Composer. Nationality: French. Born: Lodève, 15 February 1899. Studied at the Paris Conservatory, and under d'Indy at the Schola Cantorum, Paris, 1914–16. Family: Married Nora Smith, 1938. Career: Composer from age 15; member of the group Les Six; 1930—first film score, Le Sang d'un poète; composer of orchestra and choral works, and incidental music for plays; 1965—music for serialized TV work Marc et Sylvie, and for L'Age heureux 1966, Le Trésor des Hollandais, 1969, and Zingari, 1975. Awards: Venice Festival special award, 1952. Died: In Paris, 23 July 1983.
Films as Composer:
Le Sang d'un poète ( The Blood of a Poet) (Cocteau)
À nous la liberté (Clair)
Lac-aux-dames (M. Allégret)
Les Mystères de Paris (Gandera)
Sous les yeux d'Occident (Razumov) (M. Allégret)
L'Affaire Lafarge (Chenal); Un Déjeuner de soleil (Cohen); Gribouille (Heart of Paris) (M. Allégret); Tamara la complaisante (Gandera); Le Messager (Rouleau) (co); La Danseuse rouge (Paulin) (co); L'Alibi (Chenal) (co)
Orage (M. Allégret); Les Oranges de Jaffa (Alexeiff—short); Trois minutes—les saisons (short); La Vie d'un homme (short); Huilor (Alexeiff—short); Entrée des artistes (The Curtain Rises) (M. Allégret); La Rue sans joie (Hugon) (co); Son oncle de Normandie (Dréville)
La Mode rêvée (L'Herbier—short); Macao, l'enfer du jeu (Delannoy); The Alibi
De la ferraille a l'acier victorieux (Lallier—short)
Opéra-Musette (Lefèvre and C. Renoir); L'Assassin a peur la nuit (Delannoy); Monsieur et la souris (Lacombe); La Belle Aventure (Twilight) (M. Allégret)
L'Eternel Retour (The Eternal Return) (Delannoy); Farandole (Zwoboda)
Le Bossu (Delannoy)
François Villon (Zwoboda) (co); Caesar and Cleopatra (Pascal); Dead of Night (Cavalcanti and others); La Part de l'ombre (Blind Desire) (Delannoy)
La Belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast) (Cocteau); La Symphonie pastorale (Delannoy); La Septième Porte (Zwoboda)
Ruy Blas (Billon); Hue and Cry (Crichton); Les Jeux sont faits (The Chips Are Down) (Delannoy); L'Aigle à deux têtes (The Eagle with Two Heads) (Cocteau); Corridor of Mirrors (Young); It Always Rains on Sunday (Hamer); La Rose et le réséda (Michel)
The Queen of Spades (Dickinson); Silent Dust (Comfort); Another Shore (Crichton); Noces du sable (Zwoboda); Les Parents terribles (The Storm Within) (Cocteau); Aux yeux du souvenir (Souvenir) (Zwoboda);
Maya (Bernard); Passport to Pimlico (Cornelius); Ce siècle a cinquante ans (Tual) (co); The Spider and the Fly (Hamer)
Orphée (Orpheus) (Cocteau); Cage of Gold (Dearden); Caroline chérie (Pottier); Fès (Zwoboda—short); Les Amants de Bras-Mort (Pagliero)
Nex de cuir (Y. Allégret); Front de mer (short); Kermesse fantastique (Mishek—short); La P . . . respecteuse (The Respectful Prostitute) (Pagliero and Brabant); La Fête à Henriette (Duvivier); The Open Window (Storck—short); The Titfield Thunderbolt (Crichton); Moulin Rouge (Huston); The Lavender Hill Mob (Crichton)
La Chair et le diable (Josipovici); L'Esclave (Ciampi); La Salaire de la peur ( The Wages of Fear) (Clouzot); Roman Holiday (Wyler)
Chéri Bibi (Pagliero); The Good Die Young (Gilbert); Du Rififi chez les hommes ( Rififi) (Dassin); The Divided Heart (Crichton); Nagana (Bromberger); Abdullah the Great (Abdullah's Harem) (Ratoff); Father Brown (The Detective) (Hamer)
La Femme et la fauve (Sarrut and Asseo—short); La Chaleur du foyer (Feeder de l'est) (Gillet—short); The Bespoke Overcoat (Clayton—short); Lola Montès (Ophüls); Les Hussards (Joffé); Gervaise (Clément); A Visit with Darius Milhaud (Joseph) (+ appearance); Walk into Paradise (Robinson and Pagliero); Licht und der Mensch (Geesink);
Le Mystère Picasso (The Mystery of Picasso) (Clouzot); Notre-Dame de Paris (Delannoy); Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (Huston); Les Aventures de Till l'Espiègle (Philipe)
Celui qui doit mourir (He Who Must Die) (Dassin); Bonjour Tristesse (Preminger); Les Espions (Clouzot); The Story of Esther Costello (Miller); Walk into Hell
