Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Henry Mancini

Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music

John Caps
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Henry Mancini
    Book Description:

    Henry Mancini, the first publicly successful and personally recognizable film composer in history, has practically become a Hollywood brand name. In his lifetime, he sold thirty million albums and won four Oscars and twenty Grammy awards. Through Mancini, mere background music in movies became part of pop culture--an expression of sophistication and wit with a modern sense of cool and a lasting lyricism that has not dated._x000B__x000B_The first comprehensive study of Mancini's music, Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music describes how the composer served as a bridge between the Big Band period of World War II and the impatient eclecticism of the Baby Boomer generation, between the grand formal orchestral film scores of the past and a modern American minimalist approach. Mancini's sound seemed to capture the bright, confident, welcoming voice of the middle class's new efficient life: interested in pop songs and jazz, in movies and television, in outreach politics but also conventional stay-at-home comforts. As John Caps shows, Mancini easily combined it all in his music._x000B__x000B_Mancini wrote his first dramatic music for a radio series in 1950. By the mid-1960s, he wielded influence in Hollywood and around the world with his iconic scores: dynamic jazz for the noirish detective TV show Peter Gunn, the sly theme from The Pink Panther, and his wistful folk song "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Following the evolution of Mancini's style, Caps traces the history of movie scoring in general: from the jazz-pop of the 1960s to the edgier, electro-funk harmonies of the Watergate 1970s, from the revisionist 1980s marked by New Age trends and new jazz chords to the frustrating New Hollywood of the 1990s when films were made by committees of lawyers rather than by artisans._x000B__x000B_Through insightful close readings of key films, Caps traces Mancini's collaborations with important directors and shows how he homed in on specific dramatic or comic aspects of each film to create musical effects through clever instrumentation, eloquent melodies, and the strong narrative qualities of his scores. Accessible and engaging, this fresh view of Mancini's oeuvre and influence will delight and inform fans of film and popular music.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09384-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Here Was Something Fresh
    (pp. 1-4)

    It is no accident that Henry Mancini became the first publicly successful and personally recognizable film composer in history—practically a brand name in pop culture. He was perfectly placed, by time and temperament, to be a bridge between the traditions of the big band period of World War II and the eclectic impatience of the baby boomer generation that followed, between the big formal orchestral film scores of Hollywood’s so-called Golden Years and a modern American minimalist approach. On the one hand, his respect for pre-wartime pop and movie music represented continuity, even advocacy, of tradition. On the other...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Allegheny River Launch
    (pp. 5-11)

    Born in cleveland, Ohio, in 1924 as Enrico Nicola Mancini, the young Henry would grow up just over the Pennsylvania border in the steel town of West Aliquippa, where two great rivers, the Allegheny and the Monongahela, come together to become the Ohio River, not far from Pittsburgh. Mancini’s father, Quinto, worked for a while at the Jones and Laughlin Steel mills there and was known in the local community as something of a loner. To Henry he was always something of a mystery. Quinto was a laborer all his life, yet he voted with management for Republican candidates; as...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Not Quite Jazz
    (pp. 12-22)

    Once Mancini was released from active army duty in March 1946, he went home to West Aliquippa. His father was urging him to return to Juilliard and graduate. But Max Adkins was supportive of Henry’s wish to strike out on his own toward a job with some big recording/touring band. Only a few nationally successful bands were still doing the travel circuit. Mancini remembered the band that had impressed him most before the war among those that had passed through the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh: the early Fletcher Henderson group. But since Mancini’s old master sergeant in the army was...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Music Factory
    (pp. 23-43)

    The Universal Studios staff composers were a highly organized, well-oiled team, able to score any sort of film, any story or setting, albeit with fairly generic music and always in a rush. Indeed, film scoring assignments came crowding down the studio hallways toward their offices like cattle in a chute, like that huge crab in costello’s alley. Finish one film score and on to the next or, more often, finish onewhileworking on the next. By the time Mancini arrived there, Joseph Gershenson had deputized Milt Rosen to help him run things—Rosen being a transplanted Juilliard graduate who...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Big Screen, Little Screen
    (pp. 44-61)

