Uan Rasey, who played trumpet solos in hundreds of films from “An American in Paris” to “Chinatown,” died of complications from a heart ailment Monday, Sept. 26, at Kaiser Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 90.
Rasey was widely considered one of the finest musicians in Hollywood history, working over the years in radio, films, television and recordings. His playing can also be heard in such classics as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Gigi,” “West Side Story,” “Spartacus,” “Ben-Hur,” “How the West Was Won,” “Cleopatra” and “My Fair Lady.”
Rasey was born in Glasgow, Mont., and began playing the trumpet at age 7. At 9 he was struck by polio, which left him without the use of his legs and on crutches for the rest of his life. His family moved in 1937 to Los Angeles, where he began playing professionally with such band leaders as Sonny Dunham, Ozzie Nelson and Alvino Rey.
During the 1940s he performed on many radio shows including “Your Hit Parade,” “The Telephone Hour,” “The Voice of Firestone,” “Lux Radio Theater,” “The Jack Benny Program” and his favorite, “Kraft Music Hall” with Bing Crosby, with arrangements by fellow trumpeter Billy May.
In 1949 Rasey joined the MGM studio orchestra and played primarily for MGM until 1974, although he also played at all the other studios. His many TV-show credits included “M Squad,” “Bonanza,” “Lost in Space,” “Lassie” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”
According to some estimates, he played on as many as 3,000 film and television shows in his career, which lasted until around 1990. Rasey’s jazzy trumpet in Jerry Goldsmith’s 1974 “Chinatown” score was perhaps his best-known performance; later films included “Taxi Driver,” “High Anxiety” and “Pennies From Heaven.”
Rasey also performed on many albums in the 1950s and ’60s, including those of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, Judy Garland and the Monkees.
He began teaching in later years; his pupils included Arturo Sandoval and Jack Sheldon. In 2009, he was honored by the International Trumpet Guild and the Recording Musicians Assn.
Rasey’s wife of 57 years, Margaret, died in 2008. Survivors include three children and three grandchildren. A memorial will be scheduled for a later date.