Music Director and actor. Nationality: British. Born: Stirling, Scotland, 24 January 1911. Education: Attended Stirling High School (conductor of the boys orchestra at age 13); Royal College of Music, London. Career: 1931—music director for Korda's London Films: introduced leading UK composers to film music writing (e.g., Bliss, Vaughan-Williams, Bax, Walton, Ireland); 1940–45—music director for government film units; after the war, music director for Rank Organisation; also orchestra conductor, and for opera and ballet. Died: In Oxford, 2 August 1975.
Films as Music Director (selected list):
The Scarlet Pimpernel (Young); The Ghost Goes West (Clair)
Things to Come (Menzies)
Q Planes (Clouds over Europe) (Whelan)
Contraband (Blackout) (Powell); The Thief of Baghdad (Powell, Berger, and Whelan)
Dangerous Moonlight (Hurst); 49th Parallel (Powell)
The First of the Few (Howard)
Fires Were Started ( I Was a Fireman) (Jennings)
The Way Ahead (Reed)
The Rake's Progress (Gilliat); Brief Encounter (Lean); Henry V (Olivier); A Diary for Timothy (Jennings) (conductor)
The Seventh Veil (Bennett); Caesar and Cleopatra (Pascal); Instruments of the Orchestra (+ d)
Odd Man Out (Reed); The Woman in the Hall (Lee); Green for Danger (Gilliat); Dear Murderer (Crabtree)
Oliver Twist (Lean); Hamlet (Olivier)
Christopher Columbus (MacDonald)
Waterfront (Waterfront Women) (Anderson); The Miniver Story (Potter); The Black Rose (Hathaway)
Who Goes There (The Passionate Sentry) (Kimmins); The Crimson Pirate (Siodmak)
Sailor of the King (R. Boulting)
The Sea Shall Not Have Them (Gilbert); Three Cases of Murder (Toye); Father Brown (Hamer)
I Am a Camera (Cornelius); The Intruder (Hamilton)
The Man Who Never Was (Neame)
After the Ball (Bennett)
Vertigo (Hitchcock); Sea of Sand (Desert Patrol) (Green)
Ferry to Hong Kong (Gilbert); The Rough and the Smooth (Portrait of a Sinner) (Siodmak); The Savage Innocents (Ray)
Macbeth (Schaefer); Circus of Horrors (Hayers)
The Naked Edge (Anderson); The Canadians (Kennedy)
H.M.S. Defiant (Damn the Defiant!) (Gilbert); The Devil Never Sleeps (Satan Never Sleeps) (McCarey); Only Two Can Play (Gilliat); The L-Shaped Room (Forbes); Waltz of the Toreadors (The Amorous General) (Guillermin); The War Lover (Leacock)
The Running Man (Reed); The Mind Benders (Dearden)
Becket (Glenville); Woman of Straw (Dearden)
Lord Jim (Brooks); Genghis Khan (Levin)
You Can't Win 'em All (Collinson)
Film as Actor:
The Magic Box (J. Boulting)
By MATHIESON: articles—
"Aspects of Film Music," in Tempo (London), no. 9, 1944.
Cinema and Theatre Construction, September 1947.
"Developments in Film Music," in Penguin Film Review (London), October 1947.
"Music for Crown," in Hollywood Quarterly, Spring 1948.
On MATHIESON: article—
Picturegoer (London), 8 October 1947.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 6 August 1975.
* * *
Muir Mathieson, as music director and conductor of British film scores for both feature films and documentaries, became the single most influential name in British film music. His career began as early as 1931, when, aged 20, he became assistant director of music at Alexander Korda's Denham Studios, and extended into the 1970s. He received his first credit as music director for Korda's The Private Life of Don Juan, scored by Mischa Spoliansky. After the Second World War, he became music director for the Rank Organisation.
Mathieson was to initiate and conduct some thousand film scores, and introduce such eminent composers as Arthur Bliss, Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax, William Walton, and Malcolm Arnold to the composition of orchestral scores for films. He had studied conducting and composition at the Royal College of Music, and conducted while still a teenager. Throughout his career in films he also conducted in concert halls in Britain and overseas, and pioneered the presentation of film music as BBC broadcasts. He established that British films at their best should have music of the highest quality, specially commissioned and composed as an integral part of a film's creative process. This was early evident in Bliss's distinguished score for Korda's production of H.G. Wells's film Things to Come in the mid-1930s. "The music is a part of the constructive scheme of the film," Wells had written. "Sound sequences and picture sequences were closely interwoven. This Bliss music . . . is part of the design." Bliss's impressionistic score was subsequently developed as an orchestral suite for the concert hall, and issued on a set of gramophone recordings.
In this way, as in so many others, Mathieson proved an indefatigable, extrovert, and enthusiastic pioneer. This enthusiasm spread to the composers themselves, inspiring Vaughan Williams to claim in his seventies that he believed "the film contains potentialities for the combination of all the arts such as Wagner never dreamed of." He held working for films to be a splendid discipline in which he was, in effect, being trained by Mathieson, like many other distinguished composers.
At the same time, Mathieson regarded American studio composers and musicians as technically more advanced than the British. Writing in 1947 he acknowledged, "the American composer has turned himself more thoroughly into a music dramatist than the British." He instanced Bernard Herrmann's brilliantly integrated score for Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. Among the many notable earlier scores Mathieson was to commission and conduct (usually with the London Symphony Orchestra) were those by Arnold Bax for David Lean's Oliver Twist and by William Walton for Laurence Olivier's Henry V. During the war years and subsequently, Mathieson originated and conducted many scores for documentary, and he himself directed the film of Benjamin Britten's composition Instruments of the Orchestra, which featured the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent.
A list of Mathieson's credits as music director reads like a history of the British films from the 1930s to the 1960s. His views are fully recorded in John Huntley's pioneer book, British Film Music (1947), and elaborated further in Roger Manvell and John Huntley's The Technique of Film Music (1957, revised and enlarged along with Richard Arnell and Peter Day in 1975), of which Mathieson was one of the advisory editors. In this he states: "All that remains is for it to be unreservedly recognized that music, having a form of its own, has ways of doing its appointed task in films with distinction, judged purely as music, and with subtlety, judged as a part of a whole film. It must be accepted not as a decoration or a filler of gaps in the plaster, but as a part of the architecture."
Mathieson, Muir, Scottish conductor and composer; b. Stirling, Jan. 24, 1911; d. Oxford, Aug. 2, 1975. He studied conducting at the Royal Coll. of Music in London with Sargent. While he made appearances as a conductor at the Sadler’s Wells Opera in London, it was as a music director for films that he became best known. After working for the film producer Sir Alexander Korda (1931–39), he was music director of government film enterprises (1940–45) and then for J. Arthur Rank films. Through his efforts, such composers as Vaughan Williams, Bliss, Walton, and Britten were persuaded to write for films. In 1957 he was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire