John Strauss, a composer and sound editor whose work includes theme songs from early TV shows and the film and soundtrack for Oscar best picture winner “Amadeus,” has died. He was 90.
Strauss passed away Monday night at a nursing home in West Los Angeles after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, said his son, Larry Strauss.
In a career that spanned nearly 50 years, Strauss won an Emmy Award for sound editing (1977’s “The Amazing Howard Hughes”) and a Grammy for best classical album of 1984 (Milos Forman’s “Amadeus”).
Along with producing the soundtrack album for the eight-time Oscar winner, Strauss served as the film’s music coordinator and is briefly seen onscreen as a conductor. He also wrote the brief composition that the Count shows to Mozart, who mocks the effort.
Strauss coordinated the music for three other Forman films: “Hair” (1979), “Ragtime” (1981) and “Valmont” (1989), for which he also composed part of the score.
However, Strauss’ most widely recognizable composition is probably the theme from “Car 54,” “Where Are You?,” the 1961-63 NBC series that starred Joe. E. Ross and Fred Gwynne. He also scored “The Phil Silvers Show” and the Elaine May film “Mikey and Nicky” (1976) and served as music editor on NBC series “L.A. Law.”
The New York native worked as sound editor on early Woody Allen films “Take the Money and Run” (1969), “Bananas” (1971) and “Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex …” (1972). He did the original “Heartbreak Kid” and “Slaughterhouse-Five,” both in 1972, and was music supervisor on “The Blues Brothers” (1980), “Impromptu” (1991) and “The Pirates of Penzance” (1983).
His theater credits include a song from the 1960s Broadway musical “Pickwick.”
Strauss was married to actress Charlotte Rae, for whom he wrote arrangements for her 1955 album “Songs I Taught My Mother” and with whom he collaborated on cabaret shows. They divorced in 1975. Strauss then became life partners with artist Lionel Friedman, who died in 2003.
Strauss served in France and North Africa during World War II, studied under Paul Hindemith at the Yale School of Music and taught briefly at New York’s High School of Performing Arts. He composed two ballets for the Joffrey Ballet, and his opera, “The Accused,” was performed by soprano Patricia Neway and televised on the NBC Opera series of the 1950s.
In addition to Rae, with whom he remained friends, and Larry, Strauss is survived by his daughter-in-law Eleanor and grandchildren Carly, Nora and Sean.