Fri, 07 Aug 2020

Ennio Morricone, the Oscar Winner Composer Dies at 91
06 Jul 2020, 18:11 GMT+10

Ennio Morricone, the Oscar winner whose haunting, inventive scores expertly accentuated the simmering, dialogue-free tension of the spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, has died. He was 91.The Italian composer, who scored more than 500 films -- seven for his countryman Leone after they had met as kids in elementary school -- died in Rome following complications from a fall last week in which he broke his femur.A native and lifelong resident of Rome whose first instrument was the trumpet, Morricone won his Oscar for his work on Quentin Tarantino'sThe Hateful Eight(2015) and also was nominated for his original scores for Terrence Malick'sDays of Heaven(1978), Roland Joffe'sThe Mission(1986), Brian De Palma'sThe Untouchables(1987), Barry Levinson'sBugsy(1991) and Giuseppe Tornatore'sMalena(2000).Known as "The Maestro," he also received an honorary Oscar in 2007 (presented by Clint Eastwood) for his "magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music," and he collected 11 David di Donatello Awards, Italy's highest film honors.Morricone's ripe, pulsating sounds enriched Leone's low-budget shoot-'em-upsA Fistful of Dollars(1964),For a Few Dollars More(1965),The Good, the Bad and the Ugly(1966) -- those three starred Eastwood --Once Upon a Time in the West(1968) andDuck, You Sucker(1971)."The music is indispensable, because my films could practically be silent movies, the dialogue counts for relatively little, and so the music underlines actions and feelings more than the dialogue," Leone, who died in 1989, once said. "I've had him write the music before shooting, really as a part of the screenplay itself."Morricone's spare focus on one instrument -- like the trumpet solo inThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly, or the oboe, which soared over a lushly reverent backdrop inThe Mission-- enriched his contributions.The composer loved the sound of the electric guitar and the Jew's harp and employed whistles, church bells, whips, coyote howls, chirping birds, ticking clocks, gunshots and women's voices to add textures to scores not associated with the typical studio arrangement."All kinds of sounds can be useful to convey emotion ... it's music made up of the sound of reality," he said.Morricone also teamed with Leone one last time on the Prohibition-era taleOnce Upon a Time in America(1984) and partnered about a dozen times with Tornatore, including onCinema Paradiso(1988), winner of the Oscar for best foreign-language film.He did not like the term "spaghetti Western" and noted that his work in that genre represented just a fraction of his career.That is obvious, as his brilliant body of work includes collaborations with other notable directors like Gillo Pontecorvo (1966'sThe Battle of Algiers), Don Siegel (1970'sTwo Mules for Sister Sara), Bernardo Bertolucci (1976's1900), John Boorman (1977'sExorcist II: The Heretic), Edouard Molinaro (1978'sLa Cage aux Folles), John Carpenter (1982'sThe Thing), William Friedkin (1987'sRampage), Brian De Palma (1987'sThe Untouchables), Pedro Almodovar (1989'sTie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), Franco Zeffirelli (1990'sHamlet), Wolfgang Petersen (1993'sIn the Line of Fire), Mike Nichols (1994'sWolf) and Warren Beatty (1998'sBulworth).He was asked but never scored a film for Eastwood the director, a decision he said he regretted, and missed out on a chance to do Stanley Kubrick'sA Clockwork Orange(1971) when Leone insisted that the composer was too busy finishing up one of his films (he wasn't).His theme, "Chi Mai," for the 1981 BBC dramaThe Life and Times of David Lloyd Georgebecame an international hit, and he received a Grammy for hisUntouchablesscore.Tarantino, a big fan, used some of his compositions for theKill Billfilms,Django UnchainedandInglourious Basterds. In a January 2016, Morricone said working with the director onHateful Eightwas "perfect ... because he gave me no cues, no guidelines."I wrote the score without Quentin Tarantino knowing anything about it, then he came to Prague when I recorded it and was very pleased. So the collaboration was based on trust and a great freedom for me."In November 2018, he came out as highly critical of Tarantino and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in an interview that was published in the German edition ofPlayboy, but Morricone denied making the disparaging remarks and threatened to sue.Ennio Morricone was born on Nov. 10, 1928, in a residential area of the Eternal City. His father, Mario, was a trumpet player, and the trumpet was the first instrument the youngster played. He began writing music at age 6.When he was about 8, Morricone first met Leone in elementary school (the two would not connect again for more than two decades). He attended the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, where he studied under Goffredo Petrassi, a major Italian composer.Morricone composed music for radio dramas and played in an orchestra that specialized in music written for films. "Most of these scores were very ugly, and I believed I could do better," he said in a 2001 interview. "After the war, the film industry was quite strong here in Italy ... but these new realistic movies didn't have great music. I needed money, and I thought it would be a good thing to write film scores."He worked with Mario Lanza, Paul Anka, Charles Aznavour, Chet Baker and others as a studio arranger at RCA and with director Luciano Salce on a number of plays. When Salce needed a composer for his 1961 movieIl Federale, he hired Morricone.About a dozen other films followed, and Leone, doing his first Western, putMorricone to work onFistful of Dollars.(The director and composer were billed as Bob Robertson and Dan Savio, respectively, in a bid to convince Italian moviegoers, who were growing weary of home-grown Westerns, that the film was a product of Hollywood.)"Gradually over time, he as a director and me as a composer, we improved and reached our best, in my opinion, inOnce Upon a Time in America," Morricone said./

Copyright (c) Published with permission via Big News Network news agency

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