Charles Bernstein (composer)

Charles Bernstein
Birth nameCharles Harold Bernstein
Also known asCharles Alden
Born (1943-02-28) February 28, 1943 (age 77)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
GenresFilm score, television score
  • Composer
  • orchestrator
Years active1969–present

Charles Harold Bernstein (born February 28, 1943)[1] is an American composer of film and television scores.[2][3][4] He is a Daytime Emmy Award winner, and a two-time Primetime Emmy Award nominee.[5] Since 1995, he has been a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Music Branch,[6] and is a member Board of Directors for both the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers[7] and the Society of Composers & Lyricists.[8]

Early life and education

Bernstein was born in Minneapolis[9] to mother Mildred Wolf (1910–2011) and father Charles Bernstein, Sr. (????-1952).[2][4][10][11] His mother was a pianist.[2] As for his father, he "was involved in writing and producing music in his early career," according to Bernstein.[2] Bernstein also has a sister Carol Auslander and a stepfather Julius Wolf.[10][11] Bernstein studied music at the Juilliard School.[4]


Bernstein did his first score for the 1969 Oscar-winning documentary, Czechoslovakia 1968. According to Bernstein, "I met the director, Denis Sanders, through friends at UCLA. It was a brilliant film, and I convinced Denis that I knew what sort of music would tell the story of the Russian invasion of its smaller neighbor. The film was unusual because it had no spoken words, only music and occasional sound effects to tell the story."[2]

His first Hollywood score was for the United Artists film, White Lightning (1973), starring Burt Reynolds. The film marked the first of many collaborations between Bernstein and director Joseph Sargent.[4] Bernstein also scored the sequel to the film, Gator (1976).[3] Other films Bernstein scored during the 1970s include Hex (1973), That Man Bolt (1973), Mr. Majestyk (1974), Trackdown (1976), A Small Town in Texas (1976), Viva Knievel! (1977), Outlaw Blues (1977) and Love at First Bite (1979).[12][4][13] He even wrote the dance music in the latter film.[4]

During the 1980s, Bernstein scored the music for the horror films The Entity (1982), Cujo (1983), April Fool's Day (1986) and Deadly Friend (1986).[2][12][14] Bernstein also scored non-horror films such as Foolin' Around (1980).[13]

He continued to score music for documentaries such as Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (1994) and After Innocence (2005), with the former winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary.[12][4] He also scored music for made-for-television movies such as Sadat (1983), Miss Evers' Boys (1997), The Long Island Incident (1998) and Out of the Ashes (2003).[4][15][16]

Bernstein reunited with Cujo director Lewis Teague to score his films, Cante Jondo (2007) and Charlotta-TS (2010).[17]

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Under the recommendation of his agent, Bernstein met with Wes Craven and was hired to score his film, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). On working with Craven: "Wes was easy to work with, he gave me a lot of freedom, but we could discuss ideas and approaches. In many ways he was an ideal director to communicate with because he listened well and was open to all ideas." Bernstein used an electric score since the film was low budget.[2]

Bernstein did not return to score the music for the other films in the franchise, though Renny Harlin briefly talked to him about scoring the fourth film.[2]

Use of his music

Quentin Tarantino has included Bernstein's music from White Lightning and The Entity in the soundtracks of his films Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) and Inglourious Basterds (2009).[3][12][4][18][19]

Personal life

Bernstein is married to Georgianne Cowan.[10][11][20] They have one daughter, Serina. They reside in Los Angeles.[20]

In addition to film composing, Bernstein is also the author of two books.[12][4][5] One of them is titled Film Music and Everything Else.[3] The other is Movie Music: An Insider’s View.[4] He has also taught courses in the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.[12][21]

Bernstein has been a long-serving member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1995.[4][5][22] He is also in the Board of Directors for both the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers and the Society of Composers & Lyricists.[5] He co-founded the latter organization.[23]



Year Title Director Notes
1969 Stoney Wray Davis
Czechoslovakia 1968 Denis Sanders
Robert M. Fresco
Documentary film
1970 The Man from O.R.G.Y. James Hill
1972 Daddy's Deadly Darling Marc Lawrence
Sweet Kill Curtis Hanson
1973 Invasion of the Bee Girls Denis Sanders
Hex Leo Garen
White Lightning Joseph Sargent
That Man Bolt David Lowell Rich

