Newman created the score for Sam Mendes' debut feature picture, American Beauty, in 1999, mostly employing percussive instruments. Newman believes the score helped propel the picture along while preserving the script's "moral ambiguity," noting, "It was a pretty delicate balancing act in terms of what music worked to sustain that."
Newman said he wanted to make sure that the music didn't take away from the film and described his approach to scoring American Beauty as being similar to that of John Williams, who scored all of Newman's previous films: "I don't want to give away the movie by telling you how it ends before you see it; I don't want to give away anything about the score." He added, "The key is not to tell people how to feel about the story."
Newman has cited Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony and Pyotr Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony as influences on his work with American Beauty.
He also mentioned Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts in the documentary series "That's My Story" when asked about his favorite piece of music. The composer replied, "There's this little piece from the Young People's Concerts called 'Fancy Free.' It's just a fun tune."
Newman released his first solo album, Back to Bach Basics, in September 2009.
American Beauty is a 1999 American dark comedy-drama film directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. Lester Burnham, portrayed by Kevin Spacey, is an advertising executive who suffers a midlife crisis after falling in love with his teenage daughter's closest friend, played by Mena Suvari. The film was based on the 1991 novel of the same name by David Linker.
It was produced by Andrew Eaton for Paramount Pictures, and it has been praised for its direction, screenplay, and acting from Spacey, Suvari, and Allison Janney. At the 49th Annual Academy Awards, it won two Oscars: Best Music (Thomas Newman) and Best Original Song (Alanis Morissette for "I Know I'm Not the Only One").
Spacey has said that he believes American Beauty is one of his best performances. The film has also been cited as a major influence on other contemporary films such as 12 Years a Slave and Whiplash.
In addition to the Oscar, American Beauty received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for best picture. With your membership, you'll have unique access to content from our 1768 First Edition. Subscriptions are available now!
The film won multiple Oscars: best actor (Hugh Jackman), best supporting actress (Thandie Newton), cinematography, costume design, and original score. It was also nominated for best director and screen play.
American Beauty tells the story of a successful advertising executive who realizes one day that everyone he knows is dying around him. This awakening leads him to reconsider his own life and start looking for meaning beyond material success. Based on the novel by Edward Albee, the movie was directed by Michael Radford.
It's worth mentioning that both the book and the film are very much alive today. Author Edward Albee is still writing plays and collecting awards all over the world while director Michael Radford has continued to work on other projects since American Beauty came out in 2000.
Albee first wrote American Beauty in 1967. The same year it was published, he went to New York with no plan to tell a story or even write about love. Instead, he just wanted to experience it once before it became obsolete like rock music and electric lights.
Newman began a 20-year career as a music director for 20th Century-Fox Studios in 1940, producing over 200 film compositions, nine of which earned Academy Awards. He served as composer, arranger, music director, and conductor for several films at the studio, depending on the demand. He was also active with the American Film Institute during his retirement from Fox.
Newman's most famous work is almost certainly "Some Enchanted Evening", the song that opened up The Sound of Music, performed by Julie Andrews. It has been reported that Stephen Stills wrote the song as a tribute to Nancy Sinatra after she had an affair with him while her husband, Neil Diamond, was out of town. However, this has never been confirmed by either man. Still, "Some Enchanted Evening" is one of the best-known songs in the history of country music and is often included in lists of the greatest country songs of all time.
Newman continued to work with Fox until 1964, when he joined the faculty of the University of Southern California (USC) School of Music as a professor of composition. He remained there until his death in 1993 at the age of 85.
Newman is perhaps most well-known for his work as a movie composer, but he also produced some excellent pieces for television.
Between 1930 and 1970, Alfred Newman composed music for almost 200 films of various genres, including a newsreel based on World War II footage of the Battle of Midway. In addition to writing his own film soundtracks, Newman served as musical director on a number of other projects. He won an Academy Award for Best Score for The Great Ziegfeld in 1946 and was nominated for another Oscar two years later for High Noon.
Newman's scores are characterized by their use of modern instruments such as the harpsichord, celesta, and electronic devices such as the theremin. His music is often dramatic and emotional, with themes that include heroic songs, love stories, and dance numbers.
Newman died at the age of 90 in Los Angeles, California. Today, his work is regarded as essential listening for any fan of classic movie music.
Ward, Samuel A. America The Beautiful/Buffy Sainte-Marie/Composers of Canada. Toronto: CBC Music, 2013.
Charles wrote the song while in prison for drug offenses. His wife and daughter visited him there during this time, and he wanted to create a song they could share together one day. He spent several months writing what would become America The Beautiful, first completing a verse then building on it until he was satisfied with the result. It was first performed by Buffy Sainte-Marie at a concert held at Toronto's Massey Hall on March 24, 1983. She was joined on stage by members of Charles' band who played various instruments including piano, bass, and drums while she sang.
Buffy Sainte-Marie has said about the song: "It's a very powerful poem, and I think everybody can relate to it in some way. It's a love letter to our country, but also a warning to never forget where we come from."
After its success in Canada, America The Beautiful was released as a single in the United States by MCA Records. It reached #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1984.