Composer, Musical Director
( b. Sep 13, 1924 Lyon, FRANCE - d. Mar 28, 2009 Malibu, California, USA ) Male
Maurice Jarre, a composer who mastered the musical idiom of the Hollywood epic and was nominated nine times for Academy Awards, winning three, died Saturday in Malibu. He was 84.
Mr. Jarre (pronounced Zhar) won all three of his Academy Awards for films directed by David Lean, whose exotic locales served as fodder for Mr. Jarre’s lush musical imagination. Whether evoking the deserts of Arabia for “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), the Russian steppes for “Dr. Zhivago” (1965) or the Indian subcontinent in “A Passage to India” (1984), Mr. Jarre’s vivid scoring for percussion — he was a percussionist himself — his use of wide intervals to suggest vast landscapes and his appropriation of musical modes indigenous to the films’ settings, made the music a crucial element of the romance and spectacle of the stories.
He may be best known for the melancholy melody that was the prime leitmotif from the score of “Dr. Zhivago,” Mr. Lean’s heart-tugging love story set in Russia during World War I and the Russian Revolution, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. Associated with Ms. Christie’s character, the theme, a lilting tune with a seeming sigh of longing attached to each phrase, was repeated again and again during the film with different instrumentation, most notably the balalaika. It came to be known as “Lara’s Theme” and became a standard of easy listening, a staple of elevators and dentist’s offices; when words were added by Paul Francis Webster, the song became known as “Somewhere, My Love” and was recorded by Connie Francis, Ray Conniff and many others.
For decades, Mr. Jarre was among the most sought-after composers in the movie industry. He was a creator of both subtle underscoring and grand, sweeping themes, not only writing for conventional orchestras (sometimes augmented by the more exotic instrumentation of other cultures) but also experimenting with electronic sounds later in his career. He was prolific; he contributed music to more than 150 movies of a wide variety: dramatic and comic, ponderous and light-hearted, artsy and baldly mercenary, high-minded and trashy.
The films included the World War II epic “The Longest Day” (1962) and the Neil Simon sex comedy “Plaza Suite” (1971); the exploitative tale of interracial lust on an antebellum Southern plantation, “Mandingo” (1975) and Volker Schlöndorff’s adaptation of Günter Grass’s Holocaust novel, “The Tin Drum” (1979); a modern thriller of sexual obsession, “Fatal Attraction” (1987), a biography of Dian Fossey, who lived in Africa among the apes, “Gorillas in the Mist” (1988) and the gentle drama of schoolboys and their idealistic teacher, directed by Peter Weir, “Dead Poets Society” (1989).
Mr. Jarre composed music for five movies directed by Mr. Weir, including the electronic scores for “The Year of Living Dangerously” (1982) and “Witness” (1985). When he collaborated with the director Jerry Zucker on the fantasy drama “Ghost,” (1990), he was nominated for the ninth time for an Oscar.
Maurice Alexis Jarre was born Sept. 13, 1924, in Lyon, France. His early compositions were not for film but for the theater; during the 1950’s he was associated with France’s Théâtre National Populaire. He composed his first film scores for the French director Georges Franju. He made his breakthrough in Hollywood when the producer Sam Spiegel heard his score for the film “Sundays and Cybele,” which eventually won an Oscar for best foreign language film, and he hired him to work on “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Mr. Jarre worked with many legendary directors, including Alfred Hitchcock (“Topaz”), John Huston (“The Man Who Would Be King”) and Luchino Visconti (“The Damned”). It is an oddity, perhaps, that his most successful partner in Hollywood was one he met so early on, Mr. Lean, with whom he made four films; the only one for which he did not win an Oscar was “Ryan’s Daughter,” (1970), an unhappy love story set in Ireland during World War I about an adulterous affair that is the s