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Lights! Camera! Music!
The Newman Film Scoring Dynasty
By Marleen M. Quint

Newman Dynasty Family Tree

If I mention “filmmaking” and “Newman” in the same sentence, the first thing that comes to mind is the iconic film actor Paul Newman. Not to take anything away from Mr. Newman, but there’s another entire family of Newmans which has significantly shaped the Hollywood film industry for three generations. The family has been composing music for films (film scoring) since 1931. This family is now known as the Newman Dynasty.

It all began with a fruit peddler and his wife from New Haven, Connecticut. Michael and Luba Newman were Russian Jewish immigrants. They had ten Children. The first of seven boys was named Alfred.

Alfred Newman
Alfred Newman, born New Haven, CT, 1901 (d.1970)

Alfred showed musical talent very early in life. His first piano recital was at the age of 8. By the time he was 12, he was supporting his entire family, now living in New York. At the age of 17, Alfred became the youngest music director in the history of Broadway. He worked with several famous songwriters of that time including George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers.

Songwriter Irving Berlin invited Alfred to Hollywood, California in 1930 to be the musical director on the United Artists film Reaching for the Moon. The film introduced Alfred to Samuel Goldwyn. Alfred served as United Artist’s musical director for eight years. He planned on staying in California for only 3 months but never left once he arrived.

While working at United Artists, Alfred met Darryl F. Zanuck, producer of what was then 20th Century Pictures, which later became 20th Century Fox in 1935. In the same year Alfred wrote the now famous “20th Century Fox Fanfare” which plays over the studio logo at the beginning of each film.

He was musical director for 20th Century Fox from 1939 until 1942. All of Alfred’s musical scores would be for 20th Century Fox from then until his resignation in 1960.

During his prolific career Alfred Newman was nominated for an Oscar 45 times. He won 9 of those golden statues. (See the IMBD movie database for a complete list of Alfred Newman’s nominations)

Academy Awards

1939 – Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Best Music, Scoring
1941 – Tin Pan Alley, Best music, Score
1944 – The Song of Bernadette, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
1948 – Mother Wore Tights, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
1953 – With a Song in My Heart, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
1954 – Call Me Madame, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
1956 – Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
1957 – The King and I, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
1968 – Camelot, Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment

Lionel Newman
Lionel Newman, born New Haven, CT, 1916 (d.1989)

Alfred’s youngest brother Lionel was next in line to carry on the family film-scoring legacy. Lionel also was an accomplished pianist who at the tender age of 15 went on tour with Mae West.

In the early 1930s, Lionel joined 20th Century Fox as a rehearsal pianist where he worked with his brother Alfred and would nearly always work with him thereafter.

“Again” was a song Lionel wrote for the 1948 Movie Roadhouse, which was on the popular song chart Hit Parade for months. By 1959 he had been promoted to musical director for television at 20th Century Fox which opened the doors to feature films. He soon became vice-president in charge of music for both television and features.

After Alfred’s death in 1970 Lionel was made general music director at Fox. He later worked as a senior VP for MGM/UA from 1988 until his death in 1989.

Lionel’s work at 20th Century Fox earned him 200 film credits spanning 46 years. These films include Road House (1948), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), River of No Return (1954), Love Me Tender (1956) (Elvis Presley’s first picture), North to Alaska (1960), and Let’s Make Love (1960).

Lionel Newman was nominated for 11 academy awards. He was awarded one Oscar for Hello Dolly in 1970.

Click here  for list of all of Lionel Newman’s nominations  

Academy Awards

1970 – Hello Dolly, Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation)

Chattanooga Choo Choo

“Chattanooga Choo Choo” from, Sun Valley Serenade, Musical Director, Emil Newman

Emil Newman, born New Haven, CT, 1911 (d.1984)

Emil was one of the middle brothers. He made his film debut as the musical director in 1940 and was credited with 13 films, then with 25 films in 1941 and 28 films in 1942. Whispering Ghosts (1942) was his first contribution as a composer, although uncredited. His subsequent musical direction in films included the famous all-black musical, Stormy Weather (1943) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), which he also conducted. He composed music for 23 films between 1950 and 1965 and numerous TV shows of the 1950s. He earned an Academy Award nomination for the 1941 film, Sun Valley Serenade, Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.

Emil’s nephew, Randy Newman, remembered his uncle as a true eccentric. “Once Emil was supposed to be conducting a picture at Fox, but he wasn’t there,” recalled Randy. “The orchestra is sitting there waiting. So they send a guy out to Emil’s house in Malibu who finds him, in his bathrobe, smoking a cigarette and sitting on his chimney. His house had burned down.” Emil had lost all his clothes in the fire, so he came to the sound stage and conducted in his bathrobe.

