Hans J. Salter
Hans J. Salter

Hans J. Salter

About Hans J. Salter

Hans J. Salter (1896-1996) was never as well known as Max Steiner, Alfred Newman, Bernard Herrmann, or Miklos Rozsa, but he was a composer or orchestrator on more than 150 movies in a 30-year career. Viennese born and a graduate of that city's Academy of Music, he was music director of Vienna's Volksoper and later with the Berlin State Opera, before joining Germany's UFA studios in 1929. He left Germany after Hitler came to power, and in 1937 he arrived in Hollywood, where he made his career at Universal Pictures. One reason that Salter never achieved much recognition was that he arrived at Universal just when the studio's fortunes were on the wane, following its near bankruptcy. It was also common practice at Universal for music already in its library to be re-used and "tracked" into other composers' work; Salter and composers such as Frank Skinner and, later, Henry Mancini found their work mixed together, even if only one person got credit. Salter himself reused parts of Skinner's Son of Frankenstein score in his Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (1943), and those same parts turned up in various Sherlock Holmes films. It was even more confusing during the 1950's when music department head Joseph Gershenson, an executive but not a composer, signed his name to scores featuring music by Salter, Mancini, Skinner et al. Salter retired in the mid-1960's, and spent the last 30 years of his life in obscurity, although in his final years he did assist in the making of new recordings of some of his 1940's horror movie scores. As with all but the top rank of composers, some of Salter's work was distinguished, while much of it was simply serviceable, and pointless to divorce from the movies for which it was written. Almost all include some memorable passages, however, and many of his best scores are familiar simply because of their associations with popular films of their era. ~ Bruce Eder

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