Fox Studios and Getting Drafted…

The first movie I ever worked on was “The Last Command”, recorded at Republic Studios with a score by the famous Max Steiner. I was 6th flute and delighted to be there. In the summer of ’55 I did a show in Las Vegas for a month. We did the “William Tell Overture” and various songs with the Albergehetti family at the Royal Nevada Hotel. Coincidentally, Anna Maria Alberghetti had just starred in “the Last Command”.

When in Vegas, I flew during the day to LA many times to play at 20th Century Fox Studios to work on “the King and I”. They were auditioning for a piccolo player in the contract orchestra under the direction of Alfred Newman. The following Feb. (at age 20), I got the job and was under contract for 2 years until I was drafted in the army and by coincidence the studio contracts in all the studios ended.

During my two years under contract to Fox Studios, I worked on “The King and I” (Yul Brenner), “Anastasia”, “South Pacific” (Mitzii Gaynor and Rossano Brassi), “Boy On a Dolphin” (composed by Hugo Friedhoffer), the movie “Payton Place” (score by Franz Waxman), I was featured on piccolo in that score. In 1958, I was drafted into the army. Alfred Newman was kind enough to write a letter for me to make sure that I would be sent to Germany in the army to play in the 7th Army Symphony.

Party at 20th Century Fox Studios, end of studio contracts, Lionel Newman drafting me into the Army L-R: Felix Statkin, Alfred Newman, Mickey (stage manager), Sheridon Stokes and Lionel Newman

Party at 20th Century Fox Studios, end of studio contracts, Lionel Newman drafting me into the Army
L-R: Felix Statkin, Alfred Newman, Mickey (stage manager), Sheridon Stokes and Lionel Newman

I was transported there after six months at Fort Ord in California. After basic training I had a two week break which coincided with the Carmel Bach festival, so I played the festival (picking up 17 year old Paula Robeson in LA to play with me) and then went back to the band unit at Fort Ord.

When I got to Stuttgart, Germany, the orchestra didn’t need a flute immediately. My friend Sid Zeitlin (former lst flute of the Seattle and Minneapolis symphonies), told them I played clarinet and saxophone so I joined the orchestra as bass clarinet. When I was 15, I had played bass clarinet for a season with the Burbank Symphony, so I knew the instrument. I also played the saxophone solos in the orchestra. After 4 months, I moved into the flute section, when Felix Skowronek left the orchestra. Sid took over as lst flute and eventually I became lst.

The orchestra, when I was there, played 165 concerts in Germany, Italy and Denmark. After my army discharge, I spent an extra 6 months traveling in Europe before coming back to LA even though I was offered a position playing with Lucas Foss’s contemporary ensemble and appearing with them and Leonard Bernstein at New York Philharmonic.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply