Robert Emmett Dolan

Robert Emmett Dolan was born in Hartford, Connecticut on August 3, 1906.  The eldest of 11 siblings, he studied piano with his mother and was educated in Montreal.  He received further musical education at Loyola College, later studying extensively with Mortimer Wilson, Joseph Schillinger, and Ernest Toch.  Dolan played piano for honky-tonk dance bands and musical comedy bands, and in the 1920s he began working as a musician, composer, conductor, and musical director in the theater.  Some of the Broadway shows he contributed to were Leave It To Me, Louisiana Purchase, Of Thee I Sing, and Ziegfeld Follies

In the thirties he began work as a composer, conductor, and music director in radio, and then moved on to films, many of them at Paramount, where he was music director for 16 Bing Crosby pictures.  He scored about 60 movies, among them:  Are Husbands Necessary?, Going My Way, The Major And The Minor, The Man Who Understood Women, Mr. Peabody And The Mermaid (one cue of which was re-used in Creature From The Black Lagoon), Once Upon A Honeymoon, Salty O'Rourke, and The Three Faces Of Eve.  He was nominated for many Oscars, including The Bells Of St. Mary’s, Blue Skies, Holiday Inn, and The Road To Rio, and he produced the pictures White Christmas and Anything Goes

Dolan also worked in television, including specials and documentaries, and he was a prominent member of Columbia University’s music faculty, where he taught orchestration, conducting, and a film score class (based on his book “Music In Modern Media”).  He said of his film music craft, “Music serves only to point up dramatic highlights and help set or sustain a mood.  It must never intrude itself on the viewer.  The average score is the length of almost two symphonies and it’s forgotten as quickly as last month’s headlines.  A movie composer must resign himself to comparative obscurity.”  Dolan married and divorced two actresses, and he died on September 26, 1972.  Services were held both in Los Angeles and at Columbia University.


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