September 2016
Johnny Green and Dimitri Tiomkin

When it came to creative talent and the movies, Hollywood was a close-knit town during the classic studio era from the 1930s through 1950s. And even though Dimitri Tiomkin was able to work freelance during those years and avoid signing a long-term studio contract, he had to interact with the power brokers at the major studios.

Among the powerful players was Johnny Green, who led the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) music department throughout the 1950s. Just as studio bosses wielded great power and control over film projects, the music directors held similar sway over their departments.

Johnny Green’s World of Music

Johnny Green wrote to Tiomkin on January 11, 1961, asking him to participate in his pet project “Johnny Green’s World of Music.” The hour-long show was broadcast five days a week on FM radio station KRHM in Los Angeles. In Green’s mind FM radio was “emphatically on the way up” and it “reaches an audience of taste, discrimination and maturity.”

Johnny Green letter 19610111

Tapings were on Saturday and Sunday at Green’s home studio on North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills, with producer Paul Werth on hand and, since this was the early 1960s, refreshments provided by Green’s wife, Bonnie.

Sometime before Green’s next letter dated January 27, 1961, Tiomkin was recorded for the program. Green was following up the interview with the release forms he needed Tiomkin to sign in duplicate.

Another letter with release forms arrived in April. A telegram from Green in May asked if Tiomkin had any objections to the release form.

A personal letter to “Dimi” in June asked if there was some kind of misunderstanding concerning the clearance form. Tiomkin’s secretary replied that he was in Europe and wouldn’t be back until July. There’s no further correspondence on the topic.

There is no indication that the interview aired and there doesn’t appear to be a copy in the Johnny Green papers at Harvard University. Somewhere out there a tape recording probably exists.

Johnny Green letter 19610206

The Hollywood Museum

Around this same time, Johnny Green was involved with the ill-fated Hollywood Museum. After missing a museum music committee meeting attended by Green, Elmer Bernstein, and agent Abe Meyer, Tiomkin wrote to Green in October 1961 expressing his admiration for Green’s “unbelievable energy and devotion to the industry.”

Johnny Green letter 19611006

Green had sent a two-page letter dated October 6 with an attached five-page “First Report of the Music Committee.” The committee suggested a contest for a “Museum Musical Theme.” Tiomkin thought the idea impractical and a little bit too commercial.

The “Music from Hollywood” concert at the Hollywood Bowl

Many consider “Music from Hollywood” to be the most famous film music concert in history. The concert was held at the Hollywood Bowl in September 1963.

In a letter written after the concert, Green personally thanks Tiomkin “for bringing Mahalia [Jackson] to the cast.” And for the beautiful party Tiomkin gave afterwards.

Johnny Green letter 19630930

Dimitri Tiomkin with John Green and Mahalia Jackson, 1963

Dimitri Tiomkin with John Green (left) and Mahalia Jackson, 1963

 

Sources

Correspondence courtesy of Olivia Tiomkin.

“Hollywood Music Man Is Heard But Not Seen” by Harold Hefferman, Ottawa Citizen, September 22, 1962 [on Johnny Green]

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