Next to No Time (Cornelius); Dangerous Exile (Hurst); Les Bijoutiers du clair de lune (Heaven Fell That Night) (Vadim); Christine (Gaspard-Huit)
The Journey (Litvak); La Princesse de Clèves (Delannoy); Sergent X . . . (Borderie); S.O.S. Pacific (Green)
Le Testament d'Orphée (The Testament of Orpheus) (Cocteau); Schlüssakkord (Liebeneiner)
Aimez-vous Brahms? (Goodbye Again) (Litvak); Bridge to the Sun (Perier); The Innocents (Clayton); Les Croulants se portent bien (Boyer); Le Rendez-vous de minuit (Leenhardt)
La Chambre ardente (The Burning Court) (Duvivier); Smash en direct (Dasque and Abadie—short) (co): Carillons sans joie (Brabant)
The Kremlin (Vicas); The Mind Benders (Dearden)
Thomas l'imposteur (Franju)
La Sentinelle endormie (Dreville); La Communale (L'Hote)
La Grande Vadrouille (Oury); Danger Grows Wild (The Poppy Is Also a Flower) (Young)
Thérèse and Isabelle (Metzger); Ce pays dont les frontières ne sont que fleurs (Masson—short)
The Christmas Tree (Young)
Entr'acte (Clair—short) (ro)
Les Petits Riens (Leboursier) (mus d)
By AURIC: autobiography—
Quand j'étais là, Paris, 1979.
By AURIC: articles—
Mein Film (Vienna), 22 August 1952.
Unifrance Film (Paris), no. 50, 1959.
Ecran Fantastique (Paris), no. 5, 1978.
On AURIC: books—
Schaeffner, A., Georges Auric, Paris, 1928.
Golea, A., Georges Auric, Paris, 1958.
On AURIC: articles—
Sight and Sound (London), April-June 1953.
Fistful of Soundtracks (London), October 1980.
Obituary, in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), no. 386, September 1983.
New Zealand Film Music Bulletin (Invercargill), November 1983.
The Annual Obituary 1983, Chicago and London, 1984.
* * *
Composer of some of the most delightfully whimsical motion picture scores in history, Georges Auric also had the added distinction of having written the first original score for a feature film: his music for Jean Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet (1930). Auric's quirky classicism is displayed in more than 75 scores from 1930 to 1969. He never lost sight of his own artistic vision, no matter the assignment he was given, and his screen music is shot through with echoes of Durey, Tailleferre, Poulenc, Honneger and Milhaud, the other members of "The Group of Six" (Auric was the sixth member). He worked with such major directors as Max Ophüls (Lola Montès), John Huston (Moulin Rouge), William Wyler, Otto Preminger, Jean Delannoy, and his scores range from the highly dramatic (Bonjour Tristesse) to the playful (The Lavender Hill Mob, Passport to Pimlico).
According to Cocteau's biographer, Francis Steegmuller, Auric early on acquired a taste for opium, but apparently never let the drug get the better of him, becoming what Steegmuller described as a "controlled, habitual smoker." He probably acquired his predilection for the drug from Cocteau, who was widely known to use opiates for relaxation and "brainstorming," and it is perhaps not too farfetched to claim that a certain "twinkling etherealness" in Auric's music may be attributable to his use of the drug. Auric's best scores, including The Blood of a Poet, A nous la liberté, Beauty and the Beast, The Eternal Return, Dead of Night, Rififi, and The Lavender Hill Mob, all have a certain "celestial accent" (Cocteau's words) which makes them simultaneously fanciful and yet never too far removed from the mundane realities they must inevitably remain grounded in.
Almost alone among those composers who work specifically for films, Auric had a classical background which led him to create scores which stand quite well on their own as concert pieces, and interestingly, Auric's few detractors claim that at times his music forgets its supporting role and threatens to overpower the images it is supposed to accompany. Perhaps this explains why he worked so well, and so often, with Cocteau, whose visual style is boldly, even aggressively romantic. Cocteau's full blown imagery coupled with Auric's lush, yet light music meshed perfectly to create a fantastic world of full-blooded fantasy, a world at once more real and tangible than that of one's everyday existence.
