“Whatever style you have comes out of years of synthesizing your own mind. In your daily work, certain harmonies, certain intervals, certain colors in orchestration come back because they express you. Whatever came into your ear comes out of the hand in some way or another. That’s what I like about movies. The canvas is always empty when you start and you can always go in any direction you want.” The number of films that Henry Mancini has scored—more than 70—attests to the statement of individual creativity that he made to Filmmusic Notebook in 1978.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 16, 1924, Mancini was raised in the industrial town of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, where his father was a steelworker. His introduction to music came from his father’s avocation, playing flute and piccolo in the local Sons of Italy band. Mancini, who learned his father’s instruments, has credited that amateur band with sparking his interest in both classical and new music and wrote a tribute to it in his orchestral work, Beaver Valley ’37. In the Pittsburgh Symphony program for its premiere in May 1970, he described “our weekly ration of Puccini, Rossini, Leoncavallo and Verdi … Sunday morning at about eleven o’clock. ‘The William Tell Overture’ was my big feature number.” He became expert enough to be named first flute in the All-State Band and taught himself piano by imitating a neighbor’s player piano rolls. Mancini’s formal training in orchestration and arranging began at 14 when he studied with Max Adkins, then the leader of the pit band at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh. He attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology and Juilliard briefly before he was drafted into the Air Force.
As well as Adkins, Mancini credits formal studies with composers Ernst Krenek and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and an apprenticeship with Universal’s orchestrator David Tamke. He has written a highly acclaimed textbook himself—Sounds and Scores: A Practical Guide to Professional Orchestration.
On Glenn Miller’s recommendation, Mancini joined the Army Air Forces band. Following the end of World War II, during which Miller had been killed, he began to perform and arrange with the Miller Orchestra, now led by Tex Beneke. With his wife, Ginny O’Connor (then a vocalist with the MelloLarks), he moved to Hollywood. Radio scoring from 1947 to 1952 taught him the “craft of writing for dramatic shows,” as he later told Filmmusic Notebook. His wife’s recording job with Jimmy Dorsey’s Orchestra in 1952 led him to Universal Studios, where he soon became a staff composer and arranger. He has estimated that he worked on several hundred films before his first complete scoring assignments on the jazz-oriented movies “The Glenn Miller Story” (for
Born April 16, 1924, in Cleveland, Ohio; son of Quinto (a steelworker) and Anna Mancini; married Ginny O’Connor (a vocalist), 1947; children: one son; twin daughters. Education: Attended Carnegie Institute of Technology and Juilliard School of Music.
Studied flute and taught himself piano as a child; after serving as a musician in the U.S. Army Air Forces band in World War II, began to perform and arrange with Glenn Miller Orchestra; moved to Hollywood, Calif., and composed scores for radio shows, 1947-52; staff compser and arranger for Universal Studios; freelance composer and arranger; has scored numerous films and television programs.
Awards: Four Academy Awards and sixteen nominations for film work; thirty Grammy Awards; numerous awards from magazines and several honorary degrees.
Addresses: Offices —c/o RCA, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036. Agent— Rogers & Cowan, Inc., 9665 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
which he received his first Oscar nomination in 1954) and “The Benny Goodman Story” (1956). He came to public attention with his atmospheric score for the Orson Welles thriller “Touch of Evil” in 1958. In the trade magazine Action, Mancini described that film’s unique challenge:“Touch of Evil” was one of the first pictures to take advantage of what we call ‘Source’ music (that means music coming from a source such as a radio). In this film, we used horns outside of all the bars in a Mexican border town.”
In 1959, Mancini’s theme for the Blake Edwards television series “Peter Gunn,” which was set in a jazz club, became a top-selling record and earned him Grammy Awards for Album of the Year and Best Arrangement. “The Theme from Peter Gunn” is considered the first television title music to stand on its own as a single. Mancini wrote in Action that Edwards “challenged me weekly with long scenes without any dialogue—already hearing the musical score in his mind’s eye. Blake regarded the music as a vital voice in the total picture.”
Many of Mancini’s complete film scores included theme or title songs that went on to success as singles with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. “Moon River” was played in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) on an amplified harmonica to represent the main character’s past, but it soon became a standard pop ballad that won the Best Song Oscar and Grammy for 1961. It has been recorded by scores of male and female vocalists and was a top-seller and signature tune for Andy Williams.
