Feature articles

Follow these links to feature-length articles on Dimitri Tiomkin and his music.

AlamoThe Alamo Turns 55 (2015)

Fifty-five years ago concert performances of film scores were few and far between. Aficionados of film music had to rely on soundtrack recordings and even those could be nonexistent or difficult to find. In October 1960, two days prior to hosting the world premiere of the film, San Antonio was home to the world premiere of “The Alamo Suite” by Dimitri Tiomkin premiered by the San Antonio Symphony.

Albertina Rasch, circa 1920sAlbertina Rasch (1891-1967)

The première danseuse Albertina Rasch, married to Dimitri Tiomkin from 1926 until her death in 1967, had a prolific career as a ballerina and choreographer. Learn more about her career in vaudeville, on Broadway, and Hollywood films.

Alexander GlazunovAlexander Glazunov

Tiomkin’s mentor, Russian composer Alexander Glazunov, may have been the single greatest musical influence on the future composer in Hollywood.

http://www.dimitritiomkin.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/A.-Tansman-et-D.-Tiomkine-2-001.jpgBehind the Photograph

Our popular look behind the scenes at selected images from among the hundreds of photographs on this site. We’ve featured composer Alexandre Tansman, choral director Jester Hairston, music critic Leonard Liebling, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and more.

http://www.dimitritiomkin.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/A1839.jpgCease Fire: High Noon in Korea

“The dramatic story you are about to see was actually filmed on the battlefields of Korea,” declares the opening title card for Cease Fire, a 1953 Paramount film from producer Hal B. Wallis. An in-depth look at this black-and-white 3-D film with music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

Dillinger one sheet, style ADillinger: Bullets and Boogie-Woogie

John Dillinger, the legendary 1930s-era bank robber, was portrayed in the 1940s in the film Dillinger, with a score by Dimitri Tiomkin and a backstory involving censorship, controversy, and more.

Dimitri Tiomkin with Michael Khariton, circa 1925Dimitri Tiomkin and Michael Khariton: Duo-Pianists

Did you know the pianist referred to only as “Raskov” in Tiomkin’s autobiography is Michael Khariton? Find out more about their concertizing and experiences in Paris and New York in the 1920s in this article.

Dimitri TiomkinDimitri Tiomkin and the Music Journal

Tiomkin was among a number of film composers who contributed to the Music Journal, a monthly educational magazine dedicated to the promotion of American music and published in New York from 1946 to 1987. Tiomkin wrote three articles: “Writing Symphonically for the Screen” (January 1959), “The Music of Hollywood” (November-December 1962), and “Music for the Films” (Music Journal Annual, July 1967).

Jack Wallace pic3Dimitri Tiomkin as I Remember Him by Jack Wallace

Jack Wallace worked in Hollywood as an assistant editor and publicist. Read about Wallace’s memories of working with Tiomkin on Friendly Persuasion. Thanks to Les Zador.

Dimitri Tiomkin with Edmund Carewe, 1930Dimitri Tiomkin’s Score for Resurrection (1931)

Seventy-five years ago, the art of music scoring for Hollywood sound films, or “talkies,” was literally being invented by a group of transplanted New Yorkers, many of whom were songwriters. Among them was a Russian concert pianist-turned-composer who was ready to take a stab at writing serious music for films. This is the story of Dimitri Tiomkin’s first feature-length film score.

Dimitri Tiomkin with John Green and Mahalia Jackson, 1963Fascinating Rhythms: Dimitri Tiomkin, African American Music, and Early Jazz

In his pre-Hollywood career as a concert pianist, Tiomkin’s interest in modern music extended beyond classical to jazz, which he publicly defended as a uniquely American art form. This article assesses the influence of this music on Tiomkin and looks at his association with some of the finest black musicians of the twentieth century, among them singers Nat “King” Cole, Mahalia Jackson (pictured left), Eva Jessye, and Kitty White, and arrangers Benny Carter, Jester Hairston, Hall Johnson, and William Grant Still.

Forced Landing Jumbo Window Card - USFlying Blind and Forced Landing

Tiomkin did have to pay his dues, like most other composers in Hollywood. By the end of the 1930s he had been well compensated on several significant productions but had also toiled on a number of second-string pictures for much lower fees. Two of these lesser-known films were aviation “actioners” scored back-to-back, just prior to the United States’ entry into World War II: Forced Landing and Flying Blind, both starring Richard Arlen.

The film songs of Dimitri Tiomkin and Frederick Herbert

Bridge of San Luis Rey lobby card AIn two parts. Part one covers their collaboration on The Bridge of San Luis Rey as well as the Frederick Herbert/Herbert Stahlberg family musical legacy. Part two covers their film song collaborations.


High and the MightyThe High and the Mighty Goes to Court

In 1955, after winning an Academy Award for the score from The High and the Mighty, Dimitri Tiomkin was named in a lawsuit by composer Leon Navara. Navara claimed that the film’s title song was based on a composition of his own, and was seeking $5 million in damages for copyright infringement.

Sokolov_to_Martin_1962_05_01Hole in the Rock and Panic Button: Dimitri Tiomkin and Stephen Longstreet cross paths in the early 1960s

In the early 1960s, Dimitri Tiomkin signed back-to-back contracts to score two pictures, Panic Button and Hole in the Rock. While he did not ultimately provide music for either film, a look at what took place behind-the-scenes provides a fascinating glimpse into the business world of film composers.

