Bernard Herrmann A CBS Institution

Morris Hastings
9 November 1943
Originally published in '485', November 1943. Published here March 1999.
This article is a profile on Bernard Herrmann by a fellow staff member at CBS. It appeared in the November 9, 1943 issue of the CBS in-house newsletter called “485″ (named after CBS’s old address, 485 Madison Avenue). The Article was located at the New York Library of the Performing Arts. Special thanks to Bob Kosovsky.
by Morris Hastings

In expansive moments, Bernard Herrmann, newly appointed symphonic conductor of CBS, will admit that he can’t decide which is really greater, music or literature. However that may be, Bennie has a knowledge of both that verges on the encyclopedic.

In the ten years he’s been with CBS, Bennie has done a lot of rummaging about in the obscure corners of music, rescuing here a forgotten overture by the novelist Samuel Butler and there capturing some notable work by a little-known English composer.

As for books, there are people who have abandoned the idea of ever finding one Bennie hasn’t read. Twirling his hair furiously the while, Bennie can – and does at the slightest provocation – deliver dissertations, complete with quotations, on the works of Trollope, Shaw, Lefanu, the Sitwells, Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, Dickens, Graham Greene, or almost any other English author you can think of.

He also finds time – no one quite knows how – to compose. In fact, his First Symphony and his dramatic cantata, “Moby Dick,” based on the Melville novel, have been performed by the New york Philharmonic-Symphony. He goes out to Hollywood every once in a while to write movie scores. He wrote the music for his friend Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” and the recently completed “Jane Eyre.” His score for “All That Money Can Buy” won a Film Academy Award several seasons ago. A suite arranged from music for that film will be played by the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the direction of Eugene Ormandy, late this month.

Bennie was also one of the ten young creative artists to receive a $1,000 grant two years ago from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

He is particularly interested in English music, so much so in fact that one irreverent friend asked if he was working for a knighthood. The truth of the matter is that Bennie feels a sincere affinity for English art. He numbers among his valued acquaintances such British musical figures as Sir Arnold Bax, Cecil Gray, William Walton, and John Barbirolli.

Bennie’s wife, who deserves a more extended mention in “485,” is the former Lucille Fletcher, for many years a member of CBS Press Information. Quiet, attractive, possessor of a wonderful sense of humor, Lucille is the author of the now famous fantasy, “My Client Curly.” She also has caused the nation’s hair to stand on end with a number of “Suspense” programs. The Herrmanns have a daughter, Dorothy, who is now a little more than two and reported to combine the best qualities of father and mother.

The Herrmann’s have a fine collection of 18th century furniture and art. But Bennie’s most cherished possession is a battered old hat on which his wife sews a theme from each of his compositions.

Bennie almost became a movie actor the last time he was in Hollywood. One producer was planning a sequence for a picture in which Shostakovich would be shown composing his Seventh Symphony and Bennie was picked as a candidate to portray the Soviet composer. Bennie declined. “I won’t be a cut-rate Shostakovich,” he said.

Bernard Herrmann – A CBS Institution
Morris Hastings • 9 November 1943