The themes from “Charade” (1963), “Dear Heart” (1964) and “Days of Wine and Roses” also became award-winning pop standards with added lyrics. All were nominated for Oscars—”Days of Wine and Roses” (with lyrics by Mercer) won Best Song in 1962. It also won 1963 Grammy awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Background Arrangement. The 1962 Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement went to Mancini for the novelty, “Baby Elephant Walk,” from “Hatari” (1962). Mancini described the process of creating it for Filmmusic Notebook: “[Director Howard Hawks] said, ‘The girl’s going down to take a bath with the elephants, you know, that’s cute’…. So he said, ‘Write Something.’ I looked at the thing several times and … thought of an old Will Bradley-Freddie Slack record called ‘Down the Road Apiece.’ And it was as simple as that. The elephants were walking down the road and I could hear ‘Down the Road Apiece.’ It was a boogie-woogie piece, with the eight top the bar, and that was the clue. It was the funny gait that the elephants had.”
Mancini’s most famous film theme is probably the lurking vamp that he wrote to go under the animated credits in Blake Edwards’ “The Pink Panther” (1964). Like “Inspector Clouseau,” the bumbling hero of the series, the animated animal (complete with theme song) had a long and prosperous life in six films, a cartoon series, and advertisements. The theme won 1964 Grammy awards for Best Instrumental Arrangement, Best Instrumental Composition, and Best Instrumental Performance in the non-jazz catagories. Among his many other Edwards collaborations have been the backstage musicals “Darling Lili” (1970) and “Victor-Victoria.” (1982), for which he won the 1983 Best Song Score Oscar. Plans were announced to create a Broadway musical based on “Victor/Victoria” in 1985. Alan Warner described the score for the former film in Film and Filming: “Mancini weaves in some suprises including a delightful short melody sing by small children’s chorus. Also worked into the score are a couple of World War One ‘hits,’ namely Tipperary’ and ‘Pack Up Your Troubles.’ The film closes with [Julie] Andrews singing probably the best Lili number, ‘Whistling Away the Dark.’”
Having, as he told the New York Sunday News in 1964, “put music on everybody’s minds far as TV is concerned,” Mancini continued to write for the medium. A second private eye show with a jazz background, “Mr. Lucky,” (1960) also spawned a top-selling record. “How Soon,” the theme from the 1963 “Richard Boone Show” was popular in the United States and in England, when it was shown on the BBC. He composed themes for NBC News and NBC election coverage. Among his recent projects have been the jazzy theme for “Remington Steele,” the romantic background for the mini-series “The Thorn Birds,” and the lyrical “travelogue” music for “Newhart.”
Mancini has also won Grammy awards for Best Instrumental Arrangements of film themes by other composers, among them “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet” by Nino Rota and “Theme from Z and other Film Music” by Mikis Theodorakis. He records for London/Poly-Gram and RCA with his own studio orchestra or, as a guest conductor, symphony orchestras around the world, among them, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, and the Boston Pops. His music is also played by many soloists, especially the flutist James Galway. There are over 60 Mancini albums currently available and hundreds of recorded versions of Mancini songs.
“In most cases,” Mancini told Electronic Age (a television trade magazine), “a composer must not approach the score as though he is the star of the show. He has to know when to hold back, when not to blast the audience, when not to intrude on the dialogue.” Although every filmgoer and television watcher can hum a Mancini tune, he has become most celebrated for obeying his own dictum. As a composer, arranger, orchestrator and film scorer, he creates atmosphere but does not intrude on the product on the screen.
Music from Peter Gunn, RCA, 1958.
Music from Mr. Lucky, RCA, 1959.
Sarah Vaughan Sings the Henry Mancini Song book, Mercury, 1965.
Victor/Victoria, Polygram, 1986.
The Hollywood Musicals (vocals by Johnny Mathis), Columbia, 1986.
Sounds and Scores: A Practical Guide to Professional Orchestration, Northridge, 1973.
Action, November-December, 1971.
Electronic Age, autumn, 1968.
Filmmusic Notebook, winter, 1978.
Films and Filming, November, 1970.
New York Sunday News, April 5, 1964.
Pittsburgh Symphony Program Magazine, May, 1970.
Henry Mancini composed some of the most popular songs ever to be showcased in film, among them “Moon River,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and his theme for the Pink Panther movies. His music was heard in nearly 250 films during his long career and was nominated for 70 Grammy Awards, winning 20. He also recorded 85 record albums, whose combined sales topped 30 million copies.
