Interview with Bobbie Fromberg, Victor’s niece

Author: Marc Hairapetian

Source: Cinema Musica

Q: What do you remember of Victor Young. Do remember him as a composer as well as uncle?
BF: OH YES, I CAN SEE HIM AT TWO STEINWAYS RIGHT NOW, IN MY MEMORY, JUMPING FROM ONE TO ANOTHER WHILE HE WROTE THE SCORES TO TWO PICTURES AT THE SAME TIME PLUS A SONG.

Q: Victor Young had the reputation of being a bon vivant. Do you remember like this?
BF: HE LOVED TO GAMBLE, THIS I REMEMBER, AND WE HAD SOME THREE DAY POKER GAMES IN OUR HOUSE THAT BEGAN ON FRIDAY NIGHT AND ENDED ON MONDAY MORNING. AROUND THE TABLE WOULD BE MY UNCLE, MY FATHER, DIMITRI TIOMPKIN, MAX STEINER TO NAME A FEW. IF YOU WERE A FILM COMPOSER AND PLAYED CARDS, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN IN OUR DINING ROOM AT SOME OF THESE CARD GAMES.

Q: Was he married? Did he have children?
BF: YES, HIS WIFE'S NAME WAS RITA KINEL AND SHE WAS A FINE PIANIST, ALSO FROM POLAND. THEY NEVER HAD CHILDREN. MY LATE BROTHER AND I WERE THE CLOSEST THING TO THEIR OWN CHILDREN THEY HAD. SHE WAS NOT VERY MATERNAL BUT HE LOVED US AS THOUGH WE WERE HIS OWN. HE LAVISHED US WITH GIFTS BUT MORE THAN THAT, WITH HIS LOVE.

Q: What do you think of the the music he made for the movies?
BF: I FOUND IT TO ALWAYS BE FULL AND LUSH SOUNDING, HIS USE OF STRINGS ALWAYS GETS TO ME. HIS MUSIC CAN STILL MAKE ME CRY.

Q: Him being a brilliant violinist, was there film music only a matter of earning one's daily bread or did he considered it a special kind of art?
BF: IN THE BEGINNING, HE FELT IT WAS BENEATH HIS DIGNITY TO PLAY OR WRITE POPULAR MUSIC. AFTER ALL, HE WAS CLASSICALLY TRAINED. HE GREW TO LOVE IT AND CERTAINLY IT WAS AND IS A UNIQUE ART FORM.

Q: Did he go to the cinema often ? What were his favorites?
BF: I DO NOT REMEMBER HIM EVER GOING TO THE MOVIES. MY MOTHER AND I WENT EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT, BUT I THINK HIS WORK KEPT HIM FROM TOO MUCH RELAXATION TIME.

Q: Was he the kind of composer who merely though in melodies or was he concerned in his music to every detail? Including the orchestration.
BF: EVERY DETAIL WAS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO HIM. HE HAD THE FINEST ORCHESTRATORS AND MY FATHER, WHO WAS NOT ONLY A VIOLINIST, BUT HIS CONTRACTOR, WAS ALWAYS TOLD TO HIRE THE FINEST MUSICIANS.

Q: Were you a musical family?
BF: YES, MY MOTHER, HELEN, A CLASSICALLY TRAINED PIANIST WHO ACCOMPANIED VICTOR WHEN HE CONCERTIZED ALL OVER THE WORLD. MY FATHER, HENRY HILL, WAS A CLASSICALLY TRAINED VIOLINIST AND WORKED FOR VICTOR. THE THREE OF THEM MET AT THE WARSAW CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC. MY BROTHER, RICHARD, HAD ABSOLUTE PITCH AND COULD PLAY MOST INSTRUMENTS WITHOUT ANY LESSONS AND I PLAYED THE PIANO AND SANG PROFESSIONALLY IN MY TEENS AND VERY EARLY TWENTIES. THE MUSICAL GENE SKIPPED A GENERATION WITH MY TWO CHILDREN, BUT SEVERAL OF MY GRANDCHILDREN ARE VERY TALENTED MUSICALLY.

Q: Do you know if Victor Young sought contact to other composers even beyond the field of film music?
BF: YES, BUT I DO NOT REMEMBER THEIR NAMES. I KNOW ONE COMPOSER, TEDESCO, LIVED IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND WAS A FRIEND OF HIS. IF YOU LISTEN TO THE SCORE OF HOWARD HUGHES "THE OUTLAW" AND SEE THE CREDITS AT THE END, I BELIEVE VICTOR USED THE MUSIC OF TCHAKOWSKY AND CREDITED HIM WITH IT TOO.

Q: What were his musical role models?
BF: I'M SORRY, THIS I DO NOT KNOW

Q: What are your personal favorites of his works?
BF: THE SCORE FROM A MOVIE CALLED "ABOUT MRS. LESLIE" WITH SHIRLEY BOOTH AND BURT LANCASTER, THE SCORE FROM "THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH" AND THE SONG "ALONE AT LAST". VICTOR'S PERSONAL FAVORITE WAS HIS OWN SONG, "A HUNDRED YEARS FROM TODAY".

Q: And do you know what happend to his famous Guarnerius-Violin?
BF: GOOD QUESTION. IT WAS PROMISED TO MY FATHER AND THE DAY AFTER VICTOR DIED, IT WAS GONE FROM THE VIOLIN CASE THAT ALWAYS SAT OPEN ON A PRESENTATION TABLE IN THE FRONT HALL OF VICTOR'S HOUSE. MY FATHER HAD HIS SUSPICIONS BUT WE COULD NEVER PROVE THAT THIS PERSON TOOK IT. IT REMAINS 'OUT THERE, SOMEWHERE' HOPEFULLY, SOME YOUNG TALENTED STUDENT IS PRACTICING ON IT RIGHT NOW.

Q: What happened to his estate? I heard it was parted between two universities and archives, do you know why that was?
BF: A "BUSINESS MANAGER" WHO LIVED WITH VICTOR AND RITA FOR YEARS, HELPED HER TO WRITE HER WILL AND EVERYTHING WAS DONATED TO BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY. THEY IN TURN, GAVE HALF OF HIS SCORES TO THE BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY, WHERE IT IS ON DISPLAY AND CAN BE CHECKED OUT FOR MUSIC STUDENTS TO STUDY. I HAD IN MY POSESSION ALL THE SCORES FROM A LONG RUNNING TELEVISION PROGRAM, "THE MEDIC" WHICH I DONATED TO THE MUSIC LIBRARY AT UCLA BECAUSE I WANTED IT HERE ON THE WEST COAST, WHERE HIS HEIRS LIVE AND CAN GO AND SEE HIS MUSIC AT ANY TIME.

Q: 50 years after he passed away, what say is left of him and his work?
BF: WELL, A LEGACY OF GREAT SONGS AND MOVIE MUSIC, CLASSICS IN TODAY'S WORLD OF MUSIC THAT CANNOT BE REMEMBERED OR SUNG AN HOUR AFTER YOU HEAR IT. AND ACCORDING TO THE ROYALTIES FROM HIS MUSIC, WHICH I SHARE WITH BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY, A LOT OF PEOPLE AGREE WITH ME. THE ROYALTIES HAVE GROWN TREMENDOUSLY OVER THE YEARS AND NOW 50 YEARS LATER, AND WITH A RESURGANCE OF POP SINGERS RECORDING CD'S OF THE GREAT MUSIC OF THE 40'S AND 50'S HIS NAME LIVES ON. ALSO, BECAUSE OF A CHANNEL ON AMERICAN TELEVISION, TURNER CLASSICS, HIS MOVIES ARE THERE FOR EVERYONE TO ENJOY AND ADMIRE.
NOT TOO BAD FOR A LITTLE JEWISH MAN (5'4") FROM CHICAGO VIA WARSAW WHO WAS SHORT AND STOCKY LIKE A BOXER WITH A CIGAR STUCK IN HIS MOUTH ALL THE TIME AND THE HEART AND SOUL OF A ROMANTIC. JUST CLOSE YOUR EYES AND LISTEN TO THE MUSIC. IT ENVELOPES YOU AND YOUR IMAGINATION AND TAKES YOU PLACES YOU'VE ONLY DREAMED OF. THAT'S GOOD MUSIC AND THAT'S WHAT HE WROTE.