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About Morris Stoloff

Morris Stoloff had a long, successful career behind the scenes in music, spending over a quarter of a century as a musical director at Columbia Pictures, but he did enjoy a brief moment in the spotlight when his piano-driven medley of "Moonglow" and the theme from Picnic became a hit single in 1956. Morris Stoloff was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 1, 1898. Originally trained as a violinist, he studied with both Leopold Auer and W.A. Clark, and became the first chair violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra when he was only 17. In 1928, as Hollywood was transitioning from silent movies to sound, Stoloff was hired by Paramount Pictures as concertmaster of the studio's orchestra, working with producers and composers to coordinate recordings of scores for the studio's many projects. In 1936, Stoloff left Paramount to become musical director for Columbia Pictures, a position he held until 1962; Stoloff was credited on 480 different films, and was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning three. In the 1940s, studios began partnering with record companies to release recordings of their original soundtrack scores; Columbia frequently worked with Decca Records in the '50s, and Picnic was one of the many hits Stoloff worked on during his time at Columbia, writing the arrangement and conducting the Columbia Pictures Orchestra for the "Moonglow"/"Picnic" medley that rose to the Top 10 as a Decca 45 in 1956. While Stoloff worked with many major film composers at Columbia, one of the few scores he wrote solo, 1960's Song Without End, came near the end of his tenure with the studio. While working on the movie Pal Joey, Stoloff struck up a friendship with leading man Frank Sinatra, and after leaving Columbia Pictures, he was hired as a musical director with Sinatra's label, Reprise Records; one of his major projects was the Reprise Musical Repertory Theater, in which he coordinated and conducted new recordings of the scores to classic stage musicals, including Guys and Dolls, South Pacific, and Finian's Rainbow. Stoloff died on April 16, 1980 in Los Angeles. ~ Mark Deming

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