Richard Severo of the New York Times called Mancini “a pioneer in a new approach to film scores,” adding that his music “moved away from the heavy symphonic treatments that had been produced by composers like Alfred Newman, Max Steiner and Milos Rozsa and instead exploited jazz motifs, using smaller ensembles.” Known for his use of unorthodox instrumentation and his “cool jazz” sound, Mancini employed everything from bass flutes and calliopes to untuned pianos and African instruments in order to achieve innovative musical effects. His versatility enabled him to create appropriate scores for films ranging from Orson Welles’s ominous Touch of Evil im 1958 to Blake Edwards’ sophisticated comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961. “He [Mancini] is able to move from a light, popular idiom to a heavier, dramatic style to accommodate the demands of a particular film,” noted The New Grove Dictionary of American Music.
A sickly child, Mancini was afflicted by a number of childhood diseases, including rheumatic fever when he was a young teenager. Music became an important focus for him at an early age while he was growing up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, largely because his father played with a local Sons of Italy band and also played flute at home. He began playing the piccolo at age eight, then took up the piano four years later. Although Mancini was more interested in sports than music, his father was adamant that he practice regularly. His fascination with film music was sparked after he heard Rudolph Kopp’s majestic score for The Crusades, which he went to see with his father in the mid 1930s. By age 12 Mancini was spending a lot of time listening to big bands in Pittsburgh’s movie theaters, and it was around then that he decided to abandon plans for a teaching career and pursue one as a film composer.
Mancini’s musical talent was confirmed by his becoming first flutist in the Pennsylvania All-State Band in 1937 at the age of 13. His growing reputation resulted in him playing in the Aliquippa High School Band before he had even entered the school. While initially showing an interest in classical music in high school, he then fell in
For the Record…
Born April 16, 1924, in Cleveland, OH; died June 14, 1994, in Los Angeles, CA; son of Quinto and Anna Mancini; married Virginia O’Connor, 1947; children: Christopher, Monica, Felice. Education: Carnegie Institute of Technology School of Music, Pittsburgh, PA; Juilliard School of Music, New York, NY.
Learned to play flute and piano as child; became first flutist in Pennsylvania All-State Band, 1937; arranged for Max Adkins, late 1930s; played piano and arranged for Glenn Miller’s band, late 1940s; studied with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ernst Krenek, and Alfred Sendry; scored music for radio shows, late 1940s; began long partnership with Blake Edwards and scored music for Peter Gunn mystery series, 1958; wrote concert suite Beaver Valley, ’37, 1978; recorded 85 LPs, and won 20 Grammy Awards and four Academy Awards during career. Military service: U.S. Army Air Corps and Infantry, 1943–45.
Awards: Grammy Awards: Album of the Year (The Music from Peter Gunn), 1958; Best Arrangement (“Mr. Lucky”), 1960; Record of the Year (“Moon River”), 1961; Best Soundtrack Album, (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) 1961; Record of the Year (“Days of Wine and Roses”), 1963; Best Instrumental Composition (Other Than Jazz) (“The Pink Panther Theme”), 1964; Academy Awards: Best Song (“Moon River”), 1961; Best Song (“Days of Wine and Roses”), 1962; Best Original Song Score (Victor/Victoria), 1982; Golden Globe Award, Best Original Song for a Motion Picture (“Whistling Away the Dark”), 1971;Golden SoundtrackAward, ASCAP, 1988; Golden Score Award, American Society of Music Arrangers, 1989.
love with jazz, and was especially fond of Glenn Miller’s music. He began playing in local dance bands and memorized all of Miller’s arrangements. Mancini learned a great deal about arranging from Max Adkins, the conductor of the Stanley Theater house orchestra in Pittsburgh. Adkins eventually had Mancini make arrangements for his own band. “Max Adkins was to be the most important influence of my life,” wrote Mancini in Did They Mention the Music?, his autobiography.
Before long Mancini was sending his own arrangements to Benny Goodman, who reacted favorably to them and gave the young musician more encouragement. After high school he continued his musical education at the Music School of Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. In 1942 he moved on to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. While serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Infantry during World War II, Mancini met musicians who played in Glenn Miller’s Army Air Corps Band. These connections helped him after the war to become part of the Glenn Miller band, which was then led by Tex Beneke. Around this time Mancini was studying music with the composers Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ernst Krenek, and Alfred Sendry.
