William Lava

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William "Bill" Lava (March 18, 1911 – February 20, 1971) was a composer and arranger who composed and conducted music for many feature films as well as that for the Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies animated cartoons from 1962 to 1969, replacing the deceased Milt Franklyn, making him the last composer and arranger in the classic era of Warner Bros. Cartoons.

William "Bill" Lava
Composer William Lava Headshot.jpg
Background information
Birth nameWilliam B. Lava
Born(1911-03-18)March 18, 1911
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
DiedFebruary 20, 1971(1971-02-20) (aged 59)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresFilm score
Years active1936–1971

Lava's music was markedly different from that of Franklyn and previous composer Carl Stalling, with a tendency towards atonality. A sense of tension is often created in Lava's scores using sequences based on the notes of the diminished seventh chord.

Lava also composed and sang the theme to the TV western series Cheyenne and composed the original theme from Gunsmoke.


Lava was educated at Von Humboldt Grammar School and Lane Tech High School in Chicago, then attended Northwestern University where his major was journalism. He studied conducting with Albert Coates in Los Angeles. Lava also wrote short stories for various magazines and was the editor of Northwestern Commerce Magazine and associate editor of Purple Parrot..[1]

Arriving in Hollywood in 1936, Lava arranged for musical radio programs, then scored a number of serials such as Zorro's Fighting Legion and motion pictures, such as The Painted Stallion; A Boy and His Dog; Embraceable You; Dangerously They Live; The Hidden Hand; I Won't Play; Star in the Night and Hitler Lives. He was also responsible for scores for the Warner Bros.' Joe McDoakes short subjects and Republic serials. Among his compositions during this era were The Moonrise Song (It Just Dawned On Me).

Walt Disney Productions hired Lava in the mid-1950s, where he wrote or co-wrote the incidental music for Zorro and the Spin and Marty and Hardy Boys segments of The Mickey Mouse Club. While he was later best known for cartoon music, Lava did not score any cartoons at Disney, though he is credited with the score for 1955's TV segment The Story of the Silly Symphony.[2]

On his arrival at the Warner Bros.' cartoon studio, Lava's first assignment was the Tweety cartoon The Jet Cage. Franklyn had scored the first two minutes of the cartoon when he died suddenly of a heart attack; though Lava completed the cartoon, Franklyn was credited with the entire score. Franklyn used strings and flutes in his portion, arranged similarly to his earlier cartoons, while Lava's score sounds more mechanical and less orchestrated, with a xylophone at one point. Lava's first credited cartoon is Good Noose, also released in 1962. Although Lava's previous work also sounded mechanical, it was greatly enhanced by the studio orchestra. However, at the time of his arrival, Warner Bros. reduced, and later dismantled, the full-time studio orchestra. Without the music budget that he was accustomed to, Lava was forced to work with a much smaller orchestra to record his scores.


Lava was responsible for many scores, including those heard in thirteen 1965 and 1966 Road Runner cartoons, subcontracted by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises to Format Films.[3] The budgets for these cartoons were even tighter still, meaning that only the first three of the thirteen (The Wild Chase, Rushing Roulette and Run, Run, Sweet Road Runner) had real scored music. The other ten (from Tired and Feathered to Clippety Clobbered) used a set of generic musical cues, which did not follow the action closely as scores did in other Warner Brothers productions. The first WB short he scored (partially) was The Jet Cage, after Milt Franklyn died in the middle of scoring it. His first full score was for the Daffy short Good Noose.

He also composed music for 19 of the 124 Pink Panther cartoons (USA, 1964, animation), always based on Henry Mancini's original theme, adapting it to closely follow character action. Walter Greene scored the nineteenth cartoon, Pink, Plunk, Plink, however Lava scored the following one, Smile Pretty, Say Pink. Greene scored all the following shorts (excluding Extinct Pink, composed by Doug Goodwin, who was known for his music for other DePatie-Freleng shorts series such as The Ant and the Aardvark and Roland and Rattfink) until Therapeutic Pink. Following this, the remaining shorts would be aired on television as part of The All New Pink Panther Show (although they would be rereleased theatrically), where all shorts utilized music cues composed by Steve DePatie (son of series co-producer David H. DePatie). Starting with Congratulations It's Pink and ending with Therapeutic Pink, both Greene's and Lava's music were utilized in the cartoons. He earned the 1964 Academy Award for Best Cartoon Short, Pink Phink and he co-authored the music for the movie PT-109 . He also composed music for The Battle of Britain and the documentary Hitler Lives . [4]

Lava co-wrote the theme (with Irving Taylor) and most of the incidental music for the TV series F Troop. Lava also composed the silent-film music for the "bookend" sequences at the beginning and end of the 1961 Twilight Zone episode "Once Upon a Time".

Lava was also employed as Music Supervisor with David Rose in a couple of seasons of Bonanza.

Although Lava's feature film work was not as prolific, he composed the scores to movies such as Chamber of Horrors (1966), Chubasco (1968), In Enemy Country (1968), Assignment to Kill (1968), The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969) and Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971).

Personal lifeEdit

William Lava was the son of Abraham Lava(1882-1958) and Rose Chernavsky(1886-1938). He married Lenore Goldman on December 31, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois. They had two daughters, Charmaine(1938-2012) and Rochelle Lava(1939-1997).[5]

A staunch anti-communist, Lava became known as an outspoken critic of the Cuban Revolution[citation needed]. He spoke in favor of direct military action against the Castro regime,[citation needed] continuing to protest in this manner from 1959 until his death.


  1. ^ McNamara, Daniel I. (ed.). The Ascap Biographical Dictionary Of Composers, Authors, And Publishers Second Edition (2nd ed.). Thomas Y. Crowell Company. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  2. ^ "WebVoyage Titles". Cocatalog.LoC.gov. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  3. ^ "DePatie-Freleng WB Cartoons". Davemackey.com. 2010. Archived from the original on 22 May 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  4. ^ https://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah03215.xml
  5. ^ "United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9C2-W4Z : 27 July 2019), William Love, Councilmanic District 3, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Township, Los Angeles, California, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 60-189, sheet 5A, line 16, family 114, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 - 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 404

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