    For baby boomer Americans of the late 1950s, television was taking the place of an evening at the movies. Young families liked the idea of dialing in two or three TV stations and choosing their own entertainment without having to drive into town. And thus it was decreed that television would become the new assembly line of prepackaged film and entertainment products, albeit in the new short form of the TV series. How ironic, then, that the studio that copied its product line so shamelessly from the mainstream studios—sci-fi tales after Twentieth century Fox’s success, musicals after MGM, cheap...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Blake Edwards and the High Times
    (pp. 62-84)

    The rising star of Mancini was also bringing Blake Edwards up in the world. Edwards’s success in television more or less assured he could return to the movies with a lot more clout than he had known just a few years before at Universal. Of course, he had begun as an actor (see him inStrangler of the Swamp[1946]) and after that as a successful radio writer; then film writing, then TV. He first directed film in 1955,Bring Your Smile Along, while the aforementionedMister Corywas his first professional contact with Henry Mancini. Personally, they were a...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Career Crescendos
    (pp. 85-96)

    One major outcome of Mancini’s success with Blake Edwards, his bestselling albums, and the growing shelf of his awards was that now other directors, even famous classic veteran directors, the past kings of the cinema, were starting to take notice of his music, trying to get him on the phone to talk about the musical possibilities oftheirnext pictures. Again, he was writing traditionally satisfying music that they could understand, yet it had a modern slant toward the younger audiences they wanted to court. The great Howard Hawks was one of those directors. Just now he was hoping to...

  11. CHAPTER 7 First Cadence
    (pp. 97-109)

    Thus far in his film scoring career Mancini had been pursuing the multimelodic approach with great success, but what he wanted was to evolve beyond that, to write a more consolidated kind of score, music with its own internal order that proceeds like a parallel narrative to the film’s own. After all, contemporary composers like Elmer Bernstein (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Jerry Goldsmith (A Patch of Blue, Freud) were doing just that. All Mancini lacked was a strong storytelling film. It did not matter if it was in a pop melodic language or a descriptive orchestral form; he just...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Break with Blake
    (pp. 110-121)

    Even as Mancini was evolving in his scores for directors like Stanley Donen and Terence Young, Blake Edwards was still making films that required him to retrofit the old multi-themed jazz-pop to their soundtracks. Still, there are quantifiable refinements to the big band blends and scoring details to be noted in the next two Mancini/Edwards projects.

    Probably no one cared in 1967 whether Edwards brought back his familiar television detective, Peter Gunn, in any form. In that era of the far more brash and thrilling James Bond craze, with its international intrigue and million-dollar stunts, Gunn’s wry local gumshoe must...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Off to See the World
    (pp. 122-148)

    The break in Mancini’s work with Blake Edwards was a private event that seemed to put his future career into a state of flux. But he sensed a chance to advance, an opportunity in the making, when a phone call reached him at that songwriting contest in Rio. It sounded like an emergency: Paramount Studios calling. They had been bankrolling a gritty film about the 1876 Irish coal miners’ strike in Pennsylvania calledThe Molly Maguires(1970), and the project was in trouble. Although director Martin Ritt had achieved an authentic brooding look to his film through the cinematography of...

  14. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  15. CHAPTER 10 Back to Television?
    (pp. 149-162)

    Like any workingman returning from a business trip overseas, Mancini had a lot of mail, untaken calls, and business proposals waiting for him when he came back from his London debacle. His still strong sense of ambition and the disciplined need to keep busy, an anxiety perhaps inspired by his father’s skepticism and his own family responsibilities, kept him searching for new outlets for his music. He also wanted to continue his progress with narrative scoring. Surprisingly, the most cordial offers he was getting now, the jobs with the most leeway for original scoring, were coming from television—TV movies...

