Henry Mancini Biography
Henry Mancini (April 16, 1924 – June 14, 1994), was an Academy Award winning American composer, conductor and arranger. He is remembered particularly for being a composer of film and television scores, and won a record number of Grammy awards (including a "Lifetime Achievement" award in 1995).
He was born Enrico Nicola Mancini in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in the Pittsburgh suburb of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His parents came from the Abruzzi region in Italy. Henry´s father Quinto was a steel worker who made his only child learning to play the flute when Henry was 8. When he was 12 he started to study piano. Quinto and Henry played flute together in the Italian immigrant band "Sons of Italy" in Aliquippa. After High School Henry went to the renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York. He only stayed about a year when he was drafted into the army in 1943. In 1945 he participated in the liberation of a South German concentration camp, witnessing all the horror of Nazi inhumanity. Upon discharge, Henry Mancini entered the music industry and became a pianist and arranger for the newly formed Glenn Miller band led by Tex Beneke. His great music love always has been swing and jazz. After WW II Mancini broadened his composition, counterpoint, harmony and orchestration skills with studies with two acclaimed "serious" concert hall composers, Ernst Krenek and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.
In 1952 Mancini joined the Universal-International Studios music department. During the next six years he contributed to over 100 films, most notably "The Creature from the Black Lagoon", "It came from outer space", "Tarantula", "This Island Earth", “The Glenn Miller Story” (for which he received his first Academy Award nomination), “The Benny Goodman Story” and Orson Welles´ “Touch of Evil”. Mancini left Universal-International to work as an independent composer/arranger in 1958. Soon after, he scored the television series “Peter Gunn” for writer/producer Blake Edwards, the genesis of a relationship which lasted over 35 years and produced nearly 30 films. Together with Alex North, Elmer Bernstein, Leith Stevens and Johnny Mandel Henry Mancini was one of the pioneers to introduce jazz music into the late romantic orchestral film and TV scores prevalent at that time. Mancini´s music for the TV series "Peter Gunn" started an exceptional career as one of the most popular and successful film composers. Particularly working on Blake Edwards pictures he was able to develop his popular and much-beloved style of romance and humour. "Breakfast at Tiffany´s" (with the immortal song Moon River), "Days of wine and roses" (another great Mancini song), "Experiment in Terror", "The Pink Panther" and all the sequels, "The Great Race", "The Party", "Victor/Victoria" and many more Edwards pictures helped Mancini to become the sophisticated, subtle, sensitive and original composer he was. Another director who benefitted from Mancini´s polished and elegant suspense and irony scores was Stanley Donen (Charade, Arabesque, Two for the road). He also wrote a score for the Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy (1972) that was ultimately rejected and replaced by a score by Ron Goodwin. Mancini wrote scores for Howard Hawks (Hatari, Man´s favorite sport), Martin Ritt (The Molly Maguires), Vittorio de Sica (Sunflower), Norman Jewison (Gaily Gaily), Paul Newman (Sometimes a great notion, The Glass Menagerie), Stanley Kramer (Oklahoma Crude), George Roy Hill (The Great Waldo Pepper), Arthur Hiller (Silver Streak) and Ted Kotcheff (Who is killing the great chefs of Europe?), to name just a few.
He was nominated for an unprecedented 72 Grammys, winning 20. Additionally he was nominated for 18 Academy Awards, winning four. He also won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for two Emmys.
He also wrote scores for many television films, including “The Thorn Birds ” and “The Shadow Box” as well as television themes including “Mr. Lucky,” “NBC News Election Night Coverage,” "NBC Mystery Movie Theme", “Newhart,” “Remington Steele” and “Hotel”. Mancini also composed the "Viewer Mail" theme for Late Night with David Letterman.
Mancini recorded over 90 albums in styles ranging from big band to jazz to classical to pops, 8 of which were certified gold by The Recording Industry Association of America. He had a 20 year contract with RCA resulting in 60 commercial record albums that made him a household name of sophisticated easy listening music. But Henry Mancini´s talents were much more elaborate than this label would suggest. He could handle big orchestral and ethnic scores with equal powerful and rousing ease (Lifeforce, The Big Mouse Detective, Sunflower, Molly Maguires, The Hawaiaans). Unfortunately film producers and directors did not ask him too often to display darker and deeper sides of his one of a kind musical personality (Experiment In Terror, The White Dawn, Wait Until Dark, The Night Visitor).
He was also a concert performer, conducting over fifty engagements per year, resulting in over 600 symphony performances in his lifetime. Among the symphony orchestras he conducted are the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He appeared in 1966, 1980 and 1984 in command performances for the Royal Family. He has also toured many times with Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams who have sung many of Mancini's songs. 1996 the Henry Mancini Institute was founded. Here music students can further their professional experiences in a career in music business. Until his untimely death Henry Mancini was married to singer Virginia O´Connor and had three children, twin daughters Monica and Felice and son Christopher. Monica Mancini is a singing and recording artist herself. One of her albums was a selection of her father´s most haunting and beloved songs.
Henry Mancini had a unique musical style and approach which is characterized by an unmistakable airiness, breeziness and lightness and an often natural-sounding simplicity and clarity hiding more complex intricacies. His music is highly aesthetic and romantic, fresh, charming, innocent, refined and noble, sophisticated and elegant, not to forget his ironic sense of humour and boyish stealth. Mancini´s most profound influences were swing, jazz, latin, soul and the subtle and sensitive orchestral colours of French impressionism (Ravel, Debussy). His cultivated sense of unconventional sounds and orchestrations together with the elegantly melodic approach made him an outstanding composer. In his later years Henry Mancini had the appearance of a mild-mannered, noble Italian aristocrat. He was the ultimate musical Gentleman seducer with his appealing and warm-hearted music. According to the composer himself the elegiac theme from "Two for the road" and the Oscar-winning score for "Victor Victoria" are two of his most outstanding creations. Especially "Victor Victoria" epitomizes all the best in Mancini: jazzy and hauntingly melancholy songs, understated ironic humour, utmost elegance, atmospheric period pieces, subtle underscoring. There will never be another Henry Mancini. His was an exceptional mixture of innocence and sophistication, humanity and humour.
He died at age 70 in Beverly Hills, California of pancreatic cancer, not being able to finish his work on the Broadway stage version of "Victor Victoria" starring Julie Andrews and directed by Blake Edwards which opened on October 25, 1995 and ran for 735 performances.
Mancini won a total of four Oscars for his music in the course of his career. He was first nominated for an Academy Award for his original score of The Glenn Miller Story, on which he collaborated with Joseph Gershenson, in 1955, losing out to Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In 1962 he was next nominated in the Best Music, Original Song category for "Bachelor in Paradise" from the film of the same name, in collaboration with lyricist Mack David. That song did not win; however, Mancini did receive two Oscars that year: one in the same category, for the song "Moon River", shared with lyricist Johnny Mercer; and one for "Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture" for Breakfast at Tiffany's. The following year, he and Mercer took another Best Song award for "Days of Wine and Roses", another eponymous theme song. His next eleven nominations went for naught, but he finally garnered one last statuette working with lyricist Leslie Bricusse on the score for Victor/Victoria, which won the "Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score" award for 1983. All three of the films for which he won were directed by Blake Edwards.