Maurice Jarre

Maurice Jarre
Background information
Birth name Maurice-Alexis Jarre
Born (1924-09-13)13 September 1924
Lyon, France
Died 28 March 2009(2009-03-28) (aged 84)
Malibu, California, United States
Occupation(s) Composer, conductor
Years active 1958–2001

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Maurice-Alexis Jarre (13 September 1924 – 28 March 2009) was a French composer and conductor, "one of the giants of 20th century film music" who was "among the most sought-after composers in the movie industry" and "a creator of both subtle underscoring and grand, sweeping themes, not only writing for conventional orchestras... but also experimenting with electronic sounds later in his career."

Although he composed several concert works, Jarre is best known for his film scores, particularly for his collaborations with film director David Lean. Jarre composed the scores to all of Lean's films from Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on. Notable scores for other directors include The Train (1964), Mohammad, Messenger of God (1976), Lion of the Desert (1981), Witness (1985) and Ghost (1990).

Jarre was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Three of his compositions spent a total of 42 weeks on the UK singles chart; the biggest hit was "Somewhere My Love" (to his tune "Lara's Theme", with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) by the Mike Sammes Singers, which reached Number 14 in 1966 and spent 38 weeks on the chart.

Jarre was nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning three in the Best Original Score category for Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984), all of which were directed by David Lean. He also won four Golden Globes, two BAFTA Awards, and a Grammy Award.

    Early life

    Jarre was born in Lyon, France, in 1924, the son of Gabrielle Renée (née Boullu) and André Jarre, a radio technical director. He first enrolled in the engineering school at the Sorbonne, but decided to pursue music courses instead. He left the Sorbonne against his father's will and enrolled at the Conservatoire de Paris to study composition and harmony and chose percussion as his major instrument. He became director of the Théâtre National Populaire and recorded his first film score in France in 1951.

    Film scoring

    In 1961 Jarre's music career experienced a major change when British film producer Sam Spiegel asked him to write the score for the 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, directed by David Lean. The acclaimed score won Jarre his first Academy Award and he would go on to compose the scores to all of Lean's subsequent films. He followed with The Train (1964) and Grand Prix (1966), both for director John Frankenheimer, and in between had another great success in David Lean's Doctor Zhivago, which included the lyricless tune "Lara's Theme" (later the tune for the song "Somewhere My Love"), and which earned him his second Oscar. He worked with Alfred Hitchcock on Topaz (1969); though Hitchcock's experiences on the film were unhappy, he was satisfied with Jarre's score, telling him "I have not given you a great film, but you have given me a great score." His score for David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970), set in Ireland, completely eschews traditional Irish music styles, owing to Lean's preferences. The song "It was a Good Time," from Ryan's Daughter went on to be recorded by musical stars such as Liza Minnelli who used it in her critically acclaimed television special Liza with a Z as well as by others during the 1970s. He contributed the music for Luchino Visconti's The Damned (1969), and John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King (1975).

    He was again nominated for an Academy Award for scoring The Message in 1976 for the director and producer Moustapha Akkad. He followed with Witness (1985) and Dead Poets Society (1989), for which he won a British Academy Award.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, Jarre turned his hand to science fiction, with scores for The Island at the Top of the World (1974), Dreamscape (1984), Enemy Mine (1985), and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). The latter is written for full orchestra, augmented by a chorus, four grand pianos, a pipe organ, digeridoo, fujara, a battery of exotic percussion, and three ondes Martenot, which feature in several of Jarre's other scores, including Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, The Bride and Prancer. The balalaika features prominently in Jarre's score for Doctor Zhivago.

    In 1990 Jarre was again nominated for an Academy Award scoring the supernatural love story/thriller Ghost. His music for the final scene of the film is based on "Unchained Melody" composed by fellow film composer Alex North. Other films for which he provided the music include his passionate love theme from Fatal Attraction (1987), and the moody electronic soundscapes of After Dark, My Sweet (1990). He was well respected by other composers including John Williams, who stated on Jarre's death, "(He) is to be well remembered for his lasting contribution to film music...we all have been enriched by his legacy."

    Jarre's television work includes the score for the miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977), directed by Franco Zeffirelli, Shōgun (1980), and the theme for PBS's Great Performances.

