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Frank Cordell

Frank Cordell was an Academy Award® and Golden Globe®-nominated composer, arranger and conductor who worked with such directors as Stanley Kubrick, Basil Dearden, Paul Wendkos, Larry Cohen and Ken Hughes.


Frank Cordell's "God Told Me To"

Excerpt from “God Told Me To” (1976)

Biographical overview

Frank Cordell


Frank Cordell was born in Kingston-upon-Thames on 1 June 1918. He began his professional career in the 1930s, working at the Warner Bros. film studios near London. Upon completion of service as an enlisted RAF officer at the end of the Second World War, during which time he had become Principal Conductor of the Services Concert Orchestra in Cairo, Cordell spent time in Palestine before returning to the UK (at that time living in Barnstead). In 1947 he joined the BBC as a freelance composer, arranger and conductor and, whilst there, worked with Noël Coward, Charlie Chaplin and many well-known performers including Alma Cogan and Ronnie Hilton.

By the 1950s Cordell had begun composing music for film (with “The Voice of Merrill” in 1952), television and radio (“The Gay Galliard”). He also penned music for cinema commercials, promoting brands that included Kelloggs, Mothercare and Pirelli. An influential member of the burgeoning Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, Cordell left the BBC in 1955 to take up the position of Director of Music at HMV Records (later to become EMI).

Whilst at HMV Records, Cordell continued a successful career with his own orchestra. He arranged, conducted and produced a number of LPs under Frank Cordell & His Orchestra with two charting hit singles, “Sadie’s Shawl” (1956) and “The Black Bear” (1961) – the latter, an arrangement of the main theme from the film “Tunes of Glory”, which had been scored a year earlier by composer Malcolm Arnold. During this time, Cordell maintained his film scoring career by composing for British comedies (‘The Captain’s Table’ and the Galton & Simpson-penned ‘The Bargee’). However, he relinquished his post in 1962 to concentrate on full-time composition.

Thereafter, in the eighteen years prior to his death on July 6th, 1980, Cordell went on to score motion pictures including: Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (unused), “Flight From Ashiya”, “Khartoum”, “Mosquito Squadron”, “Ring of Bright Water”, “Trial by Combat” and “God Told Me To”. His acclaimed score to “Cromwell” (1970) was nominated for both an Academy Award® and a Golden Globe®.

Alongside a prominent film scoring career, Frank Cordell continued to write music for television (notably composing the underscore to every episode of the BAFTA award-winning drama series “Court Martial”), whilst arranging popular music for commercial release – further contributing original library music to Chappell Music under the pen name of Frank Meilleur. Cordell also composed music for the concert hall, including his “Concerto for Cello, Strings and Percussion”, “Concerto for Horn”, “Interplay for wind quintet” and “Gestures and Patterns for saxophone quartet”.