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He composed the scores for ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘Doctor Zhivago’, ‘Witness’ and ‘Ghost’, to name but a few. On the 90th anniversary of the birth of the great French movie master, we celebrate his greatest film music.
The French master of movie music picked up nine Oscar nominations, and won three – all for his collaborations with legendary British director David Lean. But there were also accomplished soundtracks for such box-office hits as ‘Witness’ and ‘Ghost’. He was also the father of the electronic music composer, Jean Michel Jarre. He’s pictured here winning a lifetime achievement at the Berlinale in February 2009. Photo: AP
Several major composers, including Walton and Arnold, had been approached to write the score for David Lean’s epic. Then producers wanted to use a combination of Britten, Khachaturian and Jarre. In the end, Jarre was tasked to write all the music in just four weeks. He created a majestic sound world that both complemented and added to the action, winning him his first Academy Award.
This French movie – also known as ‘Les Dimanches de Ville d'Avray’ – tells the story of an orphaned girl who is befriended by an innocent but emotionally disturbed war veteran. It was Maurice Jarre's Oscar-nominated score for this film that brought him to the attention of the producers of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
This 1962 film about D-Day featured an all-star cast including John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton and Sean Connery. Jarre's martial theme pre-dates Elmer Bernstein's better-known march for ‘The Great Escape’, but is just as stirring.
Jarre won his second Oscar for another David Lean picture. ‘Zhivago’ is very different to, but just as memorable as ‘Lawrence’. “It is not good to score too many films of the same type,” Jarre said. “The problem with Hollywood is they like to classify you… After ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ they thought I could only write desert music. Then, after ‘Zhivago’, that I could only write snow music.” Lara’s theme from ‘Zhivago’ became a top 20 hit and spent 38 weeks in the pop charts.
This 1966 film, directed by René Clément, was about the liberation of Paris in August 1944 by the French Resistance and the Free French Forces during World War II. Jarre's Golden Globe-nominated music for 'The Paris Waltz' had words added later and became a patriotic anthem sung by Mireille Mathieu under the title 'Paris en colère'.
Another David Lean classic tells the story of a married Irish woman who has an affair with a British officer during World War I, despite opposition from her nationalist neighbours. Jarre's score is at times brash and comical, and sometimes ethereal and deeply moving, with a top notch love theme.
The film follows two rogue ex-officers of the Indian Army - played by Sean Connery and Michael Caine - who set off in search of adventure and end up as kings. Jarre invited Indian musicians to participate in the recording sessions with a traditional symphony orchestra, blending the musical styles, all based around the Irish song 'The Minstrel Boy' which features in the plot.
Jarre produced some of his most haunting music for this 1977 TV miniseries, directed and co-written by Franco Zeffirelli. Robert Powell became the archetypal screen Jesus, with a penetrating blue-eyed stare.
Jarre collected his third Oscar for David Lean’s final film. The composer once said of his relationship with the director, “I owe him everything ... He gave me the best pictures, the opportunity to receive three Oscars for four films – not so bad! – and he gave me his friendship. He was a gentleman. When I lost him, I lost not only a great director, but a great friend.”
The third instalment in the Mad Max series was made six years after the original film. Jarre's score is enchanting, dramatic and menacing but the soundtrack is best remembered for Tina Turner's hit single, 'We don't need another hero'.
Tense, atmospheric and at times very moving, Jarre's score contrasts the story’s traditional world of the Amish - orchestral cues - with the modern world: electronic music, more akin to that of Jarre’s son, Jean Michel. The 'Building the Barn' sequence is masterful.
Starring Sigourney Weaver, this moving and dramatic film told the true story of the naturalist Dian Fossey and her work in Rwanda with mountain gorillas. Jarre's Oscar-nominated, thrilling score was interspersed with three classic Peggy Lee jazz numbers.
Set at a stuffy, conservative school in 1959, the film tells the story of an English teacher - played by the late, great Robin Williams - who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. The BAFTA-winning soundtrack marked Jarre's fourth collaboration with director Peter Weir. They worked together on 'The Mosquito Coast' as well as 'Witness' and 'The Year of Living Dangerously'. Dramatic, passionate and intellectually stimulating music.
The runaway hit of that year, 'Ghost' told the story of a couple separated by a street shooting. The man's ghost tries to avenge his own death and protect his girlfriend. Jarre's music incorporated the Alex North standard, Unchained Melody.
A late masterpiece from Jarre, ‘A Walk in the Clouds’ starred Keanu Reeves and Anthony Quinn. Jarre also scored the film’s songs and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.