Composer for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’
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).
Ennio Morricone won an Oscar for “The Hateful Eight” in 2016.