Born in Budapest, he began composing orchestral works from an early age, and graduated from the University of Leipzig in 1931. Working in Paris and later in London, he composed symphonies and ballet music before being commissioned to write his first film score for Knight Without Armour (1937). He worked in Hollywood from 1940, where his use of jolting chords and pounding rhythms heightened the emotional impact of psychological melodramas and films noirs such as Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945) and The Killers (1946). Later, he concentrated on lush accompaniments to historical epics, including Quo Vadis (1951) and El Cid (1961). His work outside the film industry is equally renowned; it includes a violin concerto (1953) written for Jascha Heifetz and a cello concerto (1968) for Janos Starker (1924- ). He received Academy Awards for Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1947) and Ben Hur (1959). His autobiography, A Double Life, was published in 1982.