By the late 1940s Mancini was composing music for shows such as “The F.B.I, in Peace and War” on radio. He also wrote arrangements for the Skylarks, a group that formerly had sung for Harry James’s band. Before long he was putting together arrangements for film studios, which led him to sign a contract with the Universal-International studio in 1952. That year he made his debut as a film composer with the score for Abbott and Costello’s Lost in Alaska. For a while Mancini’s composing efforts were relegated to low-budget science-fiction thrillers such as Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came from Outer Space. He also scored the early rock musical, Rock, Pretty Baby. In 1954 he raised his profile as composer significantly with his Oscar-nominated score for The Glenn Miller Story. John Beaufort wrote in the Christian Science Monitor that the songs adapted by Mancini in that film were “as admirably played as they are generous.”
A major boost to Mancini’s reputation occurred in 1958 after his contract at Universal expired, when he happened to run into Blake Edwards while heading for the barbershop at the Universal lot. During the meeting Edwards asked Mancini to score a new television mystery series he was producing. It was the beginning of a long and successful relationship between the two men, spanning over 30 years and more than 25 films. The result of their first meeting was Mancini’s hard-hitting yet restrained jazz theme for Peter Gunn, which earned him two Grammy awards, sold over a million copies, and ushered in a new style for television themes. Mancini received much fan mail, and Blake Edwards gave the theme a lot of credit for the success of the series, according to Richard Severo in the New York Times. “It was the score I wrote for the Peter Gunn TV series that was a big break for me,” he told the New York Sunday News in 1964. “That use of the jazz idiom, applied dramatically to the story, put music on everybody’s mind as far as TV is concerned.”
Mancini followed up his Peter Gunn success with a popular theme in 1959 for Mr. Lucky, another Edwards private-eye series. This theme featured the lush sounds of strings and organ, and earned him two more Grammy Awards for Best Arrangement and Best Performance by an Orchestra. From that point he ventured back to the big screen and had major breakthroughs with scores for such films as Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961, Days of Wine and Roses and Charade in 1963, and The Pink Panther in 1964. He also scored a trio of films directed by Stanley Donen in the 1960s: Charade, Arabesque, and Two for the Road. His peak may have been Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which won him five Grammy awards in its recorded version. Featured in the score was the legendary “Moon River,” which was especially written for the limited vocal range of Audrey Hepburn, who sang it in the film. The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Musicsaid that “Moon River,” which made it to number eleven on the pop charts and won an Academy Award, was “surely one of the best-loved songs of the decade.”
In 1970 Mancini wrote Beaver Valley 37Suite, a piece that offered his impressions of the area where he grew up in Pennsylvania. As musical tastes veered away from the middle-of-the-road songs that were a Mancini specialty in the 1970s, he still managed to stay busy scoring films. He also made numerous appearances as a conductor and appeared on television specials. He joined forces with Blake Edwards in 1982 with his score for Victor/Victoria, which earned Mancini a fourth Oscar, this time for Best Original Song Score. He ventured back to television when he scored the music for the much-publicized miniseries, The Thorn Birds, in 1983.
Even during the height of his fame, Mancini was known for not taking his achievements for granted. “I have never trusted this thing called success; I have always been skeptical about it,” he wrote in his autobiography. For many years after striking it rich he still composed on a rented piano. During his career he also took up the cause of aspiring musicians by setting up scholarships for music students at Juilliard, UCLA, and the University of Southern California. He was also very active in SHARE, an organization that helps the mentally retarded. Mancini died on June 14, 1994 of complications from pancreatic cancer in Beverly Hills, California. By that time he had written 25 new songs for the Broadway production of Victor/Victoria that was to open that fall.
“Moon River,” 1961.
“Days of Wine and Roses,” 1963.
“Dear Heart,” 1964.
Touch of Evil, 1958.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
Days of Wine and Roses, 1963.
The Pink Panther, 1964.
Two for the Road, 1967.
Darling Lili, 1970.
Silver Streak, 1976.
Peter Gunn, 1958.
Mr. Lucky, 1959.
The Thorn Birds, 1983.
Sounds and Scores: A Practical Guide to Professional Orchestration, Northridge Music Corporation, 1962.
Did They Mention the Music?, (with Gene Lees), Contemporary Books, 1989.
Clarke, Donald, editor, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989, p. 759.
Gammond, Peer, The Oxford Companion to Popular Music, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 367–368.
