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Henry Mancini

Reinventing Film Music

John Caps

Publication Year: 2012

Through film composer Henry 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. 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 movie 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 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. 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 the film to create musical effects through clever instrumentation, eloquent musical gestures, and meaningful resonances and continuities in his scores. Accessible and engaging, this fresh view of Mancini's oeuvre and influence will delight and inform fans of film and popular music.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Music in American Life

Title Page

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pp. ix-xii

Thanks go out to Ginny and Monica Mancini for their cooperation and encouragement of this book, to Michelle Weis at Henry Mancini Enterprises for photo research and multiple helps, but particularly to Laurie Matheson, senior acquisitions editor at University of Illinois Press for, first, bothering to read through my monstrously...

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Introduction: Here Was Something Fresh

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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...

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1. Allegheny River Launch

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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...

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2. Not Quite Jazz

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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...

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3. The Music Factory

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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...

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4. Big Screen, Little Screen

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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...

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5. Blake Edwards and the High Times

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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...

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6. Career Crescendos

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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...

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7. First Cadence

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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...

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8. The Break with Blake

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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...

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9. Off to See the World

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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...

Illustrations follow page 148

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10. Back to Television?

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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...

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11. The Curse of the Pink Panther

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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...

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12. Maturity, the Second Cadence

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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...

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13. Frustration

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pp. 193-202

One look at Mancini’s handwritten sketches for his score to the largescale space alien film Lifeforce (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...

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14. Stolen Moments

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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...

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15. A Closing Door That Wasn’t There Before

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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 romp Skin Deep (1989) about an alcoholic...

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16. Almost to Broadway

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pp. 224-239

For thirteen years since Blake Edwards’s successful experience with Julie Andrews on the film Victor/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...

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17. Looking Back, Looking On

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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...

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pp. 245-252

As described in this text, Mancini worked on many motion picture scores at Universal Studios between 1952 and 1958 as a staff composer. These were most often partial scores to which he contributed only a limited number of music cues in collaboration with other staff composers...


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pp. 253-258


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pp. 259-262


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pp. 263-284

back cover

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p. 285-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780252093845
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036736

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Music in American Life