Ennio Morricone composed unforgettable film scores

Ennio Morricone's last Oscar was in 2016 for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight.
Ennio Morricone's last Oscar was in 2016 for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight.PHOTO: NYTIMES

ROME • Ennio Morricone, whose scores for movies such as The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966), The Mission (1986) and Cinema Paradiso (1988) made him one of the world's most famous and prolific screen composers, has died, Ansa news agency said yesterday. He was 91.

Ansa said Morricone, who won two Oscars and dozens of other awards including Golden Globes, Grammys and Baftas, broke his femur some days ago and died during the night in a clinic in Rome.

His last Oscar was in 2016 for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (2015). He had declined the job, but then relented, demanding that Tarantino allow him a "total break with the style of Western films I wrote 50 years ago".

Morricone wrote for hundreds of films, television programmes, popular songs and orchestras, but it was his friendship with Italian director Sergio Leone that brought him fame, with scores for spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood in the 1960s. They include the so-called Dollars Trilogy - A Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.

Morricone used unconventional instruments such as the Jew's harp, amplified harmonica, mariachi trumpets, cor anglais and the ocarina - an ancient instrument shaped like an egg. The music was accompanied by real sounds such as whistling, the cracking of whips, gunshots and sounds inspired by wild animals including coyotes.

He always tried to shake off the association with the spaghetti westerns, reminding people, particularly those outside Italy, that he had a very creative and productive life before and after the films he made with Leone.

"It's a straitjacket. I just don't understand how, after all the films I have done, people keep thinking about A Fistful Of Dollars. People are stuck back in time, 30 years ago," the Maestro, as he was known in Italy, told Reuters in 2007.

One of his most evocative soundtracks was for The Mission, by Roland Joffe, for which he was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe.

Born in Rome in 1928, Morricone learnt music from his father, a trumpeter in small orchestras. He entered Rome's conservatory at the age of 12, studying trumpet, choral music and composition, and later was chosen to join the orchestra of the prestigious Academy of Santa Cecilia.

He first wrote music for theatre and radio programmes and later was a studio arranger for record labels, working with some of Italy's best-known pop stars of the 1950s and 1960s.

He ghost-composed several film scores before he received his first credit for a feature film for Luciano Salce's Il Federale in 1961.

Morricone married Maria Travia in 1956. They had three sons and a daughter.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2020, with the headline 'Ennio Morricone composed unforgettable film scores'. Print Edition | Subscribe