Most people today probably haven’t heard of motion picture musical conductor Constantin Bakaleinikoff, but he was instrumental in setting up theatre orchestras around Los Angeles in the 1920s, before he became music director at several film studios.
Born in Moscow, Bakaleinikoff served in the Russian army in World War I before immigrating to the United States after the Bolshevik Revolution. He played the cello in the Los Angeles Philharmonic for several years. Likewise, his brother Vladimir later traveled to L.A. to play in classical groups as well.
Bakaleinikoff left the Philharmonic after a few years to head the Grauman’s Million Dollar Theatre Orchestra, where he compiled, composed, and orchestrated scores to accompany features. He would soon head the Egyptian Theatre Orchestra, and later the Criterion Theatre Orchestra.
In 1923, Bakaleinikoff married the silent film actress Fritzi Ridgeway, who had originally starred in silents before falling to supporting parts. They lived at 2837 Beachwood Drive in Hollywoodland, where Ridgeway would buy properties, hire an architect to design and build houses, before she sold them to consumers. By 1927, Bakaleinikoff had become a United States citizen. He and Ridgeway later divorced.
With the coming of sound, Bakalenikoff joined Paramount as a musical director, later serving MGM, Columbia and RKO. He usually employed the credit C. Bakaleinikoff onscreen. During his studio career, he composed scores for about 40 shorts, and was nominated four times for Academy Awards for Best Original Score. He also appeared in four films as a conductor.
During his film career, he found time to conduct at the Hollywood Bowl for more than 20 years, as well as the Greek Theatre and other local venues.
Bakaleinikoff retired from the film business in the late 1950s, but would lead the Burbank Youth Symphony and Burbank Symphony Orchestra within a few years. While working for the city of Burbank, he commented to the Times that the government should support the arts, which would provide increased opportunities for participation as well as adding jobs. He died in 1966.