Hitchcock, H. Wiley, and Stanley Sadie, editors, The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Volume 3, Macmillan, 1986, p. 166.
Katz, Ephraim, The Film Encyclopedia, Harper & Row, 1979.
Larkin, Colin, editor, The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume 4, Guinness Publishing, 1995.
Mancini, Henry, with Gene Lees, Did They Mention the Music?, Contemporary Books, 1989.
Christian Science Monitor, February 9, 1954.
New York Sunday News, April 5, 1964.
New York Times, June 15, 1994, p. D21.
Composer and music director. Nationality: American. Born: Enrico Nicola Mancini in Cleveland, Ohio, 16 April 1924. Education: Studied flute and piano as a child; attended Juilliard School, New York; also studied with Knek, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Senrey. Military Service: During World War II. Family: Married Virginia O'Connor, 1947, one son and twin daughters. Career: Arranger and pianist with Glenn Miller Orchestra and other bands; 1952–58—arranger, orchestrator, and composer for Universal; also song composer, and composer for TV, including the mini-series Arthur Hailey's The Moneychangers, 1976, The Best Place to Be, 1979, and The Thorn Birds, 1983. Awards: Academy Award, for Breakfast at Tiffany's and song "Moon River," 1961, the song "Days of Wine and Roses," Day of Wine and Roses, 1962, and Victor/Victoria, 1982. Died: Of liver and pancreatic cancer, in Los Angeles, 14 June 1994.
Films as Composer:
Creature from the Black Lagoon (Arnold); Six Bridges to Cross (Pevney) (song); Four Guns to the Border (Carlson)
The Private War of Major Benson (Hopper); Tarantula (Arnold); This Island Earth (J. Newman)
The Creature Walks among Us (Sherwood); Congo Crossing (Pevney); Rock, Pretty Baby (Bartlett)
Man Afraid (Keller); The Big Beat (Cowan)
Damn Citizen (Gordon); Flood Tide (Biberman); Summer Love (Haas); Touch of Evil (Welles); Voice in the Mirror (Keller)
High Time (Edwards)
The Second Time Around (Sherman) (song); The Great Imposter (Burks); Bachelor in Paradise (Arnold); Breakfast at Tiffany's (Edwards); Hatari! (Hawks)
Experiment in Terror (The Grip of Fear) (Edwards); Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (Koster); Days of Wine and Roses (Edwards)
Charade (Donen); Soldier in the Rain (Nelson)
Man's Favorite Sport? (Hawks); The Pink Panther (Edwards); A Shot in the Dark (Edwards); The Killers (Siegel)
Dear Heart (Delbert Mann); The Great Race (Edwards)
Moment to Moment (LeRoy); Arabesque (Donen); What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (Edwards); Two for the Road (Donen)
Gunn (Edwards); Wait until Dark (Young)
The Party (Edwards)
Me, Natalie (Coe); Gaily, Gaily (Chicago, Chicago) (Jewison)
The Molly Maguires (Ritt); Darling Lili (Edwards); The Hawaiians (Gries); I girasoli (Sunflower) (De Sica)
Sometimes a Great Notion (Never Give an Inch) (P. Newman); The Night Visitor (Salem Came to Supper) (Benedek)
Oklahoma Crude (Kramer); Visions of Eight (Lelouch and others); The Thief Who Came to Dinner (Yorkin)
That's Entertainment! (Haley) (additional music); 99 and 44/100% Dead (Call Harry Crown) (Frankenheimer); The White Dawn (Kaufman); The Girl from Petrovka (Miller); Once Is Not Enough (Green)
The Return of the Pink Panther (Edwards); The Blue Knight (Lee Thompson—for TV); The Great Waldo Pepper (Hill)
W. C. Fields and Me (Hiller); Alex and the Gypsy (Korty); Silver Streak (Hiller); The Pink Panther Strikes Again (Edwards)
House Calls (Zieff); Revenge of the Pink Panther (Edwards); Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? (Too Many Chefs) (Kotcheff); A Family Upside Down (Rich)
Nightwing (Hiller); The Great Event (Zieff); The Prisoner of Zenda (Quine); 10 (Edwards)
Little Miss Marker (Bernstein)
S.O.B. (Edwards); Condorman (Jarrott); The Shadow Box (P. Newman); Back Roads (Ritt); Mommie Dearest (Perry)
Trail of the Pink Panther (Edwards); Victor/Victoria (Edwards)
