At the age of 87 and after composing over 500 scores for film and televison, Ennio Morricone has finally won an Oscar for the music from Quentin Tarantino’s film, The Hateful Eight. Although Morricone won an honorary Academy Award in 2007 he had never won for a specific soundtrack. He has previously been nominated 5 times:
1979 Terrence Malick Days of Heaven
1986 Roland Joffé The Mission
1987 Brian De Palma The Untouchables
1991 Barry Levinson Bugsy
2000 Giuseppe Tornatore Malèna
Perhaps his most famous composition was the theme for the 1966 Spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly, (Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo) directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, Aldo Giuffrè and Mario Brega. It is considered one of the greatest and most influential film soundtracks ever written. The soundtrack album made it to No.4 on the US charts.
Hugo Montenegro and his orchestra had a huge hit in 1968 with a cover version of the song reaching No.2 in the US only held off the top spot by Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson coincidentally also from a film, The Graduate starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft. In November 1968 Montenegro’s cover version reached No.1 in the UK and stayed there for 4 weeks.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly was the third film in a trilogy that included A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) and For A Few Dollars More (1965). Despite their success, at the time this genre was subjected to a certain amount of disrespect and consequently wasn’t recognised by the film establishment. Here’s the films that were nominated for an Academy Award that year including the winner John Barry’s Born Free, the title song sung by Matt Monro.
Born Free – John Barry
The Bible: In the Beginning – Toshiro Mayuzumi
Hawaii – Elmer Bernstein
The Sand Pebbles – Jerry Goldsmith
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Alex North
If you are interested in reading about Matt Monro in the archive and his Bond song From Russia With Love, go here”
Ennio Morricone’s Spaghetti Western soundtracks with his crackling treble twang guitars and gunslinger intense, dripping desert sweat atmosphere are a perfect compliment to Leone’s brilliant direction. A screenplay written with collaborators, Agenore Incrocci, Furio Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Donati and a talented director of photography Tonino Delli Colli, between them creating stimulating widescreen cinematography, an intriguing plot, tension, trickery and humour incorporating skills beyond human accomplishment exaggerated in rousing and thrilling finales. But Morricone’s talents also run deep and with such a gigantic body of work one marvels at his breadth of vision, the immensity of his catalogue and the huge importance of his work throughout the history of cinema.
Morricone, a trumpet player from Rome that dosen’t speak English well and has never courted Hollywood, finally get’s what he deserves – just fifty years too late.