Ennio Morricone has long been one of the most noteworthy figures in cinema, from his early work composing with lifelong friend Sergio Leone with the Dollars trilogy, through Once Upon A Time In The West to Once Upon A Time In America. The works of Leone were often defined by the involvement of Morricone, with his score for The Good The Bad And The Ugly firmly etched into the annals of cinema history as one of its most recognisable motifs. Morricone’s work throughout the Dollars trilogy acts wonderfully as a partner to the changing nature of each picture, from the relatively slight A Fistful Of Dollars to the swirling epic conclusion with the masterful “Ecstasty Of Gold” at its forefront.
Morricone never stopped working and was rewarded with his only Oscar, following 5 previous nominations, aged 87 in 2016 for his acclaimed work on Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (Tarantino had featured pieces by Morricone in Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained) which was the pair’s only collaboration. It is remarkable that such a lengthy and eclectic career produced only one Oscar win, however he did win numerous other accolades throughout his much-lauded career, including 6 BAFTA awards.
In addition to his frequent and distinctive work with Leone, Morricone worked with many of cinema’s finest directors of the 20th century, including with Brian De Palma on the The Untouchables and Mission To Mars, Terrence Mallick’s Days Of Heaven and John Carpenter’s The Thing. One of Morricone’s most acclaimed and most personal works was with his son Andrea for 1988’s Cinema Paradiso. Morricone also had a chart hit for his involvement with the BBC series The Life & Times Of David Lloyd George.
Following the news of Morricone’s death, there has been an outpouring of love from both fellow composers and film directors and actors. Amont those to pay tribute have been Edgar Wright, Hans Zimmer and AR Rahman. Wright said “He could make an average movie into a must see, a good movie into art, and a great movie into legend. He hasn’t been off my stereo my entire life. What a legacy of work he leaves behind. RIP.”
Morricone leaves behind an array of work and a legacy that few film composers can match, with an incredible array of genres and an amazing 400+ credits to his name. His work with Sergio Leone in particular will go down as some of the most important ever put to screen, but his importance doesn’t end there, and film lovers will come to have admiration for his dexterity and range in the years to come.
Words by Chris Connor