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Sidney Fine

Film, TV, legit composer, arranger and orchestrator

Emmy-nommed Sidney Fine, composer, arranger and orchestrator who worked on Broadway and in films, radio and TV throughout the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s, died of pneumonia May 20 at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He was 97.

Fine was nominated for an Emmy in 1956 for his orchestrations of Victor Young’s music for the television series “Medic,” and served as one of the original orchestrators on Meredith Willson’s 1957 Broadway hit “The Music Man.”

Under contract to Revue (later Universal) TV from 1960 to 1971, Fine wrote the scores for dozens of shows including episodes of “Wagon Train,” “Thriller,” “Laramie,” “Frontier Circus,” “Going My Way,” “The Virginian,” “Alcoa Premiere,” “90 Bristol Court,” “Broadside,” “Tammy,” “The John Forsythe Show” and “The Bold Ones.”

Among his feature credits, he served as an arranger on Paramount’s Irving Berlin musical “Blue Skies” in 1946. For Walt Disney Studios, he helped to orchestrate “Victory Through Air Power” (1943), “Fun and Fancy Free” (1947), “Melody Time” (1948) and the 1955 classic “Lady and the Tramp.” He also worked on the daytime “Mickey Mouse Club.”

He was born in Waterbury, Conn., graduated from the U. of Connecticut and did post-graduate work at City College of New York and the Yale School of Music. He played piano in silent-movie theaters in the 1920s and eventually became accompanist for comedian Henny Youngman, who often made jokes about his “cousin Sidney” during appearances in the Catskills and elsewhere.

Fine moved to Los Angeles in 1937, where he studied with composer Arnold Schoenberg. He worked as a pianist and arranger in radio throughout the 1940s, including shows featuring Jack Benny, Dinah Shore, and George Burns and Gracie Allen. In 1950, he returned to New York to arrange for radio’s “Big Show” starring Tallulah Bankhead.

Fine’s last work was a song recorded in 1999 by Michael Jackson (but still unreleased) entitled “Seeing Voices.” Jackson had been a student of Fine’s wife; the song celebrates signing for the deaf and was a tribute to Fine’s son, Peter, who died in 1975 of a rare brain disease that had caused him to lose his hearing.

Fine’s wife of 74 years, the former Rose Mishkin, died in June 2000.

He is survived by a daughter and five grandchildren.

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