I <i>Am</i> Big, It’s the <i>Pictures</i> That Got Small

Sound Technologies and Franz Waxman’s Scores for Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Twilight Zone’s “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” (1959)


  • Reba Wissner Montclair State University




Film, Television, Franz Waxman, Adaptations, Score


Franz Waxman composed over 150 film scores, the most famous of which is Billy Wilder’s film noir Sunset Boulevard (1950). The film plot bears a striking resemblance to Rod Serling’s teleplay for The Twilight Zone, “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” (1959). Waxman, composer of the film, was approached to compose a score for a television episode that was what many term a shortened version of Wilder’s film for the small screen, but with supernatural elements. This article serves to remedy the dearth of literature on this topic and to form an examination of the ways that Waxman conceived of music to accompany films with similar themes but on different screens. Through this comparison of the two scores, a clearer picture of Waxman’s approaches to composing music for moving images will be presented.

Author Biography

Reba Wissner, Montclair State University

Reba Wissner is on the music history faculty of the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University and Westminster Choir College of Rider University, and the Liberal Arts faculty at Berkeley College. Dr. Wissner received her M.F.A. and Ph.D. in musicology from Brandeis University and her B.A. in Music and Italian from Hunter College of the City University of New York. She is the author of several articles on seventeenth-century Venetian opera, Italian immigrant theater in New York City, and music in the 1950s and 1960s television, and has presented her research at conferences throughout the United States and Europe. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including a travel grant to Venice for dissertation research from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Dr. Wissner’s first book, A Dimension of Sound: Music in The Twilight Zone, was published by Pendragon Press in October 2013, and she also serves as the series editor for their new Music and Media book series. Currently, Dr. Wissner is working on her second book, titled We Will Control All That You Hear: The Outer Limits and the Aural Imagination, which seeks to examine the way that music is used in the 1960s television series, The Outer Limits, and a collaborative project called Cues and Contracts: Music and the American Television Industry that examines music cues and their reuses as well as administrative documents related to American television music production


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How to Cite

Wissner, R. (2017). I <i>Am</i> Big, It’s the <i>Pictures</i> That Got Small: Sound Technologies and Franz Waxman’s Scores for Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Twilight Zone’s “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” (1959). Journal of Film Music, 7(1), 77–92. https://doi.org/10.1558/jfm.30618