Sadly, earlier this week the world lost one of the greatest composers ever to grace the big screen, Ennio Morricone. During his illustrious career, Morricone scored over 400 films and left a large mark on the filmmaking world. To celebrate his life, we’re taking a look back and recounting some of our favourites scores.
His lawyer, Giorgio Assumma, spoke on his passing, “He said goodbye to his beloved wife Maria, who accompanied him with dedication in every moment of his human and professional life and was close to him until his final breath, and thanked his children and grandchildren for the love and care they have given him. He gave a touching remembrance to his audience, whose affectionate support always enabled him to draw strength for his creativity.”
Morricone penned his own obituary, which was read aloud by Assumaduring his public address. “I Ennio Morricone am dead. Thus I announce it, to all my friends who have always been close to me and also to those who are a little far away, whom I greet with great affection, it’s impossible to name everyone [but mentions members of his family and close friends, closing with words for his wife] I renew to you the extraordinary love that has held us together, and I am sorry to abandon you. To you the most painful farewell.”
Born in Rome in 1928, Morricone first learned to play the trumpet and wrote his first composition at age six. He then studied classical music and after graduating began writing scores for theatre and radio and soon was hired as an arranger by the RCA label in Italy and began ghostwriting for pop artists. But it was, undeniably, his film scores that brought him his most success. He began in the mid-1950s as an orchestrator for other film composers, working alongside many incredible directors including Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio de Sica and Dino Risi. He then quickly progressed to composing his own scores, establishing his name with his work on Luciano Salce’s, Il Federale (The Fascist).
During his immense career, Morricone worked with many genres and filmmakers, but it is hard to look past his stretch during the 1960s where he scored for Sergio Leone, famously, on the Dollars trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. His use of whistling melodies and a blending of symphonic elements became synonymous with the western genre (you just did the iconic whistle from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly didn’t you?) Leone spoke about Ennio’s influence on his Dollar trilogy, “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”.
Renown film composer Hans Zimmer was among those first to pay tribute, saying he was “devastated… Ennio was an icon and icons just don’t go away, icons are forever … his music was always outstanding and done with great emotional fortitude and great intellectual thought”.
Quentin Tarantino has spoken endlessly about both Leone and Morricone’s influence upon himself and their collaboration saw Morricone receive his only Oscar outside of his lifetime achievement award. Tarantino also used his music in Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained.
Other famous films that Morricone scored include The Thing (John Carpenter) Cinema Paradiso (Guiseppe Tornatore) The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo), Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick), The Untouchables (Brian De Palma), Lolita (Stanley Kubrick) and the La Cage aux Folles Trilogy (Edouard Molinaro).
To celebrate the master’s influence on the world of Cinema, we want to take a moment and list our top 5 pieces from his esteemed work.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
It’s easy to start with the film that saw the name Morricone reach the ears of the latest generation of cinephiles, it’s also Tarantino’s only film to receive a completely original score and it saw Morricone win his only Oscar for Best Original Score.
Days of Heaven (1978)
Morricone produced one of his greatest American scores for DAYS OF HEAVEN and perfectly complimented Terrence Malick’s deeply resonate thematics. This score also marked Morricone’s first Oscar nomination.
The Untouchables (1987)
This Oscar-nominated score came at the time when Morricone began working less and less on film scores and opting for live concertos instead, but once again showcased the composer’s undeniable talent of accompanying music to a moving image.
The Thing (1982)
Morricone’s eery (and underrated in our opinion) and most moody scores, evoking the isolation of the film’s story and setting and incredible suspense that compliments the master of 80’s horror, John Carpenter.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)
You didn’t think we wouldn’t have this on the list did you? It’s undeniable, this work has shaped the landscape of the western and is immortalized in cinema history.