Holiday Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for the holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life is well known. In addition to this perennial classic, he wrote several Christmas songs not associated with motion pictures. Read the story of “The First Christmas” and other holiday music by Tiomkin.

John_McCormack_cphJohn McCormack: Dimitri Tiomkin’s Attempt to Film the Story of the Irish Tenor

In the 1950s, Dimitri Tiomkin tried to bring the story of Irish tenor John Count McCormack (1884–1945) to the big screen. The film was to be based on a biography of McCormack by his widow. McCormack was “celebrated for his performances of the operatic and popular song repertoires, and renowned for his diction and breath control.”

Moon and Sixpence half sheet, US, style AThe Moon and Sixpence

First in an occasional series on Tiomkin’s lesser-known film scores. With so many scores to his credit, there are bound to be some overlooked gems in Dimitri Tiomkin’s film oeuvre. His music for The Moon and Sixpence is one such case. When the film was released in the early 1940s, the score was well received by Tiomkin’s peers and earned a nomination from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Canadian Pacific insert for AustraliaNational Train Day (on Canadian Pacific and Night Passage)

Trains have figured prominently in several films scored by Dimitri Tiomkin, from High Noon to Last Train from Gun Hill. In recognition of National Train Day, we examine two films from this particular portion of his oeuvre, Canadian Pacific and Night Passage, in which trains play a central role in the story line.

Zagon_1949_12_05Pandora and the Flying Dutchman

There is now evidence that Dimitri Tiomkin had a hand in motion picture production as early as 1949 when he entered into agreements with producer Joseph Kaufman and director Albert Lewin to secure financing for the film Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Tiomkin and Lewin had known each other for a number of years. Tiomkin composed music for Lewin’s production of Spawn of the North (1938) and wrote the score for The Moon and Sixpence (1942), Lewin’s directorial debut.

Dimitri TiomkinPatriotism, the American Flag, and 1964

In the America of 1964, the nation was still reeling from the loss of a president, Congress passed a historic civil rights omnibus bill, and the Vietnam War was stoking the fires of discontent. During this tumult, Dimitri Tiomkin—who had become a U.S. citizen in the late 1930s—made a public appeal in support of the American flag by writing to the Los Angeles Times. Titled “Show the Flag!,” Tiomkin’s letter to the editor hails the Stars and Stripes as “a brave flutter of hope in a sadly confused and chaotic world.”

Red Light main titleRed Light: Gideon Bibles and Vengeance, or Film noir meets Religion

Read all about Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for the 1949 film featuring George Raft, Virginia Mayo, and Raymond Burr.

Jeopardy one sheet posterRhythms and Redemption in Tiomkin’s Score for Jeopardy

As the United States worked to regain its footing following World War II, Hollywood continued to crank out popular melodramas into the 1950s, many of which focused on threats to the security of the American family. A good number of these films are admittedly forgettable; however, some do stand the test of time. Jeopardy, released in 1953, is one example.

The Robert Mitchell Choirboys

Take a closer look at Tiomkin’s lengthy association with the choral director Robert Mitchell. From 1938 to 1955, whenever Tiomkin needed a youthful sound for a song of any type—classical, sacred, patriotic, folk, traditional—he called on a stable of singers trained by Mitchell. Films discussed include The Great Waltz, San Pietro, Duel in the Sun, Strange Lady in Town, and Giant.

http://www.dimitritiomkin.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Tiomkin-and-Zepp-19281.jpgThe Story of Musician Arthur Zepp, Dimitri Tiomkin’s Personal Assistant

In two parts, this extensively researched article provides a window into Tiomkin’s life in the late 1920s in New York and Paris through the recollections of pianist Arthur Zepp. Accompanied by rare photographs taken by Zepp.

Tiomkin and the Ravel medal

In the summer of 1965 Tiomkin was awarded the Ravel medal by SACEM, the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique, known in the U.S. as “the French ASCAP.” With rare photographs and correspondence.

It's a Wonderful Life concert suiteTiomkin music for concert performance

We offer the following film-be-film guide to material available for purchase or rental for those seeking to perform the music of Dimitri Tiomkin in concert. Click on the links for the thematic content, instrumentation, and duration; and for the titles available from Themes and Variations, audio excerpts.

Tiomkin on TV

Tiomkin appeared on some of the most popular game and talk shows of the day, from What’s My Line? to Jack Benny and Johnny Carson. This article features links to video and a long list of television appearances.

http://www.dimitritiomkin.com/web/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/HIGH-NOON-CD-cover.jpgWedding Music by Dimitri Tiomkin

Read about the fairy-tale wedding of the American actress Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier III and the story of “The Prince and the Princess Waltz (Grace Kelly Wedding Waltz)” and other wedding music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

Pretty Little Girl sheet musicWhy did Dimitri Tiomkin bow out of scoring two Robert Aldrich films?

In 1961 Dimitri Tiomkin agreed to score back-to-back Robert Aldrich directed films, The Last Sunset (1961) and Sodom and Gomorrah (released in Italy in 1961 as Sodoma e Gomorra, released in the U.S. in 1963). While he provided a key song, “Pretty Little Girl in the Yellow Dress,” to the first film, he bowed out of scoring both. Click on the link, above, to find out why.

Peter Gayle Canne ad May 30 1962Tiomkin scores fêted festival film gratis

In 1962, Dimitri Tiomkin was so deeply sold on the talents of the twenty-something year-old-artists that filmed Without Each Other, he made a personal effort to bring them to the attention of Hollywood. And he scored their film gratis. Click on the link, above, to read the entire story.


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