    Jarre scored his last film in 2001, a television film about the Holocaust entitled Uprising.

    Music style

    Jarre wrote mainly for orchestras, but began to favour synthesized music in the 1980s. Jarre pointed out that his electronic score for Witness was actually more laborious, time-consuming and expensive to produce than an orchestral score. Jarre's electronic scores from the 80s also include Fatal Attraction, The Year of Living Dangerously, Firefox and No Way Out. A number of his scores from that era also feature electronic / acoustic blends, such as Gorillas in the Mist, Dead Poets Society, The Mosquito Coast and Jacob's Ladder.


    Jarre received three Academy Awards and received a total of nine nominations, eight for Best Original Score and one for Best Original Song. He also won three Golden Globes and was nominated for ten.

    The American Film Institute ranked Jarre's score for Lawrence of Arabia #3 on their list of the greatest film scores. His scores for the following films were also nominated for the list:

    Numerous additional awards include ASCAP's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.


    Jarre was married four times, the first three marriages ending in divorce. His marriage to Francette Pejot (in the 1940s, after World War II), produced a son, Jean Michel Jarre, a French composer who is one of the pioneers in electronic music. In 1965, he married French actress Dany Saval. Together they had a daughter, Stephanie Jarre. Jarre next married American actress Laura Devon (1967–1984), resulting in him adopting her son, Kevin Jarre, a screenwriter, with credits on such films as Tombstone and Glory. From 1984 to his death he was married to Fong F. Khong (1984–2009).


    Maurice Jarre died on 28 March 2009 after a battle with cancer.

    Selected filmography and awards

    Year Title Notes
    1958 Head Against the Wall
    1959 Eyes Without a Face
    1960 Crack in the Mirror
    1962 Lawrence of Arabia Academy Award for Best Original Score
    Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    The Longest Day
    1963 Sundays and Cybele Nominated - Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment
    A King Without Distraction
    1964 Behold a Pale Horse
    The Train
    1965 The Collector
    Doctor Zhivago Academy Award for Best Original Score
    Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (1967)
    1966 Is Paris Burning? Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    Grand Prix
    The Professionals
    1967 The Night of the Generals
    1968 Barbarella
    Villa Rides
    5 Card Stud
    The Fixer
    1969 The Extraordinary Seaman
    The Damned
    1970 The Only Game in Town
    El Condor
    Ryan's Daughter
    1971 Plaza Suite
    Red Sun
    1972 Pope Joan
    The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean Nominated - Academy Award for Best Original Song ("Marmalade, Molasses & Honey")
    The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
    1973 Ash Wednesday
    The Mackintosh Man
    1974 The Island at the Top of the World
    Great Expectations
    1975 The Man Who Would Be King Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    1976 Shout at the Devil
    The Last Tycoon
    1977 Mohammad, Messenger of God Nominated - Academy Award for Best Original Score
    Jesus of Nazareth
    Crossed Swords
    March or Die
    1979 The Magician of Lublin
    The Tin Drum
    Winter Kills
    1980 The Last Flight of Noah's Ark
    The Black Marble
    1981 Lion of the Desert
    1982 Firefox
    Young Doctors in Love
    The Year of Living Dangerously
    1984 A Passage to India Academy Award for Best Original Score
    Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    Top Secret!
    1985 Witness Nominated - Academy Award for Best Original Score
    Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
    Enemy Mine
    1986 The Mosquito Coast Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    1987 No Way Out
    Fatal Attraction
    Gaby: A True Story
    Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    Nominated - Academy Award for Best Original Score
    1989 Chances Are
    Dead Poets Society BAFTA Award for Best Film Music
    1990 Ghost Nominated - Academy Award for Best Original Score
    Jacob's Ladder
    Almost an Angel
    Solar Crisis
    1991 Only the Lonely
    Fires Within
    1992 School Ties
    1993 Fearless
    Mr. Jones
    1994 The River Wild Unused music for the main title sequence, Jarre was replaced by Jerry Goldsmith
    1995 A Walk in the Clouds Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    1996 The Sunchaser
    1999 Sunshine Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score
    2000 I Dreamed of Africa
    2001 Uprising Television film

    See also

    • In the Tracks of Maurice Jarre, a documentary about Jarre.


    External links