Franz Waxman (née Wachsmann) was a composer born to a family of German industrialists. Because his parents never expected his musical ambitions to be fruitful, they encouraged him to follow a more traditional line. As such, Waxman pursued work in the banking industry and used the income to pay for lessons in piano, harmony, and composition.
As his skills became more advanced, he eventually gave up his banking work altogether and moved to Berlin where he pursued more education in music. During this time, he performed locally in jazz clubs to support himself. It was also in Berlin where he received his first commission in scoring films through film executive Erich Pommer. When Pommer fled Germany for the U.S. in 1934, he took Waxman with him.
In the United States, Waxman settled in Hollywood and found word scoring the music for Bride of Frankenstein (1935) for Universal. Two years later, at the age of 30, Waxman had signed a seven year contract with MGM. Over the next 32 years, he would score 144 films, receiving 12 Academy Award nominations and winning twice for Sunset Boulevard (1950) and A Place in the Sun (1951). Throughout the course of his career he worked with notable artists such as Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock.
In addition to his work in the film industry, he founded the Los Angeles International Music Festival in 1947 which performed American debuts of compositions by notable figures such as Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Shostakovich. In 1966, Waxman wrote The Song of Terezin, a dramatic song cycle based on poems written by children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Franz Waxman died in Los Angeles in 1960 of Cancer.