The Best of All Worlds  - official EARLE HAGEN website
Earle Hagen on His Career


The following address was delivered by Earle Hagen upon acceptance of the Irwin Kostal Tribute Award from the American Society of Musicians Arrangers & Composers on November 2, 2000.

"I am extremely pleased and honored to be the recipient of the Irwin Kostal Award. It's nice to be remembered. Even more so when you are remembered by your colleagues and your peers.

If some one were to look at my career of close to sixty years in music, they would have to come to the conclusion that I had the best of several different eras in this business.

I started to arrange in the big band era of the middle thirties to the early forties.  When the war broke out I enlisted into the Radio Production Unit of the Air Force at Santa Ana. We had a 65 piece orchestra to write for and I can tell you, with no fear of contradiction, that in the three and a half years I spent in that outfit I completely mastered and conquered the art of Over-Arranging!

For those of us who were writing for the big orchestra for the first time, Morton Gould was a launching pad. We not only emulated his ideas but where he had the good sense to quit-we didn't.  Let me describe a typical  Air Force production number for you. We would start with a simple intro of about four minutes-loosely referring to “The Pines of Rome'” with an occasional touch of “Afternoon of a Fawn.” That would lead to a swift chorus and a half of the tune-”Blue of Evening,” “Moon of Maunakura”- or whatever was popular- which was usually done in a Glenn Miller style so the radio audience could relate and we could get on with our epic. We would close with a  spectacular five or six minute ending based on “The Firebird,” “The Bolero”, “The Rites of Spring” and occasionally “The Sabre Dance.”  Fortunately, we had a commanding officer who encouraged us to experiment-and-in the service, there was absolutely no danger of getting fired.

Earle Hagen flanked by 'TV's Greatest Hits" author
John Burlingame and actor Robert Culp

That big orchestra experience served me well, however, because within a year after I got out of the service I went under a  seven year contract at 20th Century Fox working for Alfred Newman .

Alfred Newman was an education all by himself. He was a marvelous film composer, conductor, executive and in addition, he was a great guy.

On that job I learned my craft from Herbie Spencer, Eddie Powell and Maurice De Pach. In addition, I was able to spend a lot of time on the recording stage where I could follow the conductor parts of some of the greatest film composers of that time, like Bernard Hermann, Alex North, David Raksin, Hugo Friedhofer, and the rest of the outstanding composers who came through the lot during those seven years. We were busy. We were doing 38 pictures a year. Four or five of those were musicals to which Herbie and I were usually attached. When we weren't working on a musical, we were orchestrating for one of the composers on the lot.

ASMAC President Ian Fraser & Earle Hagen

In those days, when the guys got together for a few drinks and dinner at the Luaa -the guys were: Ray Heindorf, Connie Salanger, Sandy Courage, and Arthur Morton. I could give you a laundry list of names, but those were the people of that era of motion picture music and I was privileged to be a small part of it.

In 1953, the studios committed to large screen production and we went from 38 pictures a year to one. There were other pictures on the planning board but not immediate enough to support the huge studio staffs.  So, along with 1199 other people I migrated to television.

There again, my good fortune held. I teamed up with Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard at a time when they were starting a string of hits that lasted 17 years.  When Danny and Sheldon started to back off, I continued as an independent and worked with some remarkable directors and producers. My favorite was Ernie Frankel who I'm happy to say is here tonight with his lovely wife, Louise.

congratulated by Marjorie Lord

During that era of film music, the composer was part of the creative team. Pre-production, production and post-production, his opinion, as to the structure of the film and what music could do to enrich it, was essential, sought after, and respected.

I understand that has changed … which is deplorable. For if the value of our work is diminished, so is the product.

In retrospect, I guess I got it backwards. I started in the motion picture industry and went to television at a time when most young composers were cutting their teeth in TV and working towards the movies.

But there was something about the immediacy of TV that I enjoyed. It was hard work, with long hours and endless deadlines, but being able to write something one day and hear it a few days later appealed to me.  Besides, I was addicted to the ultimate narcosis in music, which is the rush you get when you give a downbeat and wonderful players breathe life into the notes you have put on paper.

with Sydney Pollack  &
fellow-honoree Dave Grusin

In my view, you can't synthesize a Kurt Reher or a Felix Slatkin anymore than you can synthesize a Bud Shank, a Pete Condoli, or a Paul Smith. It's the personality and the humanity that the great players add to what you have written that gives it full dimension.

I think a statistic of which I am most proud is that in the 33 years I spent in television I was associated with some three thousand shows. Every one of them was recorded in Los Angeles with a live orchestra.

It is my fervent hope and wish that the cycle will continue to turn to a time in the near future where those who dedicate their lifes work to writing music can enjoy that complete fulfillment.

Earle and Lou Hagen at ASMAC Awards 2000

This is probably the point where it's traditional to thank the people who have helped you along the way. However, because of my advanced years, there's no one left.  

In actuality, there is one notable exception. Twenty days from now, November 23rd, Lou and I will celebrate our 58th anniversary. That's not a record -unless you consider that I have been married to a woman for 58 years who claims to be 61.

Lou has been a pillar of strength and balance. Not only in my life but that of our children. For that, she has my everlasting gratitude and thanks.

I would also like to express my appreciation to ASMAC for a wonderful evening and thank all of you very much."

Read more of Earle Hagen's recollections and comments in one of the best Hollywood books in ages!

As you can see from the above remarks, Earle Hagen has long been known as one of the great show business storytellers.  Now read all about his fascinating adventures in the world of entertainment in “Memoirs of a Famous Composer-Nobody Ever Heard Of.”

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As Earle Hagen aptly put it above, his musical career has indeed encompassed the Best of All Worlds.  But there's even more.  Read about the Best of the Best!

there's even more.  Read about the Best of the

I Earle Hagen accepts ASMAC's
2000 Irwin Kostal Tribute Award