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Ennio Morricone: Cinema Paradiso + Once Upon a Time in the West Composer Getting Honorary Oscar

Ennio Morricone young: Composer + multiple Academy Award nominee to take home Oscar
Ennio Morricone began his prolific film scoring career when he was in his early 30s. Among his best-known compositions are those for Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986), Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987), and Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso (1988). Ennio Morricone will finally take home an Academy Award – and Honorary Oscar – at the 2007 ceremony.

Prolific film composer Ennio Morricone to receive Honorary Oscar

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

During the course of his 45-year career, prolific composer-conductor Ennio Morricone has created more than 500 musical scores for film and television productions. Despite his monumental – both in terms of quantity and quality – output, Morricone has never taken home an Academy Award.

That will change on Feb. 25, when he’ll be picking up an Honorary Oscar for his contributions to world cinema. More than a film composer, Morricone has not infrequently been the lone savior of poor films made memorable as a result of his compositions.

Spaghetti Western renown: Sergio Leone collaborations

Born in Rome on Nov. 10, 1928, Ennio Morricone started composing film music in his early 30s. According to the IMDb, his first big-screen credit was on Luciano Salce’s 1961 comedy The Fascist / Il Federale, starring Ugo Tognazzi.

In the next few years, Salce and Morricone would collaborate on a number of other films, among them Crazy Desire (1962), The Little Nuns (1963), Slalom (1965), and El Greco (1966).

But Morricone would find himself an international musical hit thanks to his collaborations with another filmmaker, Sergio Leone, who helped to popularize the Spaghetti Western subgenre. Morricone-Leone titles include A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), starring Clint Eastwood.

The duo reached their Spaghetti peak with Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), which features the composer’s signature score. After more than a decade apart, they would be reunited in 1984, when Morricone wrote the music for Leone’s U.S.-made gangster drama Once Upon a Time in America.

Other Italian-made Westerns featuring Ennio Morricone’s music include those directed by Sergio Corbucci (Navajo Joe, The Great Silence), Tonino Valerii (My Name Is Nobody), and Damiano Damiani (A Genius, Two Friends, and an Idiot).

Prestigious collaborations & eclectic list of titles

In Italian cinema, it was not uncommon for directors to work with the same composer numerous times. Nino Rota became associated with Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. Armando Trovajoli with Vittorio De Sica. Alessandro Cicognini with De Sica and Alessandro Blasetti. And in Hollywood, Pino Donaggio formed a professional partnership with the Italian-American Brian De Palma.

Ennio Morricone would be no exception. The difference is that the perennially busy composer would become associated with the work of multiple filmmakers.

Besides Sergio Leone and Luciano Salce, there would be Pier Paolo Pasolini, Dario Argento, Mauro Bolognini, Elio Petri, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuliano Montaldo, French filmmaker Henri Verneuil, and, more recently, Giuseppe Tornatore.

Below is a long – though hardly comprehensive – list of Ennio Morricone collaborations:

  • Bernardo Bertolucci: Before the Revolution (1964), Partner (1968), 1900 (1976), La Luna (1979), Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981).
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Hawks and the Sparrows (1966), Teorema (1968), The Decameron (1971), The Canterbury Tales (1972), Arabian Nights (1974), Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). Ennio Morricone also composed the music for Marco Tullio Giordana’s Who Killed Pasolini? (1995).
  • Giuliano Montaldo: Grand Slam (1967), Machine Gun McCain (1969), The Fifth Day of Peace (1970), Sacco & Vanzetti (1971), Giordano Bruno (1973), And Agnes Chose to Die (1976), the TV miniseries Marco Polo (1982), Control (1987), The Gold Rimmed Glasses (1987), Time to Kill (1989).
  • Mauro Bolognini: Arabella (1967), He and She (1969), The Splendid November (1969), The Inheritance (1976), Lady of the Camelias (1980), The Venetian Woman (1986), Farewell Moscow (1987), Husbands and Lovers (1991).
  • Pasquale Festa Campanile: The Girl and the General (1967), When Women Had Tails (1970), When Women Lost Their Tails (1972), Hitch-Hike (1977), The Good Thief (1980), Porca vacca (1982).
  • Elio Petri: A Quiet Place in the Country (1968), Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), Lulu the Tool (1971), Property Is No Longer a Theft (1973), Todo Modo (1976), Good News (1979).
  • Henri Verneuil: Guns for San Sebastian (1968), The Sicilian Clan (1969), The Burglars (1971), The Serpent (1973), The Night Caller (1975), I… For Icarus (1979).
  • Dario Argento: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971), The Stendhal Syndrome (1996), The Phantom of the Opera (1998).
  • Giuseppe Tornatore: Cinema Paradiso (1988), Everybody’s Fine (1990), A Pure Formality (1994), The Star Maker (1995), The Legend of 1900 (1998), Malèna (2000), The Unknown Woman (2006).

