Skip to main content

Stevens, Leith (September 13, 1909-July 23, 1970)



  • Existence: September 13, 1909 - July 23, 1970


Born in Mount Moriah, Missouri, in 1909, composer Leith Stevens grew up in Kansas City. After graduating from high school, Stevens conducted local orchestras and accompanied voice students at the Horner Institute of Music in Kansas City. After graduating Julliard in 1930, Stevens was hired by CBS Radio as a vocal arranger, working his way up to staff conductor by 1933. He conducted and arranged radio shows such as The Columbia Workshop and The Saturday Night Swing Club.

Stevens began his Hollywood career in 1939 composing and conducting arrangements for Edward G. Robinson's radio series Big Town. He began composing for film and received his first break writing music for the RKO production Syncopation. Some of his most notable works include his experimental and influential science-fiction score for 1949's Destination Moon as well as his groundbreaking all-jazz background scores for films such as 1954's The Wild One and Private Hell 36.

In 1954 Stevens helped found the Composers and Lyricists Guild of America (CLGA), an organization that advocated for the intellectual rights of composers. He served as president of CLGA for 8 years. He was nominated for three Oscars, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy over the course of his long career.

Leith Stevens died of a heart attack upon hearing of the death of his third wife Elizabeth on July 23, 1970. He will be best remembered for his contributions to the evolution of film scoring.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Leith Stevens Collection

Identifier: MS-0128
Scope and Contents The audio materials in the Leith Stevens Collection contains lacquer discs and test pressings of songs and scores; composed and/or arranged by Leith Stevens for film and television. Film soundtracks in the collection include All My Sons, The Atomic City, Eight Iron Men, The Treasure of Pancho Villa, The Garment Jungle, The Gene Krupa Story, Hell to Eternity, Destination Moon, The Wild One, A New Kind of Love, and others. There are also 16” lacquer transcription discs containing radio...
Dates: 1937 - 1964