Henry Mancini – film music

Henry Mancini was born in a poor neighbourhood of Cleveland in 1924, and died in his Beverly Hills mansion in 1994 at the age of seventy. This sort of tells you all that you really need to know about him, but I could also add that during his career as a composer he was nominated for an unprecedented 72 Grammys, winning 20, as well as being nominated for 18 Academy Awards, winning 4. He also won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for two Emmys. Prolific is not the word when it comes to Mancini. There’s been no one like him before or since. When I make these sort of posts about musos I usually select five examples of their work, to give a flavour. This post about Mancini shows ten examples (it could easily have been twenty), and we’ll start with one of his best-known compositions: the theme to the Pink Panther movies…

Mancini originally composed this next track, Lujon (also known as ‘Slow Hot Wind’), for a 1950s American tv series called ‘Mr Lucky’, which was about a professional gambler. However, Lujon was later used in the soundtrack of three separate movies…

Mancini composed Baby Elephant Walk for the 1962 movie, Hatari, a safari adventure directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne…

Experiment in Terror is a 1962 suspense-thriller directed by Blake Edwards and starring Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, Stefanie Powers and Ross Martin. This is Mancini’s theme music for the film…

This next track was actually composed by John Barry (who also did the James Bond theme music). Henry Mancini and his orchestra arranged and played it on the soundtrack to the 1969 film, Midnight Cowboy. Incidentally, Midnight Cowboy is the only X-rated film that has ever won an Oscar, and is only one of two X-rated films to be nominated for an Oscar (Clockwork Orange being the other one)…

Charade is a 1963 film starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The soundtrack for the film was composed by Mancini, for which Mancini was nominated for an Oscar. Charade is one of a number of Audrey Hepburn movies that Mancini was involved in…

Moon River is probably the most famous collaboration between Henry Mancini and Audrey Hepburn. In real life, Hepburn was a very shy and retiring person and in the 1961 romantic comedy, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she had great difficulty singing Moon River. However, Hepburn loved the song and when the film’s directer, Blake Edwards, announced he was going to cut the scene from the film, Hepburn went into one. She insisted that the Moon River scene was kept in the film, otherwise she would walk off the set. Mancini won two Oscars for his work on Breakfast at Tiffany’s

In 1962, a year after Mancini won two Oscars for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, he was awarded another Oscar for Best Original Song in the movie, Days of Wine and Roses

After Days of Wine and Roses it would be 20 years before Mancini got his fourth and final Oscar, which was for Best Original Song Score in the 1982 film, Victor Victoria

I’m going to finish with one of Mancini’s less commercial works, to show that he didn’t just write short, sentimental pieces. The White Dawn is a Canadian movie that was released in 1974. The film portrays the conflict between the eskimo’s traditional way of life and Europeans’ eagerness to take advantage of them. Yup, Carry-on up the North Pole it ain’t, yet Henry Mancini still wrote a full symphonic suite for The White Dawn, and here it is in its entirety…

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