Once Upon a Time in the West theme by Ennio Morricone. Sergio Leone directed Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, and Claudia Cardinale.

Ennio Morricone goes international

In the late 1960s, the now renowned Ennio Morricone began collaborating with filmmakers outside Italy, especially in Hollywood.

Below are a few more movies improved by Morricone’s art.

  • Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966), Burn! (1969), Ogro (1979).
  • Alberto Lattuada’s Matchless (1967), Fraulein Doktor (1969), Stay as You Are (1978).
  • Edouard Molinaro’s La Cage aux Folles (1978).
  • Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978).
  • John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).
  • Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986).
  • Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987), Casualties of War (1989), Mission to Mars (2000).
  • Roman Polanski’s Frantic (1988).
  • Pedro Almodóvar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990).
  • Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990).
  • Barry Levinson’s Bugsy (1991).
  • Margarethe von Trotta’s The Long Silence (1993).
  • Ricky Tognazzi’s La Scorta (1993), Vite strozzate (1996), Canone inverso – Making Love (2000), the TV movie The Good Pope: Pope John XXIII (2003).
  • Warren Beatty’s Bulworth (1998). Beatty also starred in two other movies featuring Ennio Morricone’s music: Bugsy and Glenn Gordon Caron’s Love Affair (1994).
  • Lajos Koltai’s Fateless (2005).
Cinema Paradiso Salvatore Cascio: Ennio Morricone music key has role in emotional climax
Cinema Paradiso: Ennio Morricone composed the music for Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1989 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award winner. Morricone’s now classic score failed to be nominated for a Best Original Score Oscar, likely because Tornatore’s homage to cinema opened in the United States only in 1990. That was the Academy’s loss, as the music, which plays a crucial role in the film’s emotional climax, ended up recognized by both the British and the Italian film academies. Pictured is Salvatore Cascio as the young Totò, who eventually grows up to look like Marco Leonardi and, later, Jacques Perrin.

Ennio Morricone’s Oscar nominations + BAFTA & David di Donatello wins

Thus far, the still very much active Ennio Morricone has received five Best Original Score Oscar nominations, all but one of them for his English-language films: Days of Heaven, The Mission, The Untouchables, Bugsy, and Malèna.

Morricone has been luckier with the British Academy of Film & Television Arts, having won five times, once again mostly for his “English-language work”: Days of Heaven, Once Upon a Time in America, The Mission, The Untouchables, and Cinema Paradiso (which opened in the U.S. in 1990; it was thus ineligible for the 1989 Oscars, when Tornatore’s drama topped the Best Foreign Language Film category).

Moreover, Morricone has received 12 nominations for the Italian Cinema Academy’s David di Donatello Awards, winning six times: The Gold Rimmed Glasses, Cinema Paradiso, Everybody’s Fine, Roberto Faenza’s Look to the Sky (1993), The Legend of 1900, and Canone inverso – Making Love – in addition to the Academy’s 50th Anniversary David.

In 1995, he was honored with the Career Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The composer’s current project, Leningrad, has been announced for a 2008 release. (Update: Featuring Ennio Morricone’s score, Giuliano Montaldo’s Fyodor Dostoevsky biopic starring Predrag ‘Miki’ Manojlovic and Carolina Crescentini was released as The Demons of St. Petersburg / I demoni di San Pietroburgo.)

Young Ennio Morricone image: Via La Repubblica.

Salvatore Cascio Cinema Paradiso image: Les Films Ariane / Miramax Films.

“Ennio Morricone: Cinema Paradiso & Once Upon a Time in the West Composer Gets Honorary Oscar” last updated in January 2019.

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