It had been a dream of mine for the past fifty five years to finally meet iconic film composer David Amram. This eighty six year old power house classical, jazz, and motion picture composer is among the last of a remarkable breed. Still composing and performing all over the world at his rather tender young age, David is the composer of such original motion picture scores as "The Manchurian Candidate" (with Frank Sinatra, Lawrence Harvey, Janet Leigh, and Angela Lansbury ) for director John Frankenheimer, "Splendor In The Grass" (starring Natalie Wood, and Warren Beatty) for Elia Kazan, and "The Young Savages" (with Burt Lancaster) once again for John Frankenheimer. David harkens back to an artistic period during the 1950's when the world was still young, and brash enough to believe that anything was possible. As part of the "Beat Generation," David worked closely with Jack Kerouac, composing music for some of the author's early films, as well as emigrating to Hollywood to write for some of the most distinguished film productions of the early 1960's. A student of many diverse cultures and influences, including native American, David is truly a man for all reasons and seasons. Among his countless friends over half a century could be counted Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, and Pete Seeger to name just a very selected few. David and I had corresponded, and spoken on the telephone, for the past several years, but had never actually had an opportunity to personally meet. When David visited his home town of Philadelphia in early December, 2016, for a concert of his music, he invited me to join him for lunch the following day at his hotel....and so, on Thursday afternoon, December 8th, David and I shared an absolutely joyous two hour repast at The Weston Hotel in downtown Philadelphia. He regaled me with stories of his remarkable career, and made me feel that we had known each other for decades. During these difficult days and years of dissension, insecurity, and intolerance, it was somehow reassuring to share such precious hours and memories with a cultured, gentle, musical inspiration from another time and, sadly, ideologically distant artistic reality. When we parted, David hugged me. As we embraced, I told him that I loved him, and he responded in kind. This was truly among the happiest experiences of my life, and I remain both flattered and honored to think of David Amram as my friend.
Here I am with the remarkable composing icon, David Amram, at the conclusion of a wonderful two hour private lunch date at The Weston Hotel here in Philadelphia on Thursday, December 8th. David is, of course, the composer of the original musical scores for "The Manchurian Candidate" with Frank Sinatra, "Splendor In The Grass" with Natalie Wood, and "The Young Savages" with Burt Lancaster. At age eighty six, David continues to compose and perform all over the world. This was a joyous first meeting for the two of us after years of telephone calls and correspondence, and one of my happiest experiences in some time. It is with great personal pride that I humbly think of David as my friend.
Thanks to Steve Vertlieb for his kind permission to print this article.
An award-winning writer, film historian, critic, archivist, and poet, Steve Vertlieb has been writing about motion pictures and symphonic film music in a variety of books, magazines, journals, and tabloids since 1969 and has been profiled in Who's Who in Entertainment in America. He is also the subject of a feature-length documentary called "Steve Vertlieb: The Man Who 'Saved' The Movies" which delves into his career as a cinema archivist, journalist, historian and film music educator.