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Herschel Burke Gilbert

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Biography

Herschel Burke Gilbert (April 20, 1918 – June 8, 2003) was a prolific orchestrator, musical supervisor and composer of film scores as well as television scores and theme songs, including the themes for The Rifleman (starring Chuck Connors), Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater and The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. Gilbert once estimated that his compositions had been used in at least 3,000 individual episodes of various television series.

Early years and education

Gilbert was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the age of nine, he began studying the violin in Shorewood in Milwaukee County. By the time he was 15, he had formed his own dance band. He attended Milwaukee State Teachers College (now University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee) and studied for four years: two as an undergraduate and two as a graduate, from 1939–1943 at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. After Juilliard, Gilbert won a music scholarship to the Berkshire Music Festival in Massachusetts, where he studied under Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.

Film scores
After a two-year stint with the Harry James band, as both viola player and arranger, he moved to Hollywood. He found work arranging and orchestrating for Dimitri Tiomkin on Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and King Vidor’s Duel in the Sun (both 1946). He composed the scores for some three dozen films throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, including The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), Comanche (1956), Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957), and Sam Whiskey (1969).

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