Curse of the Pink Panther (Edwards); Second Thoughts (Turman); Better Late than Never (Forbes); The Man Who Loved Women (Edwards)
Angela (Sagal); Harry & Son (P. Newman)
That's Dancing! (Haley); Lifeforce (Hooper); Santa Claus: The Movie (Szwarc)
The Great Mouse Detective (Musker and others); A Fine Mess (Edwards); That's Life! (Edwards)
Blind Date (Edwards); The Glass Menagerie (P. Newman); Heaven (D. Keaton) (songs); No Man's Land (Werner) (song)
Heavy Petting (Benz); Permanent Record (M. Silver) (song); Physical Evidence (M. Crichton); The Presidio (Hyams) (song); Sunset (Edwards); Without a Clue (Eberhardt)
Fear (O'Bannon—for TV); Born on the Fourth of July (O. Stone) (song); Mother, Mother (short) (song); Welcome Home (Schaffner); Days of Thunder (T. Scott)
Tom and Jerry: The Movie (Roman) (co); Ghost Dad (Poitier)
Switch (Edwards); Never Forget (Sargent—for TV)
Married to It (Hiller); Son of the Pink Panther (Edwards)
The Glenn Miller Story (A. Mann) (mus d)
The Benny Goodman Story (Davies) (arranger)
The Sex Symbol (Rich) (mus d)
By MANCINI: books—
Sounds and Scores, Northridge Music, 1962.
Did They Mention the Music?, New York, 1989.
The New Henry Mancini Songbook, Totowa, 1994.
By MANCINI: articles—
Cinema (Los Angeles), July 1966.
Action (Los Angeles), November/December 1971.
Dialogue on Film (Beverly Hills, California), January 1974.
Photoplay (London), October 1974.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), May 1977.
Interview with Elmer Bernstein, in Film Music Notebook (Calabasas, California), vol. 4, no. 1, 1978.
In Film Score, edited by Tony Thomas, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1979.
Millimeter (New York), June 1979.
Photoplay (London), May 1983.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 7, no. 26, 1988.
On MANCINI: articles—
Focus on Film (London), March/April 1970.
Thomas, Tony, in Music for the Movies, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1973.
Dirigido por . . . (Barcelona), January 1974.
Films in Review (New York), September 1975.
Ecran (Paris), September 1975.
Caps, John, in Film Music Notebook (Calabasas, California), vol. 3, no. 2, 1977.
24 Images (Longueuil, Quebec), September/October 1980.
Fistful of Soundtracks (London), October 1980.
Fistful of Soundtracks (London), May 1981.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), March 1982.
Films (London), October 1982.
Avant-Scène (Paris), January/February 1986.
Soundtrack! (Hollywood), vol. 9, no. 34, June 1990.
Obituary in Current Biography, August 1994.
Obituary in Down Beat, September 1994.
Obituary in Soundtrack, December 1994.
Scheurer, Timothy E., "Henry Mancini: An Appreciation and Appraisal," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), Spring 1996.
Boyd, Herb, "A Tribute to Henry Mancini," in Down Beat, June 1996.
McKone, G., "Henry Mancini," in Film Score Monthly (Los Angeles), no. 5, 1997.
* * *
The composer who made the most important stylistic change in American film music in the late 1950s was Henry Mancini. Using the more modern techniques of the recording industry rather than the by-then outmoded ones of the film studios, and with smaller orchestras and different instrumental groupings, Mancini brought a new awareness to scoring, particularly in the case of the television series Peter Gunn.
Mancini was the son of Italian immigrants and grew up in West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, where his steelworker father was a member of the town band, The Sons of Italy. The boy was started on the piccolo at the age of eight and sent to teachers, of whom the most important was Max Adkins, the conductor of the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh. Through Adkins, Mancini went straight from high school graduation in 1942 to the Juilliard School of Music in New York. After one year of study he was called to military service, returning to civilian life in 1946, when he was hired as a pianist and arranger with Tex Beneke's newly formed Glenn Miller Orchestra.
