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On this Day in Movie History, June 14, 1994: Henry Mancini Dies

On this day, June 14, 1994, American composer, conductor and arranger, Henry Mancini dies. Best remembered for his film and television scores he was noted for such soundtracks as Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961); Days of Wine and Roses (1962); Charade (1963); “Peter Gunn” (1958)’; The Pink Panther (1963); Two for the Road (1967); Touch of Evil (1958); Hatari! (1962); The Great Race (1965); Experiment in Terror (1962); Victor Victoria (1982); Dear Heart (1964) and “The Thorn Birds” (1983).

Born in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland, Henry Mancini grew up near Pittsburgh, in the steel town of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His parents emigrated from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Mancini’s father, Quinto, a steelworker, made his only child begin piccolo lessons at the age of eight. When Mancini was 12 years old, he began piano lessons. Quinto and Henry played flute together in the Aliquippa Italian immigrant band, “Sons of Italy”. After graduating from Aliquippa High School in 1942, Mancini attended the renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York.

In 1943, after roughly one year at Juilliard, his studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the United States Army. Fortuitously, shortly after he joined the U.S. Army in World War II, Mancini was reassigned to the band unit This actually saved his life. The unit to which he had originally been assigned was wiped out to a man in the Battle of the Bulge.

In 1952, he was given a two-week assignment at Universal to work on an Bud Abbott and Lou Costello film and ended up staying for six years. Success with The Glenn Miller Story (1954) allowed him to score many other films. Injecting jazz into the traditional orchestral arrangements of the 1950s, he changed the style of film background music.

He had a 20 year contract with RCA Records, resulting in 60 commercial record albums that made him a household name of easy-listening music. His many albums, mostly for RCA, sold in the millions, and included: “Music from ‘Peter Gunn’” (1958), “Music from ‘Mr. Lucky’” and “The Mancini Touch” (1959), “Combo” and “Mr. Lucky Goes Latin” (1960), “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), “Our Man in Hollywood” and “Charade” (1963), “The Concert Sound of Henry Mancini”, “The Best of Mancini” and “The Pink Panther” (1964), “‘The Second Time Around’ and Other Favorites” (1966), “Mancini ’67″ and “Encore!: More of the Concert Sound of Henry Mancini” (1967), “A Warm Shade of Ivory” (1968), “Six Hours Past Sunset” (1969), and “Big Screen – Little Screen” (1972). He also had a Number 1 single with “Love Theme from ‘Romeo and Juliet’” in 1969.

Beginning with his 1969 hit A Time for Us (Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet) and its accompanying album A Warm Shade of Ivory, Mancini began to function more as a piano soloist and easy-listening artist primarily recording music written by other people. In this period, for two of his best-selling albums he was joined by trumpet virtuoso and Tonight Show bandleader Doc Severinsen.

Among Mancini’s orchestral scores are (Lifeforce, The Great Mouse Detective, Sunflower, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, Molly Maguires, The Hawaiians), and darker themes (Experiment in Terror, The White Dawn, Wait Until Dark, The Night Visitor).

Mancini was also a concert performer, conducting over fifty engagements per year, resulting in over 600 symphony performances during his lifetime. He conducted nearly all of the leading symphonies of the world, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

He was nominated for 18 Oscars and won four; in addition, he won 20 Grammys and 2 Emmys, made over 50 albums and had 500 works published. Mancini collaborated extensively with Blake Edwards — firstly on TV’s “Peter Gunn” (1958), then on Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), which won him two Oscars; he won further Oscars for the titles song for Days of Wine and Roses (1962) and the score for Victor Victoria (1982); he will be best-remembered for the theme tune for The Pink Panther (1963).

Mancini died of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles on June 14, 1994. He was working at the time on the Broadway stage version of Victor/Victoria, which he never saw on stage.

Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984, he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording.

1916 – Dorothy McGuire (actress: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Gentlemen’s Agreement, The Young and the Restless, Rich Man, Poor Man, Little Women [TV: 1979], The Last Best Year; died Sep 13, 2001)

1919 – Gene Barry (Eugene Klass) (actor: Bat Masterson, Burke’s Law, The Name of the Game, War of the Worlds, A Cry for Love, Our Miss Brooks, La Cage aux Folles; died Dec 9, 2009)

1919 – Sam Wanamaker (actor: Superman 4, Private Benjamin, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Taras Bulba; director: The Executioner, Killing of Randy Webster, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger; died Dec 18, 1993)

1931 – Marla Gibbs (actress: Up Against the Wall, 227, The Jeffersons, The Meteor Man)

1954 – Will Patton (actor: Fled, Copycat, Natural Causes, The Client, Midnight Edition, Dillinger, No Way Out, Desperately Seeking Susan, Silkwood; Obie Award-winner: Tourists and Refugees #2)

1968 – Yasmine Bleeth (actress: Nash Bridges, Baywatch, Titans)

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