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Academy to honor Alex North with a screening of ‘The Misfits’

HollywoodNews.com: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will celebrate the career of Alex North (1910–1991), the 15-time Oscar®-nominated composer, with a centennial salute featuring a screening of “The Misfits” (1961) on Friday, September 24, at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The event also will include film clips and an onstage discussion hosted by journalist and film-music historian Jon Burlingame, with Oscar-nominated composer Laurence Rosenthal, producer Steven North (Alex’s son), and North’s biographer Sanya Henderson.

Between 1951 and 1984, North received 14 Academy Award® nominations for Original Score and 1 for Song. He finally took home an Oscar statuette in 1985 when he was presented with an Honorary Award “in recognition of his brilliant artistry in the creation of memorable music for a host of distinguished motion pictures.”

North’s “brilliant artistry” included his work for “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), which was the first major score to draw heavily from jazz influences, “Death of a Salesman” (1951) and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966). His ability to handle epic subject matter led to such assignments as “Viva Zapata!” (1952), “Spartacus” (1960), “Cleopatra” (1963) and “The Agony and the Ecstasy” (1965). In 1955 he wrote the now-classic music that was recorded as “Unchained Melody” for the prison movie “Unchained.”

North’s musical background was unique; born in Pennsylvania, he studied in New York, Moscow and Mexico. He composed music for the New York stage and for such dancers and choreographers as Anna Sokolow, Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille. North was one of the first composers in Hollywood to incorporate contemporary music styles in his film scores. He demonstrated a particular affinity for specifically American subjects, and his music provided the themes for the film adaptations of numerous literary classics by such writers as Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. Highly respected by his peers, North was an active mentor to the next generation of composers, including Jerry Goldsmith.

Featuring a jazzy and dramatic score by North, John Huston’s complex film “The Misfits” was the last screen appearance for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe. The film follows a sexy divorcee and three aging cowboys who make a living capturing wild horses in the Nevada desert.

The movie also stars Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach, one of the Academy’s 2010 Honorary Award recipients. “The Misfits” was directed by Huston and produced by Frank E. Taylor, with a screenplay by Arthur Miller.

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