Com­poser for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION / WORLD | OBITUARIES - BY FRANCES D’EMILIO

ROME — Ennio Morricone, the Os­car­win­ning Ital­ian com­poser who cre­ated the coy­ote-howl theme for the iconic Spaghetti Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and of­ten haunt­ing sound­tracks for such clas­sic Hol­ly­wood gang­ster movies as “The Un­touch­ables” and the epic “Once Upon A Time In Amer­ica,” died Mon­day. He was 91.

Mr. Morricone’s long­time lawyer, Gior­gio As­summa, said “the Mae­stro,” as he was known, died in a Rome hos­pi­tal of com­pli­ca­tions fol­low­ing surgery af­ter a re­cent fall in which he broke a leg bone.

Out­side the hos­pi­tal, As­summa read a farewell mes­sage from Mr. Morricone.

“I am Ennio Morricone, and I am dead,” be­gan the mes­sage. In the greet­ing, the com­poser went on to ex­plain that the only rea­son he was say­ing good­bye this way and had re­quested a pri­vate fu­neral was: “I don’t want to bother any­one.”

Dur­ing a ca­reer that spanned decades and earned him an Oscar for life­time achieve­ment in 2007, Mr. Morricone col­lab­o­rated with some of Hol­ly­wood’s and Italy’s top di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing on “The Un­touch­ables” by Brian de Palma, “The Hate­ful Eight” by Quentin Tarantino, “The Bat­tle of Al­giers” by Gillo Pon­tecorvo and “Nuovo Cinema Par­adiso,” an ode to movie houses in Ital­ian small town life, by Giuseppe Tor­na­tore.

The Tarantino film would win him the Oscar for best orig­i­nal score in 2016. In ac­cept­ing, Mr. Morricone told the au­di­ence: “There is no great mu­sic with­out a great film that in­spires it.”

In to­tal, he pro­duced more than 400 orig­i­nal scores for fea­ture films. His iconic so-called Spaghetti Western movies saw him work closely with the late Ital­ian film di­rec­tor Ser­gio Leone, a for­mer class­mate.

Mr. Morricone prac­ti­cally rein­vented mu­sic for Western genre movies through his part­ner­ship with Leone. Their part­ner­ship in­cluded the “Dol­lars” tril­ogy star­ring Clint East­wood as a quick-shoot­ing, lone­some gun­man: “A Fist­ful of Dol­lars” in 1964, “For a Few Dol­lars More” in 1965 and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” a year later.

Mr. Morricone was cel­e­brated for craft­ing just a few notes — like the four notes played on a minia­ture pan flute fa­vored by a char­ac­ter in Leone’s 1984 movie “Once Upon A Time in Amer­ica” — that would in­stantly be­come a film’s mem­o­rable mo­tif.

That movie is a saga about Jewish gang­sters in New York star­ring Robert De Niro and James Woods. It is con­sid­ered by some to be Leone’s mas­ter­piece, thanks in part to Mr. Morricone’s evoca­tive score.

“In­spi­ra­tion does not ex­ist,” Mr. Morricone said in a 2004 in­ter­view with The Associated Press. “What ex­ists is an idea, a min­i­mal idea that the com­poser de­vel­ops at the desk, and that small idea becomes some­thing im­por­tant.”

In his late 80s, Mr. Morricone pro­vided the score for “The Hate­ful Eight,” Tarantino’s 2015 epic and the first time in decades that he had com­posed new mu­sic for a Western.

In ac­cept­ing Mr. Morricone’s Golden Globe for the mu­sic in his place, Tarantino called him his fa­vorite com­poser.

“When I say ‘fa­vorite com­poser,’ I don’t mean movie com­poser . . . . I’m talk­ing about Mozart, I’m talk­ing about Beethoven, I’m talk­ing about Schu­bert,” Tarantino said.

Chicago Sym­phony Orches­tra mu­sic di­rec­tor Ric­cardo Muti said, via state­ment, “[Ennio was] a mae­stro for whom I had friend­ship and ad­mi­ra­tion. I con­ducted his ‘Voices from the Si­lence’ [in 2014], which received a very emo­tional re­sponse from the au­di­ence. An ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­si­cian not only for film mu­sic but also for clas­si­cal com­po­si­tions. Ennio Morricone will be missed as a man and as an artist.”

“Voices from the Si­lence” paid trib­ute to the 9/11 tragedy, and it was Muti who en­cour­aged Mr. Morricone to com­pose the work in mem­ory of all the vic­tims.

Mr. Morricone received his first Oscar nom­i­na­tion for orig­i­nal score with “Days Of Heaven,” a 1978 movie by Ter­ence Mal­ick. Be­sides “The Hate­ful Eight,” the oth­ers were for “The Mission” (1986), “The Un­touch­ables” (1987), “Bugsy” (1991) and “Malena” (2000).

TIZIANA FABI/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Ennio Morricone won an Oscar for “The Hate­ful Eight” in 2016.

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