Henry Levin

1974 Mr. Majestyk Richard Fleischer
1976 The Zebra Force Joe Tornatore
Trackdown Richard T. Heffron
A Small Town in Texas Jack Starrett
Gator Burt Reynolds
1977 Viva Knievel! Gordon Douglas
Outlaw Blues Richard T. Heffron
1979 Love at First Bite Stan Dragoti
1980 Coast to Coast Joseph Sargent
Foolin' Around Richard T. Heffron
1982 The Entity Sidney J. Furie Nominated- Saturn Award for Best Music
1983 Independence Day Robert Mandel
Cujo Lewis Teague
1984 A Nightmare on Elm Street Wes Craven
1986 Deadly Friend
April Fool's Day Fred Walton
1987 The Allnighter Tamar Simon Hoffs
Dudes Penelope Spheeris
1990 Rose Kennedy: A Life to Remember Terry Sanders Documentary film
1993 Excessive Force Jon Hess
1994 Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision Freida Lee Mock Documentary film
1995 Out of Annie's Past Stuart Cooper
Rumpelstiltskin Mark Jones
1997 When Danger Follows You Home David Peckinpah
1999 Return with Honor Freida Lee Mock
Terry Sanders
Documentary film
2005 After Innocence Jessica Sanders
2007 Refusenik Laura Bialis
Fighting Words E. Paul Edwards
2008 Shattered! Chris St. Croix
2010 Charlotta-TS Lewis Teague
2014 Jesus Town, USA Billie Mintz
Julian T. Pinder
Documentary film
2017 Liza, Liza, Skies Are Grey Terry Sanders
2019 Battlefield: Home: Breaking the Silence Anita Sugimura Holsapple Documentary film


Year Title Notes
1977 Special Treat Episode: "Five Finger Discount"
1978 Who's Watching the Kids? 21 eousides
1980 Scruples Miniseries
1983 Sadat
1987 CBS Schoolbreak Special Episode: "Little Miss Perfect"

Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Direction and Compositions

1990 Drug Wars: The Camarena Story Miniseries
1991 Love, Lies and Murder
2000 American Experience Episode: "Return with Honor"
2002–06 Alejo & Valentina 52 episodes
2009 Nova Episode: "Darwin's Darkest Hour"

Television films

Year Title Notes
1975 A Shadow in the Streets
1976 Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby
Nightmare in Badham County
1977 Escape from Bogen County
Four Against the Desert
1978 Wild and Wooly
Thaddeus Rose and Eddie
Cops and Robin
Steel Cowboy
Fast Lane Blues
Are You in the House Alone?
Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold
The Winds of Kitty Hawk
1979 Women at West Point
The House on Garibaldi Street
1980 Bogie
1985 Secret Weapons
Malice in Wonderland
The Long Hot Summer
1986 Rockabye
1987 The Last Fling
Ghost of a Chance
The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains Nominated- CableACE Award for Best Original Score in a Movie
1988 A Whisper Kills
1989 Desperate for Love
Love and Betrayal
1990 Too Young to Die?
Fall from Grace
Ivory Hunters
She Said No
The Love She Sought
1991 Payoff
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus
1992 Drug Wars: The Cocaine Cartel
Trial: The Price of Passion
Somebody's Daughter
1993 Between Love and Hate
The Sea Wolf Nominated- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries or Special
Final Appeal
1994 My Name Is Kate
1996 Sophie & the Moonhanger
Dead Ahead
Bloodhounds II
1997 Miss Evers' Boys
The Ticket
1998 The Hunted
The Long Island Incident
2000 Picnic
Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble Nominated- Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries or Special
2001 The Day the World Ended
2002 Crossing the Line
A Christmas Visitor
2003 Profoundly Normal
Out of the Ashes
2004 Family Sins
2007 Sybil
2008 Sweet Nothing in My Ear
2015 Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf


  1. ^ "Charles Bernstein". Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Exclusive interview!: CHARLES BERNSTEIN [english version]". October 14, 2011. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Brown, Casey (July 3, 2012). "Interview with Charles Bernstein". Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Malhotra, Anita (January 19, 2012). "INTERVIEW WITH CHARLES BERNSTEIN". Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d Borum, Jeremy (2015). Guerrilla Film Scoring: Practical Advice from Hollywood Composers. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442237308.
  6. ^ "Board of Governors". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. September 1, 2014. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  7. ^ "Foundation About Us". Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  8. ^ "Charles Bernstein". The Society of Composers and Lyricists. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  9. ^ Charles Bernstein biography at The New York Times
  10. ^ a b c Barnes, Mike (June 7, 2011). "Silent Film Accompanist Mildred Wolf Dies at 101". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c "Mildred Wolf dies at 101". Variety. June 9, 2011. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c d e f "Interview: Charles Bernstein on his score for "A Nightmare on Elm Street"". May 21, 2012. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Faulkner, Robert R. (1983). Music on Demand. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 9781412829236.
  14. ^ "DEADLY FRIEND (1986)". April 28, 2012. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  15. ^ "Review: 'Miss Evers' Boys'". Variety. February 20, 1997. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  16. ^ Wright, Rayburn; Karlin, Fred (2013). On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring. Routledge. ISBN 9781135948030.
  17. ^ Charles Bernstein Interview on YouTube
  18. ^ Quentin Tarantino Discusses Charles Bernstein's Music on YouTube
  19. ^ "RZA Writes Music For Another Medium, Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'". Billboard. November 8, 2003. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  20. ^ a b Marks-Tarlow, Terry (2013). Psyche's Veil: Psychotherapy, Fractals and Complexity. Routledge. ISBN 9781317723646.
  21. ^ "Interview with Film Composer, Charles Bernstein". May 30, 2012. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  22. ^ McNamara, Mary (March 24, 2002). "Don't Forget to Look Gorgeous". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  23. ^ Gallo, Phil (March 2, 2014). "Oscar Music Nominees Honored, and Drenched, at Society of Composers and Lyricists Event". Billboard. Retrieved September 3, 2015.

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