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Mention the name Henry Mancini and immediately the image is conjured up to a tall, elegantly attired, debonair figure seated at a grand piano, effortlessly knocking off top tunes like Moon River and Dear Heart. "Hank" as he is affectionately known in the industry, is actually a great deal more complicated than that.
Having plied his trade as an arranger for the Tex Beneke Band in the late 1940s and before that as a promising student at Juilliard, Mancini made the transition to film scoring with no difficulty:
Of course, since those days, Henry Mancini has been a prime force in providing music of a consistently high caliber whether it be cool jazz, mainstream pop or symphonic. Hank's attitude about scoring for films really applies to everything he has written:
And with Henry Mancini, it does work!
PETER GUNN AND MR. LUCKY (1958-1961)
Mancini's landmark jazz-colored score for director Orson Welles' film noir classic,
A Touch of Evil (1958), was directly responsible for bringing the composer to the attention
of his since longtime associate Blake Edwards. Director Edwards had been looking for
just the right creative individual to score his new television series about a very suave,
sophisticated private detective named Peter Gunn. Craig Stevens filled the title role
with style while Lola Albright as Gunn's girlfriend, Edie Hart, and Herschel Bernardi as
Lt. Jacoby added colorful support. The popular series aired from September 1958
Mr. Lucky followed in October 1959. This series was based on the famous film of the same name made by RKO Studios in 1943, starring Cary Grant and Larraine Day. The weekly series revolved around Lucky, a professional albeit honet gambler who operates a swank floating casino called The Fortuna. Ross Martin played the role of Lucky's loyal sidekick. Andamo while handsome John Vivyan took the title role. The last telecast was in September of 1960.
The successful series translated into an equally successful series of LPs comprised of music culled from the various episodes. Speedy Gonzales was originally composed for a guitar solo with orchestra and was featured on the RCA album, Mr. Lucky Goes Latin.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961)
Based on the Truman Capote novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's solidified the Henry Mancini / Blake Edwards partnership. Audiences were utterly charmed by Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly, wayward wife and darling of the exclusive New York Cafe Society, while Moon River with lyrics by Johnny Mercer quickly entered the pantheon of pop standards, establishing Mancini as a leading composer and an important new voice.
DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (1962)
1962 found both director Blake Edwards and Henry Mancini in peak form. Their latest project was Days of Wine and Roses based on the harrowing J. P. Miller teleplay first broadcast on Playthouse 90. The film starred Jack Lemmon (Joe) and Lee Remick (Kirsten) as an upwardly mobile couple who descend into the nightmare of alcoholism. Both were nominated for Academy Awards but unfortunately lost out to very stiff competition (Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker and Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird). The title song, however, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, did win.
The chief attribute of director Howard Hawks' 159 - minute African adventure is a series of very well mounted big game chases over the Kenyan Veldt. John Wayne heads a group of hunters who earn their living by trapping wild animals for zoos. Mancini greatly enjoyed working with Hawks:
He's always been conscious of music's role. Hatari was a series of incidents without a rigid storyline. They were very colorful incidents, and every little piece was a story in itself. Several could have been taken out of the movie and no one would have known. Two of them, in particular, Howard had doubts about. "Let me see what I can do", I said. One was the baby elephant sequence. I wrote a piece for it and the music proved to be very effective, one of the most successful pieces in the picture.
According to one noted critic, director Stanley Donen's Charade sports more red herrings than a fish market! Obviously influenced by Alfred Hitchcock's approach to filmmaking, the story concerns Regina Lambert (Audrey Hepburn), the murder of her husband and the ambiguous Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). The theme song with lyrics by Johnny Mercer was an enormous hit and has managed to survive nicely apart from the film.
THE PINK PANTHER (1964)
Urbane David Niven, gorgeous women (Claudia Cardinale and Capucine), handsome
Robert Wagner and laughs galore were not the only benefits of this Blake Edwards
vehicle (incidentally, Edwards co-authored the uproarious script with Maurice
Richlin). The world was introduced to the unforgettable French sleuth, Inspector Jacques
Clouseau, played to perfection by one of the legends of the cinema, Peter Sellers. The
co-called Pink Panther was not the Clouseau character as many think, but in fact, a
DEAR HEART (1964)
Henry Mork (Glenn Ford) and Evie Jackson (Geraldine Page) are two middle agers who meet and fall in love at, of all places, a post office convention in New York. Delbert Mann directed the film with warmth and understanding. The song, Dear Heart featured lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.
MOMENT TO MOMENT (1966)
Pretty Jean Seberg plays Kay Stanton who accidentally shoots her lover following a quarrel. The stunning French Riviera backdrop and Mancini's music (again with title song lyrics supplied by Johnny Mercer) more than compensated for the many plot inconsistencies. Meryn LeRoy directed.
TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967)
Albert Finney (Mark Wallace) and Audrey Hepburn (Joanna Wallace) shone as a couple with serious marital difficulties. Eventually they settle their differences and reassert the feelings which originally brought them together. Frederic Raphael was nominated for an Oscar on behalf of his screenplay. Director Stanley Donen capitalized on the stunning French locals of Beauallon, St. Tropez, Nice and Paris.
THE MOLLY MAGUIRES (1970)
Based on a real life incident chronicled in Lament For the Molly Maguires by Arthur H. Lewis, this film, directed by Martin Ritt, graphically depicts the horrible conditions endured by the anthracite miners of eastern Pennsylvania circa the 1870s. Jack Kehoe (Sean Connery) is the leader of a secret union brotherhood known as the Molly Maguires who are resolved to correct the inhuman treatment of the miners with violence and sabotage as standard tools. Jamec McParlan (Richard Harris), a Pinkerton agent, successfully infiltrates the group thereby maneuvering the capture of Kehoe and hopefully an end to the trouble. Although the film was a box office disaster, the superlative music score was vivid proof that Henry Mancini could compose a serious symphonic statement.
THE WHITE DAWN (1974)
For obvious practical reasons, very few films have been made on location in the Arctic
Circle. For that reason alone, The White Dawn is noteworthy. Billy (Warren
Oates), Daggett (Timothy Bottoms) and Portagee (Lou Gossett) are three whalers who take
refuge with an Eskimo tribe in the 1890s, having been stranded. The clash of the two
disparate cultures proves to be too great and culminates in violence and death. Despite
some clever stylistic devices like an opening sequence filmed in black and white and
the use of subtitles for the authentic Eskimo language, the film was not particularly well
THE GREAT WALDO PEPPER (1975)
"I felt incredible freedom, but then I thought-What am I doing here?" Robert Redford
was somewhat ambivalent in regard to some wing-walking at 3000 feet for a film permeated with spectacular aerial stunts. World War I pilot, Waldo Pepper (Robert
Redford) pursues a life of barnstorming and Hollywood stuntwork, all the while seeking
the elusive German ace Ernst Kessler (Bro Brundin) for a "rematch," a quest that ends
in an exciting aerial confrontation. George Roy Hill directed a screenplay by William
Goldman which was in turn derived from an original idea by Hill. Supporting players
VICTOR/ VICTORIA (1982)
An obscure German film of 1933, Viktor und Viktoria was the impetus for Blake Edwards' smash hit of 1982. Julie Andrews excelled as an unemployed singer who becomes an overnight sensation when she poses as a female impersonator. James Garner, Robert Preston, Lesley Anne Warren and Alex Karas romped through the saucy, funny plot convolutions rendered in such a harmless way as to earn the film a PG rating. The delightful score featured some witty material with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and showcased the singing talents of Julie Andrews, Robert Preston and Lesley Anne Warren.
THE THORN BIRDS (1983)
ABC's four part miniseries, a total of 10 hours, aired during March of 1983. Adapted from the best seller by Colleen McCullough, the story dealt with a priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart (Richard Chamberlain) who is torn between his vows of celibacy and the love of a beautiful woman, Meggie Clearly (Rachel Ward) amidst the scenic Australian Outback. Concurrently, the story traced the dynastic struggles associated with Droghedor, a huge Australian cheep ranch from its early days to 1962. Mancini's score was a particularly eloquent accompaniment to the searing passions of this epic.
Henry Mancini has always had one foot firmly planted in the concert hall, no doubt a result of the intense formal training he received as a young man. His talents as an arranger, conductor and pianist are well documented in a fantastically successful series of recordings made for RCA during the last 25 years, comprising not only film and TV material but pure "pops" compositions as well.
March With Mancini consists of four tunes: Timothy (from Peter Gunn), March of the Cue Balls (from Mr. Lucky), The Swing March (from the 1966 film, What Did You Do In the War, Daddy?) and the march from The Great Race (1965).
Drummer's' Delight, Strings On Fire and Symphonic Soul have self-explanatory titles and are perfect examples of Mancini's expertise at constructing light, entertaining concert works. Each of these pieces, as well as the other items included in Henry Mancini's extensive catalogue of compositions, should be ample proof to anyone that herein resides one of the most talented professionals in the world of music.
25 YEARS OF THE PINK PANTHER
It's been a full 25 years since that roguish little panther character bowed his pink head.
This, of course, was during the opening credits of The Pink Panther (1964), the first in
a long running series. This silent, diminutive rascal was devised by David DePatie and
Fritz Freleng. The legendary animator, Fritz Freleng, it should be remembered, earned
hic reputation for some marvelous work at Warner Brothers: Bugs Bunny and the Three
Bears (1944); Tweety Pie and Sylvester(1947);
Captain Hareblower (1954); Rabbitson
Crusoe (1956), and so forth. DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, as they officially called
themselves, received special recognition for their effort. The opening credit sequence
- Allen Cohen
Mancini quotations taken from:
Film Score: The View from the Podium. Edited and Introduced by Tony Thomas. A. S. Barnes and Company 1979.
During the recording of the digital masters and the
subsequent transfer to disc, the entire audio chain
Cover Photo: Tom Zimberotf
Recording Producer: Robert Woods
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