Randy Newman went on to say that the Newman brothers “all had massive, Greek, tragic flaws, whether alcohol or women or gambling. Emil had all of them.”

Thomas Montgomery Newman
Thomas Montgomery Newman, born Los Angeles, CA, 1955

Thomas is the son of the very prolific Alfred Newman; his mother, Mississippi born, Martha Louise Montgomery. He attended the University of Southern California and then went on to receive a master’s degree in music at Yale University.

His film scoring career began in 1984 with the score for the film Reckless. His breakthrough came in 1995 when he earned 2 Academy Award nominations in film scoring, Little Women (1994) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). He was the only double nominee that year. Some of his notable film scoring includes, American Beauty (1999), Road to Perdition (2002), Finding Nemo (2003), Pay it Forward (2000), Erin Brockovich (2000), and WALL-E (2008).

As of 2009, Thomas Newman has received 10 Academy Award nominations but has yet to receive an Oscar. He is the most nominated living composer never to have won an Academy Award (The late Composer Alex North had 14 nominations without a win) however; Thomas has won 3 Grammy Awards.

This is My Life . . . “Dead Already” scene from, American Beauty

Click here  for the list of Thomas Newman’s nominations

Grammy Awards

2001 – American Beauty, Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or other Visual Media
2003 – Six Feet Under, Best instrumental Composition for Title Theme, Best Instrumental Arrangement For Title Theme
2009 – WALL-E, Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (with Peter Gabriel) for “Down to Earth

David Louis Newman
David Louis Newman, born Los Angeles, CA, 1954

David is Thomas’ older brother by one year. He played violin as a child with the Santa Monica Symphony. He studied performance and conducting at the University of Southern California, then worked as a studio musician and free lance conductor.

David was only fifteen when his father, Alfred, died. After college, David began listening to hours of his father’s compositions. He said, “It planted a seed in me that eventually came to fruition.”

David is a frequent collaborator with actor/director Danny DeVito. He has scored Throw Mama from the Train (1987), The War of the Roses (1989), Other People’s Money (1991), Hoffa (1992), Matilda (1996) and Death to Smoochy (2002). He has also scored the comedies, The Flintstones (1994), The Mighty Ducks (1992), The Nutty Professor (1996) and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989).

David has composed almost a hundred film scores, but he has received only one Academy Award nomination. In 1997 he was nominated for Best Original Music Score, for the animated feature film Anastasia.

“Once Upon a December” from Anastasia

Beginning In 1997 David was music director for the Sundance Institute for four years and he has conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra on several occasions. He also re-recorded the “Twentieth Century Fox” Fanfare composed by his father Alfred.

Says David, “My father was a huge influence on me in all aspects of music and in the whole idea that you could get everyone together to do something extraordinarily beautiful. The collaborative and the performance and the music all rolled into one.”

Randall Stuart Newman
Randall Stuart “Randy” Newman, born Los Angeles, CA, 1943

Randy is the son of Adele (nee Fox), a secretary, and Irving George Newman, an internist and brother of Alfred, Lionel and Emil. His cousins include Thomas and David Newman. Randy’s family moved to New Orleans when he was an infant, and he spent summers there as a small child until he was 11 years old. His family then returned to Los Angeles, and eventually Randy attended University of California, Los Angeles.

You might call Randy the irreverent satirist of the Newman clan. He began as a songwriter and recording Artist before he followed in his family’s film scoring footsteps. Some of his earliest songs were recorded in the 60s by artists such as Gene Pitney, Jerry Butler, The O’Jays, Irma Thomas and others. His work as a songwriter was particularly successful in the UK.

Randy’s first album of successful compositions was actually released by Harry Nilsson in 1970, called Nilsson Sings Newman. This paved the way for Randy’s release of his own album, 12 Songs. It met with little commercial success, but one of the songs off this album, “Mama Told Me Not to Come”, became a huge hit for the group Three Dog Night. Some of Randy’s other commercially successful songs recorded over the years are, “You Can Leave Your Hat On”, “Short People”, “I Love L.A., and “It’s Money That Matters”.

Norman Lear convinced Randy to try scoring for a film called Cold Turkey, in 1971. At first Randy found the task intimidating, but he continued on the path carved out by his ancestors and several more sound scores followed. These include, Ragtime (1981), The Natural (1984), Avalon (1990), and Toy Story (1995).

