Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10, 1894 - Dimitri Tiomkin's birthday

May 10, 1894 marks the birthday of Dimitri Tiomkin, the man who composed the music for the film It's a Wonderful Life. There is a lot more to that story, so I'll give you the quick and dirty description of him from Wikipedia and then tell you the rest of it.

Official Description:
Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin was a Ukrainian-born Hollywood film score composer and conductor. Musically trained in Russia, he is best known for his western scores, including Duel in the Sun, High Noon, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and The Alamo. (Wikipedia)

Born: May 10, 1894, Kremenchuk, Ukraine
Died: November 11, 1979, London, United Kingdom
Film music credits: High Noon, The Alamo, Rio Bravo (Also Wikipedia)

Tiomkin was nominated for and won several Oscars. See the list here.

Director Frank Capra hired Tiomkin to write the scores for Lost Horizon (1937) You Can't Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), and It's a Wonderful Life (1946). During World War II, he continued his close collaboration with Capra by composing scores for his Why We Fight series. (Wikipedia)

Not everything was roses between Capra and Tiomkin. It came to a head over It's a Wonderful Life. As Roger L. Hall wrote for the Web site Film Music Review:

"In his honestly written autobiography, Please Don't Hate Me (1959), Dimitri Tiomkin wrote about this film:

"The picture was in the best Capra style. Frank thinks it the finest he ever made. I never saw it after it was completed. After the music was on the sound track, Frank cut it, switched sections around, and patched it up, an all-around scissors job. After that I didn't want to hear it.

"Yet much of Tiomkin's music remains in the film and it's a terrific score. Stephen Cox in his fine book, It's a Wonderful Life: A Memory Book, wrote that:

"The film that eventually became one of Tiomkin's most famous works actually became a disappointment for the composer, both personally and professionally, when Capra replaced much of his original orchestration with existing music from other sources."


If he were alive, Tiomkin would celebrate his 121st birthday today. Learn more about him at or

Check out what is supposedly the original theme for It's a Wonderful Life, that was cut from the film and replaced with "Buffalo Gals".

You can listen to more of Tiomkin's work on Spotify or Google Play.


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