In 1952 Mancini was asked to arrange the music for a short subject at Universal. Head of music, Joseph Gershenson, then hired him to do some arrangements for Abbott and Costello's Lost in Africa. A contract followed and Mancini spent the next six years adapting library music, orchestrating, and scoring all manner of movies. His dance-band background proved invaluable in being assigned The Glenn Miller Story and The Benny Goodman Story. Among the many people impressed by Mancini's score for the Orson Welles classic Touch ofEvil was Blake Edwards, who hired him to write the ground breaking, jazz-influenced score for Peter Gunn. Its success began an association with Edwards that resulted in the scores for Breakfast at Tiffany's, which included the song "Moon River" (written with lyricist Johnny Mercer), with Oscars for both the score and the song; Days of Wine and Roses (also working with Mercer and winning another best song Oscar); The Pink Panther and its sequels; The Great Race; 10; S.O.B.; and Victor/Victoria, which brought him an Oscar for best original song score. Mancini's film composing ran the gamut of genres. His scary music for Experiment in Terror (another Edwards-directed feature) and Wait until Dark, the poignant The Molly Maguires, and the chilling, unsettling music for The White Dawn are as much Mancini as the amusing music for Hatari! and The Great Waldo Pepper.
Additionally, he was able to employ the lighter and serious sides of his composing talents with equal effectiveness as a popular recording and performing artist, in the process winning a far greater public identity than most of his colleagues. He recorded more than 90 record albums, ranging in scope from jazz to classical-pop to big band, and each year averaged 50 concert performance dates.
Mancini was a much-loved, much-honored figure who won a total of 18 Oscar nominations (beginning in 1954, for The Glenn Miller Story) and an astounding 72 Grammy Award nominations (including 20 wins, beginning in 1958 with an "album of the year" prize for Peter Gunn). His final credit, prior to his death in 1994: composing for the Broadway musical version of Victor/Victoria, directed by Blake Edwards and starring Julie Andrews.
On the art of scoring Mancini said, "One thing I have learned is that good music can improve a fine film but it can never make a bad film good. Another is to recognize those parts of a film which are better off without music. We composers are not magicians. We write music. We are one of the elements that go into the making of a final piece of work. When it works and when we feel we've made a contribution, it's a great source of satisfaction."
—Tony Thomas, updated by Rob Edelman
The composer, pianist, and theme song scorer Henry Mancini (1924-1994) was a major figure in American music from 1954 until his death. He spear-headed a change in film scoring, replacing the use of symphonic arrangements with elements of jazz, tin pan alley, and popular music.
Henry Mancini composed a legacy of famous and enjoyable film music which moved beyond film's former use of symphonic scores and incorporated elements of jazz and popular music. Mancini won many awards for his music, including four Oscars, 20 Grammys, and two Emmys. Much of his music became even more well known as film soundtracks; he produced over 50 albums and published over 500 of his compositions. His music was characterized by clean melody lines, usually on piano, with a background of French horns and strings. His theme songs for film, including Moon River and The Pink Panther are some of his most well known accomplishments.
Working Class Musical Roots
Mancini was born on April 16, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio. His family later relocated to Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, a factory town. His father, a steelworker, was a musician who played flute in the Sons of Italy Band. He encouraged young Mancini to take up music as a way to rise above the options of working for a factory. As a child, Mancini was exposed to such composers as Puccini and Rossini; he played and took lessons in flute and piano. He also studied with a theater conductor and began arranging music in his teen years. Mancini discovered early on that he had a knack for arranging music. He took a job arranging for Benny Goodman, but later remarked that "it didn't take long for both Benny and me to find out I wasn't ready for such an ambitious assignment."
Mancini attended college and studied composition and theory at Julliard, but dropped out to serve in the military during World War II. After the war, he moved into the musical arena again, working as a pianist and arranger for the Glenn Miller-Tex Beneke orchestra. He married Ginny O'Connnor, the vocalist for the Mel-Tones band, in 1947. They had three children together.
Mancini broke into Hollywood in 1952 when he was given a small two week job at Universal Studios to arrange the music for the Abbott and Costello comedy Lost in Alaska. He continued to work at Universal for the next six years where he arranged or part-scored music for over 100 films. Notable during this period was the popular score that he created to The Glenn Miller Story (1954), which incorporated his background in jazz. One of his first outstanding scores was for the Orson Welles film Touch of Evil (1958). Touch of Evil was unique in that it was one of the first films to use source music, or music that didn't just play in the background but actually came from a visible source in the film story, such as a radio or a nightclub. In the film Mancini used jazz, Latin, and rock tunes. The Glass Menagerie (1987) was another example of a Mancini scored film that uses both source and regular music.
