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  • Sarah E. Mason

Honoring The Maestro: Legendary Composer Ennio Morricone dies at 91

Legendary Italian film composer Ennio Morricone died today at his home in Rome. He was 91. In a career that spanned over 70 years, "Maestro" as he was so dubbed, produced some of the most memorable movie sounds of all time including his iconic scoring of Sergio Leone's "Spaghetti Westerns".

Morricone collaborated multiple times with Leone who once said of his friend and classmate, "The music is indispensable, because my films could practically be silent movies, the dialogue counts for relatively little, and so the music underlines actions and feelings more than the dialogue," explained Leone. "I’ve had him write the music before shooting, really as a part of the screenplay itself.”

Clint Eastwood starred in three of Leone’s films that Morricone scored, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964), FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). In 2007 Eastwood presented Morricone with an Honorary Oscar which he accepted through a translator as he never became fluent in English. He also never wanted to move to Hollywood despite being offered villas by the studio. He preferred to stay in his native Italy.

Despite overwhelming peer consensus of his genius and, five Oscar nominations, he did not win his first competitive Oscar until 2016 for his scoring of Quentin Tarantino's THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015). Tarantino was a big fan of Morricone and used several of his compositions in his other films. Morricone was set to score INGLORIOUS BASTERDS (2009) but had to back out because he had not quite finished another project and was steadfastly committed to completely work to perfection.

Morricone did not like the term "Spaghetti Western" and insisted his work in the genre was only a fraction of his career. Too true as he scored many other popular films of the past 40 years: LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (1978), John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982), Roman Polanski’s FRANTIC (1988). Morricone's ability to evoke emotions with his sounds was second-to-none: The heart- wrenching scene at the end of CINEMA PARADISO (1989) when the now-grown "Toto" watches the kiss montage, the hauntingly beautiful and serene sound of Gabriel's oboe underscoring the horrific destruction of life in THE MISSION (1986), relief and triumph after a long-bloody battle to take down Al Capone in Brian de Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987).

In 1984 the U.S. distributor of the film ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA failed to submit the paperwork for Morricone's score to be considered for an Oscar, depriving him of what many believe would have been his first win.

Stanley Kubrick was also a huge fan of Morricone. Kubrick asked Mr. Leone, who was working with Morricone on his film DUCK YOU SUCKER (1971) if Morricone could take time to score his film, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Leone insisted Morricone was too busy. He wasn't. The Maestro said he would regret missing out on the opportunity till his dying day.

Morricone scored over 500 films, the last, THE CANTERVILLE GHOST, an upcoming animated adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic story. Morricone is survived by his wife, Maria Travia and four children, Andrea, Giovanni, Alessandra and Marco.