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April 29, 2008
Earle Hagen Honored by NATAS
TV Academy recognizes composer's 50 years in medium by Jon Burlingame

Hagen with Emmy

L-R: Bruce Babcock, BMI's Doreen Ringer Ross, Earle Hagen, Carlos Rodriguez, at Hagen's home after the NATAS event.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—Television composing legend Earle Hagen was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Gold Circle – for 50 years of service to the television industry – on Sunday, April 20, at a ceremony sponsored by the board of governors of NATAS' Pacific Southwest Chapter.

A crowd of 500 gave Hagen – the composer of such classic TV themes as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy, That Girl, The Mod Squad and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer – a standing ovation as Hagen, 88, accepted his award from longtime friends Robert Culp and Stacy Keach.

Keach, who also hosted the ceremonies, noted that Hagen's 1939 "Harlem Nocturne" was inspired by his love of Duke Ellington's music, and that Hagen's own updated arrangement of it became the theme of Keach's Mike Hammer series in the mid-1980s. Quipped Keach: "People used to watch Mike Hammer just to listen to the music."

Presenter Culp, who starred in the 1960s series I Spy (for which Hagen won an Emmy for his diverse, often exotically flavored scores), called Hagen "a rare talent. He can create wonderful melodies that stick in your memory."

Hagen scored 3,000 television episodes during his 30-plus years as a composer in TV, Culp noted, adding that he spent seven years working for 20th Century-Fox music director Alfred Newman before shifting into the new medium of television – "not a bad way to learn the business," Culp said.

Hagen literally "wrote the book on how to write music for films and television," Culp added, explaining that Hagen's two film-scoring textbooks have been used by students studying the craft of film scoring for many years. (Hagen also penned an autobiography, Memoirs of a Famous Composer Nobody Ever Heard Of, in 2000.)

A 1960 Oscar nominee (for the Marilyn Monroe film Let's Make Love) as well as a multiple Emmy nominee, Hagen was recently honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a lifetime achievement award "for his pioneering work and enduring contributions to television music." Culp concluded by calling Hagen "a musical genius."

Also attending were BMI senior vice president Doreen Ringer Ross, composers (and Hagen protégés) Bruce Babcock and Carlos Rodriguez, and producer Ernie Frankel.

Also honored at the event were actress-singer Ann-Margret, actors Robert Loggia and James MacArthur, and singer Keely Smith.

©2008 Jon Burlingame
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