Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre dies at 84

By Calvin Palmer

Oscar-winning composer Maurice Jarre died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 84 after suffering from cancer.

During his career, French-born Jarre had written more than 150 film scores and worked with famous directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, John Huston and Luchino Visconti.

He won his first Oscar for Lawrence of Arabia in 1962 and three years later was awarded a second statuette for Doctor Zhivago, famous for the tearful balalaika of Lara’s Theme. Both films were directed by David Lean.

A third Oscar came in 1984 for best original music score for A Passage to India, another collaboration with Lean.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy paid tribute to a “great composer,” praising his “majestic and full-bodied works, popular and classical music”.

“By working with some of the greatest filmmakers in the world, he showed that music can be just as important as pictures to make a beautiful and successful film,” said Sarkozy.

Jarre also wrote the score for Witness directed by Peter Weir in 1985 and joined Weir again in 1989 to compose the music to Dead Poets Society.

Other music scores include Ghost in 1990 and I Dreamed of Africa in 2000.

Jarre ‘s film scores also won Golden Globes and BAFTA British film awards. He also wrote music for theatre and ballet.

Born in Lyon in 1924, Jarre was studying engineering when he switched to music. He recounted being inspired by the works of conductor Leopold Stokowski.

He studied percussion and joined French composer Pierre Boulez who was working for a Paris theatre.

In 1952 Jarre wrote his first score, for the short Hotel des Invalides, at the request of director Georges Franju.

“In filmmaking, the composer is always the last link,” Jarre said in a newspaper interview few years ago.

“Often you find yourself working with a producer who can’t wait to release his film. So you have to work quickly. For Lawrence of Arabia, I was given six weeks to write two hours of music.”

Jarre moved to the United States in the mid-1960s and briefly settled in Switzerland before returning to Los Angeles.

During his last public appearance in Europe, he was awarded a Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival in recognition of his life’s work.

His son Jean-Michel Jarre rose to prominence as a composer in his own right with the worldwide electronic music sensation Oxygene in 1976. He also has a daughter Stephanie and second son Kevin.

Jarre is due to be cremated on Thursday at a ceremony in Los Angeles.

[Based on a report by AFP news agency.]

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