Heinz Roemheld

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Milwaukee-born Heinz Roemheld followed a circuitous route to a career as a film composer. At age four he was identified as a piano prodigy; he later studied with Ferruccio Busoni and Egon Petri in Berlin,…
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Milwaukee-born Heinz Roemheld followed a circuitous route to a career as a film composer. At age four he was identified as a piano prodigy; he later studied with Ferruccio Busoni and Egon Petri in Berlin, and performed as a guest soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic at 23. On returning to America, Roemheld became a movie theater pianist and conductor; during a showing of Universal's 1925 horror thriller The Phantom of the Opera, he was seen by Carl Laemmle Sr., the president and founder of the studio, and was hired as an executive. With the arrival of talking pictures, he joined Universal's music department as a composer, arranger, and conductor, and he contributed to the scoring of such films as All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), The White Hell of Pitz-Palu (1930) (a German-made silent adventure movie whose U.S. release as a talkie featured Roemheld's score, parts of which turned up in Universal features for years after), The Invisible Man (1933), The Black Cat (1934), and The Werewolf of London (1935). The Invisible Man was one of his most memorable works, filled with striking heroic parts and misteriosos, and was good enough to be re-used in the serial Flash Gordon (1936). Roemheld shared an Academy Award with Ray Heindorf for Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), the music of which was largely adapted from the work of its biographical subject, George M. Cohan. His postwar work included the scores for the musical/fantasy Down to Earth and for Orson Welles' thriller The Lady From Shanghai, and contributions to the Dr. Seuss-authored fantasy film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, among numerous other movies. Roemheld enjoyed a pop hit with "Ruby," derived from his music for Ruby Gentry (1952), and later scored several fondly remembered horror movies, including The Mole People and The Monster That Challenged the World. He retired from movies in 1964 and returned to Milwaukee, where he conducted the city's symphony orchestra and composed orchestral works and chamber pieces, though he spent his final years in California. Later scholarship has identified the presence of his music in numerous movies for which he wasn't acknowledged, expanding his credits to nearly 400 films.