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Conrad Salinger
(August 30, 1901 - July 9, 1961) U.S.A.

Conrad Salinger

Film orchestrator


Born in Massachusetts, he was a music major at Harvard. He also studied at the Paris Conservatory, and lived in Paris for most of the late '20s, returning to America in 1929. He was initially employed in music publishing, before becoming an arranger on Broadway, where he revealed himself to be fluent in both classical and popular styles - and almost everything in between.

From there, Salinger jumped to the film business, moving to Hollywood in 1937 for a short stay at Samuel Goldwyn Productions. He returned to New York soon after, but at the end of the decade was offered a job at MGM with the "Freed unit" run by songwriter-turned-executive Arthur Freed, and that opportunity brought him out to the film colony permanently.

His first project was The Wizard of Oz, and from then on, he was involved with most of the major musicals ever released by the studio, as well as releases by Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox. Salinger received an Oscar nomination for his work on Show Boat (1951), preparing new arrangements of Jerome Kern's classic score.

Salinger's work for the studio wasn't confined to the productions of the Freed unit, and didn't just involve musicals; he also prepared occasional orchestral arrangements of dramatic film scores. This included his adaptation of Alfred Newman's score from 1937's The Prisoner of Zenda for MGM's 1952 remake (the soundtrack to which was released commercially in 2004).

He enjoyed a string of successes virtually to the end of the studio's cycle of great musicals, right up through Gigi (1958), which might have been his very best work, his iridescent arrangements of the Frederick Loewe music imparting a radiance that transcended the already lush melodies. Ironically, Salinger's last new work outlived him. He died at Pacific Palisades, California, aged 59 from an overdose of barbiturates, more than six months before the release of his final film project, Billy Rose's Jumbo.

In the decades since his death, there emerged a renewed interest in MGM's musicals, and, as a result, Salinger probably became better known and regarded by serious movie buffs in the 21st century than he was in his own time, when the stars' names tended to overwhelm all other personalities and personnel. Most of the scores that he arranged have been re-released on CD, and a few, such as Gigi, have been re-recorded using Salinger's arrangements.


Source: from an article by Bruce Eder, in All Movie Guide

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