Frontiere was a fixture on the film- and TV-music scene throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, composing hundreds of hours of music, mostly for TV but also for films including “Hang ‘Em High,” “Cancel My Reservation,” “Hammersmith Is Out,” “Freebie and the Bean,” and “The Aviator.” He won a Golden Globe award for his score for “The Stunt Man” in 1980.
He also won an Emmy as musical director of “Swing Out, Sweet Land,” a patriotic TV special hosted by John Wayne in 1970. He scored three films for Wayne: “Chisum,” “The Train Robbers” and “Brannigan.”
Frontiere’s TV work dominated, however, including themes and scores for many series including “The New Breed,” “That Girl,” “Stoney Burke,” “12 O’Clock High,” “Branded,” “The Invaders,” “The Immortal,” “Search,” “Vega$” and “Matt Houston.”
His largest-scale work for TV was the 12-hour miniseries “Washington: Behind Closed Doors,” composed during his stint as head of music for Paramount in the mid-1970s. His other TV movies included “Probe,” “Haunts of the Very Rich” and “Palomino.”
Frontiere was born June 17, 1931, in New Haven, Conn., and played both violin and accordion as a youngster. He performed with Horace Heidt’s big band in the late 1940s and early 1950s, moving to Hollywood where he met fellow New Haven native Alfred Newman, then music director at 20th Century-Fox.
Newman took him under his wing (“he was like a father to me,” Frontiere once said), gave him jobs as an accordion player on many Fox films, and guided his career as a budding composer and arranger in the late 1950s and early ’60s.
Frontiere launched his composing career at Fox in 1960-61 with the films “Seven Thieves,” “One Foot in Hell” and “The Marriage-Go-Round.” With “The Marriage-Go-Round” he began a long partnership with writer-producer Leslie Stevens that later encompassed several TV series including “Stoney Burke,” “The Outer Limits,” “The Name of the Game,” “Search” and several pilots.
He was also active on the recording front, composing the 1959 “Pagan Festival,” a classic in the exotica field; and “Love Eyes,” a 1960 mood-music album. He later did arrangements for pop, rock and soul artists including Gladys Knight, Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, and The Tubes.
Frontiere’s career was temporarily derailed in 1986 when he was sentenced to a year in federal prison for filing a false income tax return and lying to IRS investigators to conceal his role in scalping tickets to the 1980 Super Bowl. At the time, his wife Georgia Frontiere was owner of the Los Angeles Rams.
He served only a few months in prison and resumed his composing career in 1987. He and Georgia were divorced in 1988; she died in 2008.
“The Color of Night,” which earned him a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for best song, was his last film credit. He moved to New Mexico in the 1990s and continued to work in the electronic-music medium.
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