He studied theory and composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
and later, composing for film with Miklós Rózsa
. His first job in entertainment was as a typist with CBS Television, but his talent was soon recognized, and he first wrote music for radio serials and later, the themes for several famous shows, including Perry Mason and The Man From UNCLE. 1952 saw his first film score (uncredited) for the Marilyn Monroe vehicle Don't Bother to Knock. In 1960, he began composing for Revue Studios, where he wrote the music for Lonely Are the Brave, now considered a classic score. He followed this with successes such as Stagecoach, Planet of the Apes (which he conducted while wearing one of the ape masks), Patton, Chinatown, and his first score to win an Academy Award: The Omen (1976). In 1979, he wrote his first Star Trek film score, and in 2002, he wrote another, Star Trek: Nemesis. During the '80s and '90s, he wrote for such blockbusters as the various Rambo films, Basic Instinct, L.A. Confidential, and the animated film, Mulan.