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Miklos Rozsa Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: LMS
Date: 3 April 2008

Biographical History

Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995) was born on April 18, 1907, in Budapest, Hungary. He developed an appreciation for music from his mother, a classical pianist, and his father, an industrialist and lover of folk music. Rózsa began to study the violin at the age of five. Within two years, he had composed a "Student March." Living on the estate of his father, who had extensive landholdings in Nagylocz, Nograd County, northern Hungary, Rózsa often heard the folk songs of the indigenous Paloc people, whose melodies would later influence his compositions.

After Rózsa completed high school in 1925, at age eighteen, he matriculated at the Leipzig Conservatory, Germany, where he studied music and chemistry. By the time Rózsa graduated in 1929, Breitkopf and Härtel had already published his String Trio, op. 1 (1927), and Quintet for Piano and Strings, op. 2 (1928). His next compositions were influenced by Hungarian folk tunes, due in part to a journal he recovered that contained the notations he had written upon hearing the music in his youth.

The composer remained in Leipzig until the rise of Nazism prompted him to leave Germany. In 1931 he arrived in Paris, France, where he was relatively unknown. Though Rózsa's years in Paris produced several compositions, including Theme, Variations, and Finale op. 13 (1933), Rózsa struggled to support himself. In 1935 Rózsa moved to London to score the music for Thunder in the City (1937), a film for Hungarian writer Akos Tolnay. Rózsa also had the fortune of working for Alexander Korda of London Films to compose the music for Knight Without Armour (1937). Rózsa worked with the Kordas on many later projects, including The Four Feathers (1939), The Thief of Baghdad (1940), and Jungle Book (1942).

Rózsa continued to compose orchestral, chamber, and choral works. He received Budapest's Franz Josef Prize for Composition in 1937 and 1938. His Three Hungarian Sketches, op. 14 (1938), was performed in Baden-Baden, Germany at the International Music Festival with great success in 1939.

Rózsa moved to Los Angeles, California in 1940. In August 1943 he married Margaret Finlason, a former actress and secretary to Gracie Fields; the pair had met during Rózsa's film work at Denham Studios, London. At that time, Rózsa also began his long collaboration with writer and director Billy Wilder. His scores for Wilder include Five Graves to Cairo (1943), Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), and Fedora (1978). Rózsa's work on Double Indemnity caught the attention of Alfred Hitchcock, who engaged him for work on Spellbound (1945), which earned Rózsa his first Academy Award.

In 1945 Rózsa joined the faculty of the University of Southern California as Professor of Film Music, a position he held for twenty years. In 1946 he became a United States citizen. The late 1940s saw his film work for producer Mark Hellinger on three gangster films, The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), and The Naked City (1948). Rózsa's music from The Killers later inspired Walter Schumann's famous four-note "Dragnet" theme, which is now credited to both men following litigation.Rózsa won a second Academy Award for his score of A Double Life (1948). The next year, he signed a contract with Metro Goldwyn Mayer, an agreement that resulted in a decade-long golden era whose pinnacle was Ben-Hur (1959), which earned Rózsa his third and final Oscar.

Rózsa's many orchestral, chamber, and choral compositions include "To Everything There Is A Season," op. 21 (1946); Sinfonia Concertante, op. 29 (1964), written for Jascha Heifetz and Gregor Piatigorsky; Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 31 (1967), written for Leonard Pennario; Tripartita, op. 33 (1972), which Rózsa wrote from his summer home in Santa Margherita, Italy; and Toccata Capricciosa for Solo Cello, op. 36 (1977).

In addition to his composition work, Rózsa conducted worldwide concert performances and recordings; maintained a collection of fine art; penned his autobiography, Double Life: The Autobiography of Miklós Rózsa (1982); and cared for his children, Juliet and Nicholas.Rózsa composed film music until 1982, when he had his first stroke. He continued to work until further strokes impaired his vision and speech. Rózsa died of pneumonia on July 27, 1995 at eighty-eight years old.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Miklós Rózsa Papers is divided into eight series.

Correspondence-subject files contains letters from fellow musicians, conductors, and composers (including Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Johnny Green, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, and Eugene Ormandy), music organizations, music publishers, filmmakers (including Samuel Bronston, Ray Harryhausen, Alexander Korda, Alain Resnais, David O. Selznick, and Sam Zimbalist), relatives, and fans with whom Rózsa maintained regular contact.

Fan mail contains letters, cards, and photographs from admirers in chronological order from 1940-1995. Undated fan mail is in a folder at the end of the series.

Compositions contains Rózsa's Opp. 1-45 (except Op. 11) as well as compositions without opus numbers. Some compositions are handwritten while others are printed publications. Additionally, it contains musical compositions by Rózsa's colleagues and friends, including Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Kurt Hessenburg, and Günter Raphael.

Film music includes arrangements and bound scores. Arrangements include selections from Rózsa's film music scores in the form of handwritten scores, sheet music, and reproductions in a copyist's hand. Bound scores include Rózsa's compositions for motion pictures that are in hardcover or spiral-bound format. Some scores are handwritten by the composer (including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and The V.I.P.s) while others are reproductions in a copyist's hand (including A Double Life, Ben-Hur, and Spellbound).

Memorabilia comprises award certificates, plaques and statues (including Rózsa's 1960 Academy Award for his Ben-Hur score). It includes film memorabilia (such as music cue sheets and film stills), financial documents (including papers relating to Rózsa's property, automobiles, and income taxes), legal documents, miscellany (including documents regarding Rózsa's art collection, draft papers, his address book, medical documents, passports, and writing implements). It also includes photographs and film negatives.

