Henry Mancini is a musician who barely needs any introduction. A man of rare talent, a prolific musician who doled out a slew of television and motion picture scores year after year, for nearly five decades, is rightfully tagged as one of America’s best composers. His contributions in films and music have been so humungous that today, his name has come to be synonymous with television music and motion pictures. With more than 100 films to his credit, Henry Mancini exerted a towering influence on the music of his time and age. Max Adkins, the legendary pianist, triggered his passion for music and gave him valuable lessons on the same. Winner of several prestigious awards, the laurels of his success purely rests on his masterpiece film scores like “The Pink Panther”, “The Glass Menagerie”, “Charade”, “Hataril” and the list is endless. For his overwhelming contribution, he was nominated for 72 Grammys of which he won 20. He was also honored with the Golden Globe Award for his notable contribution. He was the first to introduce jazz into television and film scores that made his works unique. Scroll further to know more about this great personality and his exquisite works.
Henry Mancini’s Childhood and Early Life
Quinto and Anna Mancini, Henry Mancini’s parents were migrants from Italy. Henry Mancini aka Enrico Nicola Mancini was born on April 16, 1924 in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up watching his father work with a local band, playing flute. This generated in Mancini a true love for music. He also got formal training in playing the flute and piccolo. After his birth, the family relocated to the west Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, where he was raised in the small mill townoutside Pittsburgh. Mancini firmed his dedication by receiving piano classes from Pittsburgh concertmaster and a jazz fan, Max Adkins. Adkins inspired many local musicians and among his students were the great Billy Strayhorn and Joshua Feldman, whom is best known to the world as Jerry Fielding. Right after his high school, Henry decided to take his passion for music to the next level. He studied music at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He was tutored by Max Adkins, who taught him the nitty-gritty’s of orchestration before he shifted to the Julliard School of Music in 1942 in New York City. Adkins molded the talents of the budding Mancini and introduced him to Benny Goodman as a capable arranger for Goodman’s band. At Julliard School of Music, one of his important jobs was ghosting for the pianist and the bandleader Vincent Lopez.
Mancini attended the U.S. Army Air Force where he first met Glen Miller. Mancini had a chance to switch from infantry to work in band and an opportunity to work with the singer Tony Martina and other famous personalities as well.He had to discontinue his studies at the Julliard for his military service in the Second World War. During this period, he was introduced to Glen Miller’s Army Air Corps band where he served as the arranger and a pianist, after discharge. Henry Mancini was hired by Tex Beneke as a pianist and arranger after the war as Beneke was in charge of the Miller band on behalf of his widow. Mancini was lucky enough to find his future wife while arranging music for the band, the singer for the Miller band, Ginny O’ Connor.
His took over as a musical assistance and was considered each time a film or program was being initiated. Henry Mancini joined the Universal — International Film Department in the year 1952 at the Hollywood Studios to do a fill in work for Abbott and Costello movie. He achieved the ‘house arranger’ position after impressing the organizers with his scores and thereafter, he went on to work in over 100 films.
Mancini became the lead arranger for the famous scores of ‘The Glenn Miller Story’ in 1954. The film narrated the story of the bandleader Glenn Miller who was personally close to Henry Mancini. This work bagged him his first Academy Award nomination for his genius score writing. In the year 1958, ‘Touch of Evil’ an Orson Welles’ film came as a major breakthrough in his life. In this movie, Welles wanted the tone used to be more realistic and hence utilized the source music for the sound track. There was no virtual interaction between Mancini and Welles. He succeeded to convince Universal to allow him to bring Shelley Manne, Conrad Gozzo and Jack Costanzo who were ace jazz performers to be bought in addition to the studio players. This work is considered by Mancini as one of his bests he had ever attempted and also was the last job for the Universal — International Film Department.
Henry Mancini was hired by a former Universal director, Blake Edwards who had noticed Mancini’s explicit work in ‘Touch the Evil’. Edwards appointed Mancini to write the scores of a television program, which he was directing, ‘Peter Gunn’ in 1958. Edwards had asked Mancini to limit his work to a jazz collective of 11 players since he worked on a small budget. The music was extremely well received and contributed immensely to the popularity of the series. Mancini was grateful to Shorty Rogers for this success as Rogers refused the RCA, which had initially offered Mancini the recording job and upon Rogers’ insistence, they used the composer. The music from ‘Peter Gunn’ turned out to be phenomenal and was well received.
- Touch of Evil (1958)
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
- Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
- Charade (1963)
- Pink Panther, The (1963)
- Great Race, The (1965)
TV Show Theme Songs
- Peter Gunn (1958)
- Mr. Lucky (1959)
- The Pink Panther Show (1969)
- Charlie’s Angels (1976)
Famous TV/ Film Scores:
- "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
- "Creature From the Black Lagoon"
- "Ma and Pa Kettle at Home"
- "The Glenn Miller Story" (received his first Academy Award nomination)
- "The Benny Goodman Story"
- "Touch of Evil"
- "The Music from Peter Gunn" (won the first Grammy Award for Album of the Year)
- "Mr. Lucky"
- "The Richard Boone Show"
- "Baby Elephant Walk" (from the movie "Hatari")
- "The Pink Panther"
- "The Great Race"
- "The Molly Maguires"
- "The Great Waldo Pepper"
- "Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?"
