The Beginning      20

3. New York, New York: The Forties      28

4. Welcome to Hollywood: The Fifties      41

5. The Decade of the Big Epics: The Sixties      61

6. The Final Stage: The Seventies and the Eighties      76


7. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)      93

8. Spartacus (1960)      129

9. The Misfits (1961)      159

10. Under the Volcano (1984)      173

11. Prizzi’s Honor (1985)      189

Epilogue      213

Appendix I: Filmography      219

Appendix II: List of Compositions      225

Appendix III: Discography      228

Appendix IV: List of Awards Presented to Alex North      236

Chapter Notes      239

Bibliography      249

Index      259

Book Reviews & Awards

“admirable detail…wonderful”—; “rare and welcome…loaded…one of the most exhaustive tomes…treasure trove…I love this book…useful”—Film Score Magazine; “extensive and provocative…a book like this has been long in coming, and is most welcome…illuminating”—Cinescape; “impeccable…fascinating…intriguing insights…straighforward…accessible”—Film Review; “excellent…numerous fascinating black and white illustrations…highly recommended”—Journal into Melody.