Wannberg was best known as Williams’ music editor, working closely with the composer on more than 50 of his films. He assisted Williams throughout the scoring process, from providing detailed descriptions of sequences to be scored to more technical aspects such as trimming or modifying music during the last stages of post-production.
He music-edited the first six “Star Wars” films, the first three “Indiana Jones” films and such other landmark Williams scores as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
During his 50-year career in films, Wannberg worked with many other composers including Bernard Herrmann (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”), Jerry Goldsmith (“The Mephisto Waltz”), Michael Convertino (“The Santa Clause”), Georges Delerue (“Beaches”), Alex North (“Prizzi’s Honor”), Marvin Hamlisch (“I Ought to Be in Pictures”), Frank DeVol (“Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte”), John Morris (“Silent Movie”), Lionel Newman (“North to Alaska”) and Robert Folk (“Toy Soldiers”).
His Emmy win came in 1986 for “The Mission,” an episode of “Amazing Stories” that was directed by Steven Spielberg and scored by Williams. He was also nominated twice for the Golden Reel award by the Motion Picture Sound Editors, for 2002”s “Catch Me If You Can” and 2005’s “Memoirs of a Geisha,” both featuring Williams scores.
But Wannberg was also a composer, scoring more than a dozen features including “The Late Show” (1977), “Blame It on Rio” (1984) and “The Philadelphia Experiment” (1984); his music for “Tribute” (1980) earned him a nomination for Canada’s Genie Award. He also scored a half-dozen TV-movies including “Draw!” (1984), “Vanishing Act” (1986) and “Red River” (1988) and contributed music to series including “Amazing Stories” (1986) and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1987-89).
Spielberg and George Lucas endowed a chair in “the art of music editing” in Wannberg’s name at the University of Southern California’s film school in October 2002. As Lucas said of the craft: “This isn’t glitzy and splashy or really expensive, so most people don’t pay any attention to it. But it’s extremely important we get a good group of future filmmakers well-grounded in film and music editing.”
He was born June 28, 1930 in Los Angeles and began studying piano at the age of 12. Following military service in the 1950s, he was playing in east coast clubs when a friend suggested applying for a job as a music editor at 20th Century-Fox. His earliest work, as an assistant editor, was on such 1950s musicals as “The King and I” and “South Pacific.”
He went on to music-edit such Fox musicals as “Let’s Make Love,” “Hello, Dolly,” “At Long Last Love” and “The Rose,” as well as Martin Scorsese’s documentary about an all-star concert featuring the Band, “The Last Waltz.” He also arranged and conducted jazz great Oscar Peterson’s score for “The Silent Partner” in 1978.
Wannberg retired after completing work on Williams’ “Munich,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in 2005. He emerged from retirement briefly to compose and play a piano score for the 1920 silent film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” in Florence in October 2015.
Survivors include a son, a daughter, and grandchildren. There will be no services.