Whether he was writing for full orchestra, or electric guitars, sopranos and whistles, Ennio Morricone wrote some of the most memorable film scores in a wide variety of genres. The 91-year-old composer has died in Rome, following a fall that fractured a femur. His movie career, which began in 1961 with Il Federale, picked up steam with the “spaghetti westerns” of director Sergio Leone, including 1966’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Despite the success of those scores, he refused to be pigeon-holed, and as a classically trained trumpet player and composer, Morricone was able to show his versatility in more than 450 films, working with many of the greatest directors. In The Mission, in 1986, he brought together the tradition of western sacred music and the theme of “Gabriel’s Oboe” with the rhythmic singing of the Guaraní people in “On Earth As It Is In Heaven”. Here’s Morricone himself, conducting a concert performance of the multi-layered theme in Venice in 2007.
One of the perennial Morricone favorites, whenever we return to our annual pre-Oscar “At the Movies” celebration, is his score for Cinema Paradiso, which builds to this wonderful scene. Salvatore Di Vita, now a famous filmmaker, watches a reel of film left to him by his old friend, the projectionist named Alfredo, who gave him his first job, and acted as his father figure when he was a young boy. Before being allowed to play in their theater, any film would have to pass the scrutiny of the local priest, who insisted that all hints at romance be censored. This tribute to love is Alfredo’s parting gift.
Morricone won an Oscar in 2016 for the Quentin Tarantino film The Hateful Eight, had five other nominations, and in 2007 received an honorary Academy Award for his “magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.” Some of his other notable films include The Untouchables, Once Upon a Time in America, Days of Heaven, La Cage aux Folles, The Battle of Algiers, and In the Line of Fire.