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Alan Rawsthorne

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Composer (Music Score)
Born:
Haslingden, Lancashire, England
Death:
Cambridge, England
Biography
Alan Rawsthorne was a late starter in music; the Lancashire-born composer didn't even begin studying it until after he'd tried dentistry and architecture, and only enjoyed his first success in the concert hall in 1938 -- at age 33. He served in the army during World War II and didn't begin working regularly in film music until 1945. Rawsthorne distinguished himself that year with his score for Burma Victory, a government-produced documentary for which the music had a bold expressiveness that elevated the film's impact and helped pull the footage -- shot by cameramen of three nations -- together into a dramatic whole. Somewhat more emotive was his score for the POW drama The Captive Heart, for which he had to unify cinematic flashbacks with the larger, more intensely suspenseful story arc of a Czech escapee (Michael Redgrave) forced to avoid the Gestapo and a British officer in a German prison camp. He enjoyed another success a year later with the melodrama Saraband for Dead Lovers and, after that, the assignments started coming his way regularly. Rawsthorne worked principally with Ealing Studios -- especially with the films of producer Leslie Norman, including a pair of African-based dramas made by director Harry Watt: Where No Vultures Fly (1951) and its sequel, West of Zanzibar (1954). His most widely heard work, however, was probably in Norman's 1953 production of The Cruel Sea (directed by Charles Frend), which was one of the most popular World War II dramas to come out of England in the '50s. His neo-classical, modernist style was surprisingly accessible to producers and the public alike, and seemed ideal for the most serious movies of the era. He enjoyed 15 years of steady work in commercial films, until just prior to the dawn of the '60s, when large-scale orchestrated film scores went out of fashion. Ironically, Rawsthorne had become so successful and respected in the concert hall by then that he was never identified as a "film composer" as such, avoiding that label in much the same manner as his more prolific contemporary, William Alwyn. Rawsthorne died in 1971. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
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