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Obituaries

Elmer Bernstein, 82; Composer Who Won Oscar 'Could Do It All'

August 19, 2004|Claudia Luther | Times Staff Writer

Then, Cecil B. DeMille, who was directing "The Ten Commandments," hired Bernstein to "do for Egyptian music what Puccini did for Japanese music in 'Madame Butterfly,' " Bernstein once related. The composer, then just 32, wrote the "source" music for the film, including the songs and dances featured throughout.

About the same time, Bernstein also wrote an innovative score for "The Man With the Golden Arm," with its memorably jazzy sound, and his career took off.

Bernstein was valued in the industry for his youthful optimism and energy. At age 79, still with no plans to retire, he told The Times:

"I can't think of anything else that I'd have rather done with my life. I think I made a difference. It is an amazing human privilege to look back at your life and simply be able to say that you had some part in making millions and millions of people feel better, two hours at a time."

Bernstein is survived by his wife, Eve; sons Peter and Gregory; daughters Emilie and Elizabeth; and five grandchildren.

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Times staff writer Monte Morin contributed to this story.

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