Printed material includes articles and clippings from 1930-1996, concert programs from 1918-1995, press notices for Rózsa's compositions, and publicity documents.

Recordings includes phonograph records and compact discs of recorded music composed or conducted primarily by Rózsa.

Writings includes writings by Rózsa and writings by others. Rózsa's writings include books to which he has contributed an introduction, his autobiography in Hungarian, lists, drafts, notes, music fragments, and manuscripts for lectures and articles. Writings by others comprise manuscripts by Rózsa's colleagues, friends, and critics. Some writings are about Rózsa while others are unrelated (such as Stephen Lovas's My Two Failures).

Arrangement of the Collection

Compositions by Rózsa, Film music, and Recordings are arranged alphabetically by title of work. Compositions by others, Correspondence-subject files, and Writings are arranged alphabetically by creator or subject. Fan Mail is arranged in chronological order with undated materials at the end of the series.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Issues of Pro Musica Sana, published by the Miklós Rózsa Society, have been transfered to Rare Books and are searchable through the Classic Catalog .

Additional sound recordings stored at Syracuse University Library's Belfer Audio Laboratory and Archive. See also the Gregg Nestor Collection Relating to Miklos Rosza.

Subject Headings


Abravanel, Maurice, 1903-1993.
Achron, Joseph, 1886-1943.
Adorján, András, 1944-
Aitay, Victor.
Alwyn, William, 1905-1985.
Amfitheatrof, Daniele.
Antheil, George, 1900-1959.
Balazs, Frederic, 1920-
Balogh, Ernõ.
Benjamin, Edward B.
Berger, Theodor, 1905-1992.
Berkovits, Lajos.
Bernstein, Elmer.
Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-1990.
Bernt, Walther.
Bronston, Samuel.
Brown, H. Arthur.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Mario, 1895-1968.
Colon, Charles-David.
Compinsky, Manuel, approximately 1902-1989.
Copland, Aaron, 1900-1990.
Damiani, Leo.
Dane, Jeffrey.
Di Sospiro, Madeda Mina.
Donath, Jeno.
Farnadi, Edith.
Fischgrund, Sidney.
Fitzpatrick, John.
Francis, Muriel Bultman.
Gallagher, Jack, 1947-
Genn, Leo, 1905-1978.
Grabner, Hermann, 1886-1969.
Green, Johnny, 1908-1989.
Herrmann, Bernard, 1911-1975.
Houseman, John, 1902-1988.
Jensen, Marvel.
Karzag, Dennis G.
Korda, Alexander, Sir, 1893-1956.
Korda, Zoltan, 1895-1961.
Lang, Fritz, 1890-1976.
Mantica, Margit.
Mehta, Mehli.
Mehta, Zubin.
Menuhin, Yehudi, 1916-1999.
Ormandy, Eugene, 1899-1985.
Palmer, Christopher.
Parkin, Eric.
Pennario, Leonard.
Previn, André, 1929-
Raphael, Günter, 1903-1960.
Rózsa, Imre.
Rózsa, Juliet.
Rózsa, Margaret.
Rózsa, Miklós, 1907-1995.
Rózsa, Nicholas.
Schulhof, Andrew.
Sendrey, Albert, 1911-2003.
Steiner, Max, 1888-1971.
Stone, Irving, 1903-1989.
Tusa, Erzsébet.
Ustinov, Peter.
Vansittart, Robert Gilbert Vansittart, Baron, 1881-1957.
Waxman, Franz, 1906-1967.
Waxman, John.
Wilson, Harry Robert, 1901-1968.
Zimbalist, Sam.
Zukerman, Pinchas, 1948-
Zádor, Eugene, 1894-1977.

Corporate Bodies

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
All Nations Exchange.
Associated Music Publishers.
Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Boyd Neel London String Orchestra.
Breitkopf & Härtel.
British Broadcasting Corporation.
Broude Brothers Limited.
Capitol Records, Inc.
Chappell & Company, Limited.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Columbia Records, Inc.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Decca Records (Firm).
Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Eulenburg, Ernst, firm.
Fränkisches Landesorchester.
Glendale Symphony Orchestra Association.
Hessischer Rundfunk.
Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles, Calif.)
J. Paul Getty Museum.
John Feher & Company.
Leeds Music Corporation.
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mayo Clinic.
Midland Bank Limited.
National Association for American Composers and Conductors.
National Symphony Orchestra (Washington, D.C.)
Nürnberger Symphoniker.
Pedevilla, Giovanni.
Performing Right Society.
Philadelphia Orchestra Association.
Philharmonia Orchestra (London, England)
Philharmonic Orchestra of Los Angeles.
Radio Corporation of America.
Robbins Music Corp.
Schweizerische Rundspruchgesellschaft.
Screen Composers Association.
Syracuse University.
University of Southern California.
Vanguard Films (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Vox Productions.
Weinmüller, Adolph, firm, Munich.
Westminster Recording Co.
William Morris Agency.


Conductors (Music)
Hungarian Americans.
Motion picture music -- Scores.
Motion picture music -- United States.
Music -- 20th century.
Orchestral music.

Genres and Forms

Bank statements.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Musical scores.
Programs (documents)
Sheet music.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Miklós Rózsa Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Majority of collection, gift of Miklos Rózsa, 1965; Miklos Rózsa Society.

Portions of the collection, gift of Nicholas Rozsa.

Portions of the collection, gift of Christopher Palmer.

Table of Contents

Correspondence-subject files

Fan mail


Film music


Printed material