- "Mommie Dearest"
- "The Glass Menagerie"
Sounds and Scores: A Practical Guide to Professional Orchestration. Northridge, CA: Northridge Music, 1962.
Did They Mention the Music? (with Gene Lees), Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1989.
Academy Award Winning Scores:
- "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (1961)
- "Moon River" (1961)
- "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962)
- "Victor/Victoria" (1982)
- Record Of The Year 1962 Grammy Awards
- Best instrumental Arrangement 1963 Grammy Awards
- Best Engineering Contribution (Other than Novelty or Classical) 1963 Grammy Awards
- Record of the year 1964 Grammy Awards
- Best Background Arrangement 1964 Grammy Awards
- Best Instrumental Arrangement 1965 Grammy Awards
- Best Instrumental Composition (Other than Jazz) 1965 Grammy Awards
- Best Contemporary Instrumental Performance 1971 Grammy Awards
- Best Instrumental Arrangement 1971 Grammy Awards
- Lifetime Achievement Awards 1996 Grammy Awards
- Hall of Fame 2005 Grammy Awards
The detective series turned out to be a huge success and the theme song topped the charts for ten weeks and remained among the top 10 songs on the Billboard’s chart for two years. This also bagged him his first Emmy nomination, followed by two Grammy awards.
Impressed by the success of ‘Peter Gunn’, Blake approached Mancini to repeat his magic on ‘Mr. Lucky’ in 1959, which was more of a serious program, based on a professional gambler. Though the program failed to repeat the former success, its scores were even a bigger success. This, in turn, gained him two more Grammy nominations. ‘Blues and the Beat’, which was his first release after he signed a contract with the RCA, also bagged him a Grammy Award. With this, he gained the confidence to work independently.
Followed by the enormous success of his scores, Blake hired Mancini for his Audrey Hepburn starrer ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. The song ‘Moon River’ was the result of the beautiful combination of Henry Mancini and the lyricist Johnny Mercer for a scene with Audrey Hepburn and the song gained enormous popularity. This splendid work earned Mancini and Mercer two Oscars and five Grammys. Mancini and Mercer repeated the magic again in 1962 with the theme song of Edward’s ‘The Days of Wine and Roses’ for which they were honored with Oscars.
‘Hatari’ (Baby Elephant Walk) and ‘The Pink Panther’ (The Pink Panther theme) were Mancini’s instrumental masterpieces. ‘The Pink Panther’ was the most renowned theme song for a movie that involved a detective in search of a jewel thief. This song opened new avenues for Mancini’s and he was awarded with the American Society of Composers and Performers (ASCAP). This outstanding success secured Henry Mancini his legacy in the Hollywood.
Most Successful Of His Time
Henry Mancini was a notable film composer and the best known of his time. His talent of song writing overshadowed his ability to compose songs. His collections ranged from western style to humorous comedy, from sensitive dramas to musicals and he always tried to make it different by experimenting with uncommon instrumentation. Like the steam – driven calliope used for ‘Baby Elephant Walk’, cymbalum for ‘Experiment in Terror’, sitars and fuzz guitars for ‘Arabesque’ and aboriginal percussion while scoring for the television miniseries ’The Thorn birds’. Until the 1980s, he primarily wrote film scores. By that time, he had written all the songs for ‘The Pink Panther’ sequels and for most of the films of Blake Edwards.
With over 40 albums for RCA and 20 Grammy Awards, 7 gold records and 4 Oscars, Henry Mancini’s feats have been outstanding. Mancini’s theme from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ bagged the Grammy Best Song for that year. Mancini had engaged in composing music for Blake Edwards’ films and programs and during his career, he was nominated for 72 Grammy Awards of which he managed to grab as many as 20. He was also nominated for 18 Oscars of which he just won four. He was also nominated for two Emmy Awards. Henry Mancini was indeed the most successful composer of his time. Mancini’s works were though truly inspirational for the new generation composers.
Henry Mancini married the singer of the Miller band, Ginny O’ Connor in the year 1947 after which he had to leave the band to fulfill his desire of pursuing a career in Hollywood. Ginny O’ Connor, had previously worked with Mel Torme’s vocal group, the Mellolarks. Together they raised three children — a son named Christopher, and two daughters, Felice and Monica. The next few years he worked as a free-lance arranger and musician and also appeared on radio shows. Henry Mancini took up the conducting job or the odd orchestration and also played in studio sessions. Henry Mancini hooked up with Nick Castle, a choreographer and also outlined the backing arrangement of various Hollywood actors and singers for their nightclub acts. He earned an entry into ASCAP, the American Society of Composers and Performers based on his work on the tune, ’Soft Shoe Boogie’, which grabbed him an annual award. He had also tuned the ‘Billy Barty’s Vaudeville Act’. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and passed away in the year 1994 at his home in Los Angeles, California.
Various tributes had been organized for this renowned musician by over 20 bands as a means of tribute, in 1996. His children kept his legacies intact. Jack Eliot, a good friend of Henry Mancini, composer and conductor founded the Henry Mancini Institute to honor the well-known musician Henry Mancini. This Institute was built with the intention to promote the appreciation of music by providing intensive training and research programs to the budding talents. On April 14, 2004, the United States Post Office issued a commemorative stamp in order to pay tribute to the prominent compositions of Mancini. On the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Mancini was honored with a star at 6821 Hollywood Boulevard.