Composing Himself

Max Steiner and the Invention of the Film Composer


  • Nathan Platte University of Iowa



Max Steiner, film composer, early sound cinema, RKO Radio Pictures, Dixiana, Are These Our Children?


The beginning of Steiner’s Hollywood career is typically overlooked in studies of the composer, in part because scrutiny of his work hinges on film scores attached to celebrated films. This article argues that Steiner’s initial years are vital in understanding how a former Broadway music director exploited musical opportunities in Hollywood to develop a new career profile grounded in composition. Through his eclectic labors at RKO Radio Pictures and his connections with commentators in the trade press, Steiner formed a new and necessary position that extended beyond the arranging of numbers for musicals to the composition of incidental music for films of various genres.


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How to Cite

Platte, N. (2022). Composing Himself: Max Steiner and the Invention of the Film Composer. Journal of Film Music, 9(1-2), 107–120.