Earle H. Hagen

Earle H. Hagen: Composer

Genre: Classical, Jazz, Soundtrack

Sound description: Old Hollywood soundtracks and vintage television themes.

RIYL: Vintage television

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Influences: Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Ray Noble, Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges


TV music composer Earle H. Hagen was born in Chicago in 1919, moving to L.A. with his family while still in grade school. After picking up the trombone, he graduated from Hollywood High and began touring with big bands backing Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Ray Noble. While with Noble in 1939, he wrote “Harlem Nocturne,” a tribute to Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges that became a jazz staple.

In 1941, Hagen became a staff musician at CBS television before taking a job at the 20th Century Fox film studio to compose and orchestrate music for films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, starring Marilyn Monroe. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1960 for the music in Monroe’s film Let’s Make Love.

Beginning in the 1950s, he created music for over 3000 television shows, including the theme songs for I Spy (for which he won a 1968 Emmy Award), The Mod Squad, That Girl, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and The Andy Griffith Show, for which he also whistled the main tune.

Hagen passed away from natural causes at his Rancho Mirage home on May 26, 2008. He was 88.

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