Randy was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002 and as a Disney Legend in 2007.

Randy Newman performs “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story (with Lyle Lovett)

Click here for all of Randy Newman’s Academy Award Nominations (pdf file attached)

Academy Awards

2002 – “If I Didn’t Have You”, Monsters, Inc., Original Song
2011 - "We Belong Together", Toy Story 3, Original Song

Grammy Awards

2000 – A Bug’s Life, Instrumental Composition Written for Motion Picture or Television
2001 – Toy Story, “When She Loved Me”, Song written for Motion Picture or Television
2003 – Monsters, Inc. “If I Didn’t Have You”, Song Written for Motion Picture or Television
2007 – Cars, “Our Town”’ Song Written for Motion Picture or Television

Maria Newman
Maria Newman, born Los Angeles, CA, 1962

Maria is not only a gifted classical musician and composer, but has contributed her musical talents to film scoring alongside the many male members of her musically acclaimed family. She is the youngest of Alfred Newman’s children and sister to the well-known Thomas and David Newman. Maria plays violin, viola and piano and was educated at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, graduating with honors. She has received much acclaim for her work as a composer of concert music.

Alongside her brother Thomas, Maria has worked on several film scores as concert mistress. She played viola for the film Conspiracy Theory (1997). She has been credited for contributing to the scoring of at least three small films including What the Daisy Said, in which she also played piano for this 1999 alternate version of the 1910 silent film.

What the Daisy Said by Maria Newman
Performed at Omaha Conservatory of Music Camp, 2009

Filmography (Composer/Scoring)
1997 – Bao
1999 – What the Daisy Said (1910)
2007 – Why Be Good? Sexuality & Censorship in Early Cinema

Joey Newman
Joey Newman, born, Los Angeles, CA, 1976

Joey represents a third generation of Newman film composers. His father is Joe Frank, a musician, and his mother is Jenifer Newman, a ballerina, and the daughter of Lionel Newman.

At the young age of 3, Joey began his passion for drumming. He owned his first set of drums at the age of 8. He was a self taught drummer until the age of 15 when he began drumming under the instruction of veteran drummer, Michael Barismanto.

Joey’s scoring career began in 2000 working with composer W. G. “Snuffy” Walden. He co-composed the final seasons of ABC’s Once and Again and NBC’s Providence while orchestrating for NBC’s West Wing and a number of other prime-time dramas. In 2001, Joey composed the music to the world’s largest on-line role-playing game, “Lineage”. His first independent feature film score was in 2003 for Stealing Time which was self-released in theaters such as ArcLight Hollywood. That same year, Joey began a collaboration with his cousin, Randy Newman, with orchestrations for Universal Studio’s Seabiscuit (2003), and later, Disney/Pixar’s Cars (2006). Despite his musical diversity, Joey remains active in scoring for television.

Stealing Time Trailer (note drumming near end of trailer)

Film Scoring Credits

2003 – Stealing Time

Saying that 3 generations of Newman musicians have significantly molded the American film score industry is probably an understatement. Collectively, the Newman music family has been nominated for 70 Oscars. And to think that it all began with a Jewish immigrant and his wife, settling in New Haven, Connecticut, looking for a promising future for their 10, yet unborn, children. Could they have imagined?

It took 82 years for the American Film Academy to award a female for Best Director. I don’t know how many more years it will take before a woman will go home with an Oscar under her arm for her exceptional accomplishments in some area of film scoring. But, I bet there’s a good chance, somewhere in her family tree, the prodigious Newman line will be among one of its branches.


“The Newman Conquest” by Amy Wallace, Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1998

“Hollywood’s Historic Newman Scoring Stage” by John Burke

“Alfred Newman (1901 – 1970) – head of a musical dynasty”

“Alfred Newman Biography” by Lorraine LoBianco

Alfred Newman, Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Directory Composer Biographies

Alfred Newman Awards, Internet Movie Database

Lionel Newman, Wikipedia

Emil Newman, Wikipedia

Thomas Newman Biography, Yahoo! Movies

“The Top 10 Most Influential Scores of the Past Decade: #2” American Beauty (Thomas Newman) Oct. 6, 2009

Thomas Newman, Wikipedia

David Newman, Wikipedia

Randy Newman, Wikipedia

“Nilsson Sings Newman”

“OCO Welcomes renowned composer, Maria Newman!” Olympia Chamber Orchestra

Maria Newman, Internet Movie Database

“Maria Newman Spotlight” Garageband

Joey Newman, Wikipedia