At this point in Mancini's career, he caught the attention of movie producer Blake Edwards, who asked Mancini to score the music for the television series Peter Gunn (1958). The Edwards/Mancini collaboration was to extend into a partnership that spanned the rest of Mancini's life and included 28 films. Some of their work together included: The Great Race, The Days of Wine and Roses, 10, S.O.B, and several of the Pink Panther comedies.
Music Madea Difference
Th e popular music for Peter Gunn was another breakthrough that served to get Mancini more widely recognized and stood apart as an example of a television show where the music really had an impact. The music was notable in its jazzy sparseness, a style that record companies had caught onto but was in its infancy in movie studios. Mancini remarked that "It was the score I wrote for the Peter Gunn TV series that was the big break for me. That use of the jazz idiom, applied dramatically to the story, put music on everybody's mind as far as TV is concerned." Mancini's work for Peter Gunn won him a number of awards, including two Grammys and Best Jazz Record of the Year (in a Down Beat poll).
Mancini continued to produced creative and award winning film music. The score and a theme song (Moon River) to the Edwards film Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) earned Oscars for Mancini, even though Moon River was almost cut out of the film during production.
Contributed to Musical Trends
Mancini's contribution to film music occurred during a time when changes were shaping the film industry and American culture. In the early 1950s and 1960s, in part due to Mancini's influence, studios began to move away from the traditional symphonic sounds that had served as the backdrop for films. Mancini contributed to this trend by offering jazzy and popular alternatives that were more sparsely scored instrumentally. By the early 1960s, studios were facing increased competition from television and the musical scene in America was hugely impacted by the evolution of rock and roll. Mancini responded well to the changes and took advantages of opportunities to compose for new media, as in his work for television series such as Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky.
In his studio work, Mancini made an effort to break down pre-existing barriers and to introduce and jazz and contemporary influences to film music that had in the past been predominantly influenced and served by classical musicians. Mancini made a point to bring young musicians of varying backgrounds and interests to film scoring sessions. Mancini was able to see the bigger picture in film production, caring not only about the music but about the quality of the rest of the film making process. Due to his foresight and efforts, his music worked not only for films, but as soundtracks that were sold separately and successfully. He recorded music for the soundtrack so that for listeners, the music stood by itself even without the film. Mancini had the foresight to collaborate with talented lyricists such as Johnny Mercer, which added to the popularity of music such as Moon River.
During his time at Universal, Mancini had opportunities to compose music for a diversity of films. Some of these included: Man Afraid (1957), Summer Love (1958), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), and It Came from Outer Space (1953). In 1961 he scored the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, another musical breakthrough in his career which resulted in an Academy Award for the song Moon River from the film. The song used folk influences and was easy to sing. Mancini continued to receive recognition and fame for his film theme songs such as music from the film Days of Wine and Roses (1962) and the well known Pink Panther theme song. No other film composer received as much recognition for theme song composition until Star Wars was released in the 1970s.
Mancini had an appreciation of the art of scoring music to films. A reviewer from the Journal of Popular Film and Television claimed that Mancini's music for the films Touch of Evil (1958) and White Dawn (1974) showed a side of Mancini that many had not seen; the music, in this reviewer's opinion was well composed even though it hadn't been a hit commercially. In later life, Mancini remained busy with the scoring for Victor/Victoria (1982), as well as scores for television shows such as The Thorn Birds (1983), Hotel, Newhart, and Remington Steele.
As a professional musician, Mancini was known to be modest and unpretentious. He made no time for musical elitism, claiming that he had written Moon River in a half hour and that his Italian background helped him musically. Mancini had strong feelings about the role of music in film; he saw the film score as something which facilitated the film rather than standing on its own. Less was more, in his opinion. He hoped that he could "paint pictures with his music." Mancini also felt that his success with such popular compositions as The Pink Panther theme song overshadowed some of his better work; which included the score for Experiment in Terror (1962), Wait Until Dark (1967), and White Dawn (1974).
In his last interview, Mancini claimed that music writing was his therapy, because when he wrote, he thought of nothing else. He continued conducting an average of 30 pops concerts a year and producing albums even after being diagnosed with cancer. He also continued work on the score for an upcoming stage version of Victor/Victoria. Mancini died in 1994 at the age of seventy, from complications of liver and pancreatic cancer. When he died, he left behind a legacy of popular and artistic film music.
Gannett News Service, June 14, 1994.
Independent, June 16, 1994; June 27, 1994.
Journal of Popular Film and Television, March 1, 1996.
Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, March 3, 1994.
USA Today, June 15, 1994.