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David Snell (composer)

David L. Snell (10 September 1897 – 27 March 1967) was a pianist, conductor, composer and music director. He composed the music for over 170 shorts, series or feature films.

David L. Snell
David L Snell composer.jpg
Born (1897-09-10)10 September 1897
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Died 27 March 1967(1967-03-27) (aged 69)
Glendale, California, USA
Nationality American
Occupation Composer
Known for Shadow of the Thin Man


Early yearsEdit

David L. Snell was born on 10 September 1897 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He became a pianist, and studied at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Wisconsin College and the Meyer Conservatory of Music. He formed his own orchestra, and was the musical director for several stage productions.[1]

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer music directorEdit

Snell joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's music department in 1937, turning out music for a range of films from low-cost "B" movies to expensive features.[2] He would spend his entire film career with MGM.[3] He was conductor, composer, and music director for MGM for twenty-one years.'[1] The work could be high pressure. In November 1938 Franz Waxman had just five days to put together the fifty-minute score for A Christmas Carol so it could be released in time for the holiday season. Snell helped out, writing the opening and closing credit cues and half a dozen other cues based on themes provided by Waxman.[4]

Snell wrote music for many full-length films, shorts and B-movie series such as Dr. Kildare, Maisie and The Thin Man. His songs include Under The Stars, Downstream Drifter, Come Back Little Girl Of Mine and Once Over Lightly.[1] Snell's scores often showed first-rate craftmanship, but his work has generally been ignored, perhaps because in most cases he chose to simply underscore the dialog as opposed to contributing complementary musical ideas.[5] However, for the 1947 Lady in the Lake, based on the Raymond Chandler novel and set around Christmas time, Snell chose to use a choir singing a cappella without musical accompaniment, providing an austere and effective "black and white" score to accompany the stark black and white cinematography.[6] The moody music echoed Christmas carols.[7]

David L. Snell died at home in Glendale, California on March 27, 1967.[1]


Snell is credited as composer in many films, including:[8]



  • Brown, Royal S. (1994). Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-08320-2. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • "David Snell". IMDb. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • "Dave Snell". Monstrous Movie Music. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • Helvering, David Allen (2007). Functions of Dialogue Underscoring in American Feature Film. ProQuest. ISBN 978-0-549-23504-0. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • McCarty, Clifford (2000). Film Composers in America: A Filmography, 1911-1970. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-511473-7. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • Neumeyer, David; Platte, Nathan (2011-12-06). Franz Waxman's Rebecca: A Film Score Guide. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-8366-6. Retrieved 2014-06-11.
  • Phillips, Gene D. (2000). Creatures of Darkness: Raymond Chandler, Detective Fiction, and Film Noir. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-2700-9. Retrieved 2014-06-11.