  16. CHAPTER 11 The Curse of the Pink Panther
    (pp. 163-180)

    As Mancini describes in his autobiography, he and Ginny had rented a beach house in Malibu. From the porch one midday he spotted Blake Edwards walking out by the water. Years had gone by since they had spoken seriously; Edwards was still embittered over his experience makingDarling Liliand still believed that Mancini had somehow sided with the studio to second-guess him about the film’s alleged weaknesses. He distrusted the whole Hollywood system after that, especially when they recut and botched his next (non-Mancini) film,Wild Rovers(1971). He began casting around town for any film property he could...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Maturity, the Second Cadence
    (pp. 181-192)

    It may seem odd to associate “maturity” with the music of Henry Mancini in the second half of the 1970s when clearly all of his most influential work was already past, having been produced between, say, 1958 and 1969. Maturity in this case does not mean a permanent evolution away from jazzpop and toward exclusively large-scale formal symphonic scoring, although there would be more of that. Maturity now means that Mancini had learned to deal with all kinds of music: to be able to write, in the same year as those resolute songs for10,an anti-thematic orchestral score for...

  18. CHAPTER 13 Frustration
    (pp. 193-202)

    One look at Mancini’s handwritten sketches for his score to the largescale space alien filmLifeforce(1985) reveals how important the job was to him, coming at this stage of his career. At last someone was offering him the kind of blockbuster science fiction epic that John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, and even the young guys like James Horner (Brainstorm[1984]) and Alan Silvestri (The Abyss[1989 ] ) were getting. WithLifeforcehe might join the new ruling class of film composers on its own terms. Mancini’s conductor sketch sheets of this new score are practically black with notes, dense...

  19. CHAPTER 14 Stolen Moments
    (pp. 203-215)

    In that spirit of life appraisal and conciliation, Mancini turned over some of his own music papers and archives to the UCLA collection, at the same time establishing an ongoing scholarship there for students interested in film music composition. He tried to strike up a new recording contract with the Nippon columbia company in Japan and released two CDs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (one collecting his neglected film themes and one offering recent pop-rock hits), but although they were well produced, Nippon did not seem to know how to market them. And equally unfairly, he signed up to score...

  20. CHAPTER 15 A Closing Door That Wasn’t There Before
    (pp. 216-223)

    In four upcoming film deals with the New Hollywood, Mancini would feel so betrayed that he would wish seriously to have his name removed from being credited at all. First was the salacious Blake Edwards rompSkin Deep(1989) about an alcoholic LA writer who plows his way through a list of sexual encounters (including a famously crude gag about glow-in-the-dark condoms), trying to thwart a bad case of writer’s block. Even though the main character, played by John Ritter, has a preference for the songs of cole Porter, what we got on the soundtrack was another gallery of 1980s...

  21. CHAPTER 16 Almost to Broadway
    (pp. 224-239)

    For thirteen years since Blake Edwards’s successful experience with Julie Andrews on the filmVictor/Victoria, he had been renewing the theatrical rights to the property, the story and characters, at considerable expense. His longtime producer and partner Tony Adams was urging him to do something with it or cut it loose. One idea was to take its song-and-dance aspects to Broadway. But for Edwards to suddenly tackle the wholly untried medium of the stage musical at the age of seventy-one seemed perilous and slightly mad. On the other hand, what a vehicle it would be for Julie Andrews. Now age...

  22. CHAPTER 17 Looking Back, Looking On
    (pp. 240-244)

    In the end, Henry Mancini should be remembered for three contributions to popular culture: first the reinventing, the freshening of film scoring in the 1960s. Before that a formal European symphonic style of music had served generations of movie soundtracks in the 1930s and 1940s until composers like Alex North and Elmer Bernstein brought city jazz and Leonard Rosenman and David Raksin brought atonal and chromatic styles to Hollywood in the 1950s. None of that music seemed quite right for the free-spirited, forwardlooking, optimistic baby boomer stories and movie stars that followed. For that young Kennedy-era generation, Mancini offered his...

  23. Appendix
    (pp. 245-252)
  24. Notes
    (pp. 253-258)
  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-262)
  26. Index
    (pp. 263-278)
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-287)