Os­car-win­ning film com­poser who scored ‘Love Story’

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Matt Schudel Schudel writes for the Wash­ing­ton Post.

Fran­cis Lai, who won an Academy Award for his heart-tug­ging mu­si­cal score of the block­buster 1970 movie “Love Story” and com­posed the mu­sic for more than 100 films — in­clud­ing the 1966 French hit “A Man and a Woman” — died Wed­nes­day in Nice, France. He was 86.

His death was an­nounced by the mayor of Nice, Chris­tian Estrosi.

Lai be­gan his mu­si­cal ca­reer as an ac­cor­dion­ist and ac­com­pa­nist to renowned French chanteuse Edith Piaf. He was pri­mar­ily a song­writer be­fore he was in­tro­duced to film­maker Claude Lelouch, who in­vited Lai to com­pose a score for “A Man and a Woman” — and then for 35 more films on which they worked to­gether.

“His mu­sic was not just be­guil­ing, but it con­veyed a charm­ing se­duc­tive­ness,” film his­to­rian Jon Burlingame said. “There was some­thing sexy about it.”

The slen­der plot of “A Man and a Woman” re­volved around two wid­owed par­ents — a film as­sis­tant played by Anouk Aimee and a race­car driver played by Jean-Louis Trintig­nant — who fall in love af­ter be­ing brought to­gether by their chil­dren, who at­tend the same school. The film, shot in black and white, in­cludes walks on the beach, all-night drives in the rain and breath­less re­unions of the two cen­tral char­ac­ters.

“A Man and a Woman” re­ceived de­cid­edly mixed re­views, but au­di­ences couldn’t get enough of the film’s ro­man­tic yearn­ing. It shared the grand prize at the 1966 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val.

Be­cause he did not speak English and sel­dom left France, Lai had lim­ited ex­po­sure in Hol­ly­wood be­fore “Love Story,” a 1970 film di­rected by Arthur Hiller and based on a block­buster novel by Erich Se­gal.

Lai twice turned down of­fers to work on “Love Story.” He was fi­nally per­suaded by French ac­tor Alain Delon, who f lew to Paris with Para­mount stu­dio head Robert Evans to show Lai a rough cut of the movie.

“I came out of the screen­ing in­cred­i­bly moved,” Lai told the Los An­ge­les Times in 2001. “I went straight home, sat at my key­board and wrote that theme that very night.”

Sur­vivors in­clude his wife of 50 years, Dag­mar Puetz; and three chil­dren.

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