Ennio Morricone during his farewell tour in Berlin in 2019. PHOTO: HAYOUNG JEON/SHUTTERSTOCK

World

Ennio Morricone, Oscar-Winning Movie Composer, Dies at 91

le 6 July 2020


 

 

 

During a career that spanned decades, he produced more than 400 original scores for feature films

Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who created the coyote-howl theme for the iconic Spaghetti Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and the soundtracks for Hollywood movies such as “The Untouchables,” has died. He was 91.

Mr. Morricone’s longtime lawyer, Giorgio Assumma, said he died early Monday in a Rome hospital from complications following a fall, in which he broke a leg.

Morricone holds the Oscar for ‘The Hateful Eight.’
PHOTO: PAUL BUCK/SHUTTERSTOCK

During a career that spanned decades, he produced more than 400 original scores for feature films. He collaborated with some of the most renowned Italian and Hollywood directors, in movies including “The Untouchables” by Brian De Palma, “The Hateful Eight” by Quentin Tarantino and “The Battle of Algiers” by Gillo Pontecorvo.

His score for “The Hateful Eight” would win him the Oscar for best original score in 2016. In accepting the award, Mr. Morricone said: “There is no great music without a great film that inspires it.” He earned an Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2007.

His iconic scores for the so-called Spaghetti Western movies saw him work closely with the late Italian film director Sergio Leone. For Mr. Leone’s “Once Upon A Time in the West,” Mr. Morricone composed a few notes played on a harmonica that would be instantly associated with that film.

Mr. Morricone was credited with reinventing music for Western movies through his partnership with Mr. Leone. Their partnership included the “Dollars” trilogy starring Clint Eastwood as a quick-shooting, lonesome gunman: “A Fistful of Dollars” in 1964, “For a Few Dollars More” in 1965 and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” a year later.

In 1984 Mr. Morricone and Mr. Leone reunited for “Once Upon a Time in America,” a saga of Jewish gangsters in New York that explores themes of friendship, lost love and the passing of time. The movie starring Robert De Niro and James Woods is considered by some to be Mr. Leone’s masterpiece, thanks in part to Mr. Morricone’s evocative score.

“Inspiration doesn’t exist,” he said in a 2004 interview with the Associated Press. “What exists is an idea, a minimal idea that the composer develops at the desk, and that small idea becomes something important.”

Mr. Morricone’s style was sparse, made of memorable tunes and unusual instruments and arrangements. His music punctuated the long silences typical of the Spaghetti Westerns, with the characters locked in close-ups, staring at each other and waiting for their next moves. The coyote howl, harmonicas and eerie whistling of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” became Mr. Morricone’s trademark and one of the most easily recognizable soundtracks in cinema.

Minutes before handing Mr. Morricone the Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2007, Mr. Eastwood recalled hearing for the first time the score of “A Fistful of Dollars” and thinking: “What actor wouldn’t want to ride into town with that kind of music playing behind him?”

Born in Rome on Nov. 10, 1928, Mr. Morricone was the oldest of five children. His father was a trumpet player.

After studying trumpet and composition at the Conservatory of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in the Italian capital, he started working as a trumpet player and then as an arranger for record companies.

“I started working on very easy kinds of music pieces for the radio, for television and then for the theater, and then little by little I started to compose the film scores,” he told the Associated Press in 2016.

In 1961 he wrote his first score for a movie, a bittersweet comedy set in the final moments of fascist Italy called “Il Federale” (known in English as “The Fascist”). That decade also saw Morricone cooperate with Mr. Pontecorvo, first on “The Battle of Algiers,” the black-and-white classic depicting the Algerian uprising against the French; and later on “Queimada,” a tale of colonialism starring Marlon Brando.

He received his first Oscar nomination for original score with “Days Of Heaven” by U.S. director Terence Malick. He was also nominated for “The Mission,” “The Untouchables,” Bugsy” and “Malena.”

Asked by Italian state TV a few years ago if there was one director he would have liked to have worked with but didn’t, Mr. Morricone said Stanley Kubrick had asked him to work on “A Clockwork Orange,” but that collaboration didn’t happen because of a commitment to Mr. Leone.