Auric picked his assignments with great care, particularly after he became director of the Paris Opera in 1962. Although he won numerous prizes for his work at the Venice and Cannes Film Festivals, and elsewhere, Auric was always more interested in working on "difficult" or "experimental" projects than mainstream films. For example, one of his last films, The Mind Benders, directed by Basil Dearden, is a prescient tale of psychological research done by a group of university professors who subject themselves to long periods of sensory deprivation in "isolation tanks." That the film was ahead of its time is amply demonstrated by the fact that it was still considered a radical enough concept to be remade by Ken Russell in his uneven Altered States. Auric also worked on Cocteau's last project, The Testament of Orpheus, which, although arguably the least of Cocteau's efforts, is still an admirably evocative conclusion to the artist's illustrious multifaceted career. It is perhaps the highest possible tribute to Auric's work to say that his film scores are instantly recognizable, sincerely romantic, and, like the film scores of his fellow countryman George Delerue, glorious throwbacks to an earlier age of gentility, precision, and grace.
—Wheeler Winston Dixon
Auric, Georges, notable French composer; b. Lodève, Hérault, Feb. 15, 1899; d. Paris, July 23, 1983. He first studied music at the Montpellier Cons., then went to Paris, where he was a student of Caussade at the Cons, and of d’Indy and Roussel at the Schola Cantorum. While still in his early youth (1911–15), he wrote something like 300 songs and piano pieces. At 18, he composed a ballet, Les Noces de Gamache. At 20, he completed a comic opera, La Reine de coeur, however, he was dissatisfied with this early effort and destroyed the MS. In the aftermath of continental disillusion following World War I, he became a proponent of the anti-Romantic movement in France, with the apostles of this age of disenchantment, Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau, preaching the new values of urban culture, with modern America as a model. Satie urged young composers to produce “auditory pleasure without demanding disproportionate attention from the listener,” while Cocteau elevated artistic ugliness to an aesthetic ideal. Under Satie’s aegis, Auric joined several French composers of his generation in a group described as Les Nouveaux Jeunes, which later became known as Les Six (the other 5 were Milhaud, Honegger, Poulenc, Durey, and Tailleferre). Auric soon established an important connection with the impresario Serge Diaghilev, who commissioned him to write a number of ballets for his Paris company. Auric’s facile yet felicitous manner of composing, with mock-Romantic connotations, fit perfectly into Diaghilev’s scheme; particularly successful were Auric’s early ballets, Les Fâcheux (1924) and Les Matelots (1925). He also wrote music for films, of which Á nous la liberté (1932) achieved popular success as a symphonic suite. From 1954 to 1977 he served as president of the French Union of Composers and Authors. He served as general administrator of both the Opéra and the Opéra-Comique in Paris from 1962 to 1968. In 1962 he was elected to membership of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
Quand j’ etais là (memoirs; Paris, 1979).
DRAMATIC: Ballet : Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (Paris, June 15, 1921; in collaboration with Milhaus and 4 other members of Les Six); Les Fâcheux (Monte Carlo, Jan. 19, 1924); Les Matelots (Paris, June 17, 1925); La Pastorale (Paris, May 26, 1926); Les Enchantements d’Alcine (Paris, May 21, 1929); Les Imaginaires (Paris, May 31, 1934); Le Peintre et son modèle (Paris, Nov. 16, 1949); Phèdre (Paris, May 23, 1950); La Pierre enchantée (Paris, June 23, 1950); Chemin de lumière (Munich, March 27, 1952); Coup de feu (Paris, May 7, 1952); La Chambre (1955); Le Bal des voleurs (1960); Eurydice (1963). f i 1 m :Le Sang d’un poète (1930); A nous la liberté (1931); Les Mystères de Paris (1936); L’Eternai Retour (1943); Le Bossu (1944); Torrents (1946; in collaboration with G. Tailleferre); La Belle et la bête (1946); Symphonie pastorale (1946); L’Aigle à deux têtes (1947); Les Parents terribles (1949); Orphée (1950); Moulin Rouge (1952); Le Salaire de la peur (1953); Notre-Dame de Paris (1956); Gervaise (1956); Bonjour, tristesse (1957); Les Sorcières de Salem (1957); Christine (1958); Aimez-vous Brahms? (1960); La Grande Vadrouille (1966). ORCH.: Ouverture (1938); La Seine au matin (1938); L’Hommage à Marguerite Long (1956); Suite symphonique (1960). CHAMBER: Violin Sonata (1936); Trio for Winds (1938); Flute Sonata (1963–64); Imaginées I for Flute and Piano (1968), II for Cello and Piano (1970), 17/ for Clarinet and Piano (1973), and IV for Chamber Group (1976). Piano: Sonatine (1922); 5 Bagatelles for Piano, 4-Hands (1925–26); Petite Suite (1927); Sonata (1932); Partita for 2 Pianos (1958); Imaginées V (1976). VOCAL: Many songs.
A. Goléa, G. A. (Paris, 1958); J. Roy, Le groupe des six: Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, A., Tailleferre, Durey (Paris, 1994).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire