About this Recording
8.557825 - MANCINI: Music of Henry Mancini (The) (arranged by Richard Hayman)
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Henry Mancini (1924-1994)

Among light music fans and film-buffs the now familiar handful of popular tunes and ‘standards’ left by composer, song-writer, arranger pianist and conductor Henry Mancini are tinged with the halo of nostalgia. The recipient of twenty Grammies, four Oscars, eighteen Oscar nominations and various other ‘lifetime’ awards, Enrico (‘Henry’) Nicola Mancini was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 16th April 1924, and grew up in West Aquilippa, Philadelphia. A proficient multiinstrumentalist, from an early age he was an adept pianist and also took up the flute (the latter courtesy of his steelworker father, a music-lover who was himself an amateur piccolo-player in the Aqilippa, Philadelphiabased Sons of Italy Band). During his early training at the Carnegie Institute Music School in Pittsburgh, Henry was also steadily drawn towards jazz and big band and developed a keen interest in arranging. In 1942 he entered the New York Juilliard Graduate School but by 1943 was drafted into the US Air Force, where he remained until 1946, primarily in the capacity of military band musician.

After demobilisation Mancini became pianistarranger with Tex Beneke’s recently re-vamped Glenn Miller Orchestra and from 1947, in Los Angeles, worked variously as a nightclub freelancer and radio staff arranger, undertaking advanced training in composition in his spare time with, among others, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) and Ernst Krenek (1900-1991). In 1951 he joined the staff of Universal Pictures, working under music director Joseph Gershenson (1904-1988) in the dual capacity of arranger and composer. His unique talents were thus brought to bear on various genres of film, ranging from musicals including the major Hollywood biopics The Glenn Miller Story, which earned him his first Academy Award nomination, in 1954, and The Benny Goodman Story (1955) to B-westerns (Four Guns To The Border, 1954), slapstick (Abbott And Costello Meet The Keystone Cops, 1955), gangster comedies (Mister Cory, starring Tony Curtis, 1957) and monster movies. In the latter category his mastery of ‘suspense atmosphere’ produced backgrounds for such titles as The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), Tarantula and Francis In The Haunted House (both 1956) and Man Afraid (1957) and by the time he contributed to the Citizen Kane-inspired The Great Man (starring José Ferrer, 1956) and the classic Orson Welles ‘late film noir’ masterpiece Touch Of Evil (Mancini’s first complete scoring, in 1958) he had evolved, in the words of Nicolas Slonimsky, into “one of the most adroit composers of melodramatic music”.

As a composer in his own right Mancini first reached a wider audience in 1959 when, recently released from contract by Universal (their association continued freelance), he was commissioned to write a Hollywood-style ‘cool jazz’ score for the American hit television series Peter Gunn. Another, equally successful series, Mr. Lucky, followed a year later, and Mancini would thereafter maintain a close professional link, working on both television and more than twenty big-screen engagements, with the creator of the series, director, producer and screenwriter Blake Edwards (born 1922). His subsequent television series and film scores included NBC Mystery Movie (1971), Remington Steele (1982), The Thorn Birds (1983), Fear (1990) and Never Forget (1991). In total Mancini would receive five television awards.

Mancini’s other film-scores include, as partcomposer or arranger, Lost In Alaska (an Abbott and Costello comedy, Mancini’s entrée to Universal, in 1952), It Came From Outer Space (1953), The Far Country (1954) and Flood Tide (1958). As principal composer his credits include High Time (20th Century Fox, 1960; Mancini scored, but the Oscar nomination went to Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn for the song ‘The Second Time Around’, sung by Bing Crosby), Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Paramount, 1961; two Oscars – for best score and best song ‘Moon River’, lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Mancini’s own film album was a twelve-week No.1.), The Great Imposter (United Artists, 1961), Days Of Wine And Roses (Warner, 1962; Oscar for title-song, lyrics again by Mercer), Hatari (Paramount, 1962; this included the famous boogiewoogie- inflected ‘Baby Elephant Walk’), The Pink Panther (United Artists, 1963; Oscar nomination for Mancini for the theme – a contemporary Top Forty hit single for saxophonist Plas Johnson, and later a favourite accompaniment to cartoons), Charade (Universal, 1963), A Shot In The Dark (United Artists, 1964), The Great Race (Warner, 1965 – included the song ‘The Sweetheart Tree’), Two For The Road (20th Century Fox, 1967), The White Dawn (Paramount, 1973), The Return Of The Pink Panther (United Artists, 1975), ‘10’ (Warner, 1979; Oscar nomination for the song ‘It’s Easy To Say’), Victor/Victoria (MGM, 1982; Academy Award for score – lyrics by Leslie Bricusse; adapted for Broadway; produced posthumously, in 1995), The Man Who Loved Women (Columbia, 1983), Life Force (a 1985 vampire saga; for Cannon, GB), That’s Life (Columbia, 1986; Oscar nomination for song ‘Life In A Looking Glass’), The Glass Menagerie (Cineplex, 1987), Blind Date (Tri-Star, 1987), Switch (Columbia, 1991), Tom And Jerry: The Movie (a cartoon, for First Independent, 1992) and Son Of The Pink Panther (United Artists, 1993).

In parallel with his work in films and television, Mancini enjoyed a prolific and successful career as a commercial recording artist, primarily for RCA-Victor, maintaining until the mid-1960s something of a pop celebrity status. After about 1965 he continued, however, to write dramatic background music for films, ranging from box-office ‘top-grossers’ to abject failures. As a conductor or guest pianist (and conductor) his impact was more unequivocal; on tour he averaged fifty concert appearances a year and charted, between 1959 and 1977 with 38 LP albums, eighteen of which were bestsellers that made the Top Forty. Among his biggest recording successes were the hit-single of his own arrangement of the love-theme from Nino Rota’s film-score to Zeffirelli’s Romeo And Juliet (a two-week No.1 for Mancini in 1969) and his album of the score of Alec North’s The Long Hot Summer (for MCA, 1958). While innovative, the concert suite for orchestra, Beaver Valley ’37, completed about 1970, harked back to earlier Mancini themes.

Henry Mancini died in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles, California, on 14th June 1994.

Peter Dempsey


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