Henry Mancini

Henry Mancini (April 16, 1924 – June 14, 1994)[1] was an American composer, conductor and arranger, best remembered for his film and television scores. He won a record number of Grammy Awards (20), including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995. His best-known works are the jazz-idiom theme to The Pink Panther film series (“The Pink Panther Theme“), the Peter Gunn Theme from the television series, and “Moon River“. Mancini was born and raised Enrico Nicola Mancini in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the steel town of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His parents emigrated from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Mancini’s father, Quinto, was a steelworker, who made his only child begin piccolo lessons at the age of eight. When Mancini was 12 years old, he began piano lessons. Quinto and Henry played flute together in the Aliquippa Italian immigrant band, “Sons of Italy”. After graduating from Aliquippa High School in 1942, Mancini attended the renowned Juilliard School of Music in New York. In 1943, after roughly one year at Juilliard, his studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the United States Army. In 1945, he participated in the liberation of a concentration camp in southern Germany.

“Baby Elephant Walk”

Upon discharge, Mancini entered the music industry. In 1946, he became a pianist and arranger for the newly re-formed Glenn Miller Orchestra, led by Tex Beneke. After World War II, Mancini broadened his composition, counterpoint, harmony and orchestration skills during studies with two acclaimed “serious” concert hall composers, Ernst Krenek and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.[2]

In 1952, Mancini joined the Universal Pictures music department. During the next six years, he contributed music to over 100 movies, most notably The Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, This Island Earth, The Glenn Miller Story (for which he received his first Academy Award nomination), The Benny Goodman Story and Orson WellesTouch of Evil. Mancini left Universal-International to work as an independent composer/arranger in 1958. Soon after, he scored the television series Peter Gunn for writer/producer Blake Edwards, the genesis of a relationship which lasted over 35 years and produced nearly 30 films. Together with Alex North, Elmer Bernstein, Leith Stevens and Johnny Mandel, Henry Mancini was one of the pioneers who introduced jazz music into the late romantic orchestral film and TV scores prevalent at the time.

1965 album Sarah Vaughan Sings the Mancini Songbook

Mancini’s scores for Blake Edwards included Breakfast at Tiffany’s (with the standard “Moon River“) and Days of Wine and Roses (with the title song, “Days of Wine and Roses“), as well as Experiment in Terror, The Pink Panther (and all of its sequels), The Great Race, The Party, and Victor/Victoria. Another director with whom Mancini had a longstanding partnership was Stanley Donen (Charade, Arabesque, Two for the Road). Mancini also composed for Howard Hawks (Man’s Favorite Sport?, Hatari! — which included the well-known “Baby Elephant Walk“), Martin Ritt (The Molly Maguires), Vittorio de Sica (Sunflower), Norman Jewison (Gaily, Gaily), Paul Newman (Sometimes a Great Notion, The Glass Menagerie), Stanley Kramer (Oklahoma Crude), George Roy Hill (The Great Waldo Pepper), Arthur Hiller (Silver Streak),[3] Ted Kotcheff (Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?), and others. Mancini’s score for the Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy (1972) was rejected and replaced by Ron Goodwin‘s work.

Andy WIlliams singing “Moon River” in 1961.

Mancini scored many TV movies, including The Thorn Birds and The Shadow Box. He wrote his share of television themes, including Mr. Lucky (starring John Vivyan and Ross Martin), NBC News Election Night Coverage, NBC Mystery Movie,[4] What’s Happening!!,[5] Newhart, Remington Steele, Tic Tac Dough (1990 version) and Hotel. Mancini also composed the “Viewer Mail” theme for Late Night with David Letterman.[4] Lawrence Welk held Mancini in very high regard, and frequently featured Mancini’s music on The Lawrence Welk Show (Mancini, at least once, made a guest appearance on the show).

Mancini recorded over 90 albums, in styles ranging from big band to classical to pop. Eight of these albums were certified gold by The Recording Industry Association of America. He had a 20 year contract with RCA Records, resulting in 60 commercial record albums that made him a household name composer of easy listening music.

Peter Gunn Theme

Mancini’s range also extended to orchestral scores (Lifeforce, The Great Mouse Detective, Sunflower, “Tom and Jerry: The Movie”, Molly Maguires, The Hawaiians), and darker themes (“Experiment In Terror,” “The White Dawn,” “Wait Until Dark,” “The Night Visitor”).

Mancini was also a concert performer, conducting over fifty engagements per year, resulting in over 600 symphony performances during his lifetime. Among the symphony orchestras he conducted are the London Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, the Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He appeared in 1966, 1980 and 1984 in command performances for the British Royal Family. He also toured several times with Johnny Mathis and with Andy Williams, who had sung many of Mancini’s songs.

“Mr. Lucky”


Mancini had experience with acting and voice roles. In 1994 he made a one-off cameo appearance in the first season of the sitcom series Frasier, as a call-in patient to Dr. Frasier Crane’s radio show. Mancini voiced the character Al, who speaks with a melancholy drawl and hates the sound of his own voice, in the episode “Guess Who’s Coming to Breakfast?”[6] Mancini also had an uncredited performance as a pianist in the 1967 movie Gunn, the movie version of the series Peter Gunn, the score of which was originally composed by Mancini himself.

Mancini died of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles. He was working at the time on the Broadway stage version of Victor/Victoria, which he never saw on stage. At the time of his death, Mancini was married to his only wife of 43 years, singer Virginia “Ginny” O’Connor, with whom he had three children. They met while both were members of the Tex Beneke orchestra just after World War II. In 1984, Ginny was one of the founders of the Society of Singers, a non-profit organization which benefits the health and welfare of professional singers worldwide. Additionally the Society awards scholarships to students pursuing an education in the vocal arts. One of Mancini’s twin daughters, Monica Mancini, is a professional singer; her sister Felice runs the The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation (MHOF). Son Christopher is a music publisher and promoter in Los Angeles.

In 1996, the Henry Mancini Institute, an academy for young music professionals, was founded by Jack Elliott in Mancini’s honor, and was later under the direction of composer-conductor Patrick Williams. By the mid 2000s, however, the institute could not sustain itself and closed its doors on December 31, 2006. However, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Foundation “Henry Mancini Music Scholarship” has been awarded annually since 2001. While still alive, Henry created a scholarship at UCLA and the bulk of his library and works are archived in the highly esteemed music library at UCLA.

In 2005, the Henry Mancini Arts Academy was opened as a division of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center. The Center is located in Midland, Pennsylvania, minutes away from Mancini’s hometown of Aliquippa. The Henry Mancini Arts Academy is an evening-and-weekend performing arts program for children from pre-K to grade 12, with some classes also available for adults. The program includes dance, voice, musical theater, and instrumental lessons.

Mancini was nominated for an unprecedented 72 Grammys, winning 20.[7] Additionally he was nominated for 18 Academy Awards, winning four.[8] He also won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for two Emmys.

Mancini won a total of four Oscars for his music in the course of his career. He was first nominated for an Academy Award in 1955 for his original score of The Glenn Miller Story, on which he collaborated with Joseph Gershenson. He lost out to Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chaplin‘s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In 1962 he was nominated in the Best Music, Original Song category for “Bachelor in Paradise” from the film of the same name, in collaboration with lyricist Mack David. That song did not win. However, Mancini did receive two Oscars that year: one in the same category, for the song “Moon River” (shared with lyricist Johnny Mercer), and one for “Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture” for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The following year, he and Mercer took another Best Song award for “Days of Wine and Roses“, another eponymous theme song. His next eleven nominations went for naught, but he finally garnered one last statuette working with lyricist Leslie Bricusse on the score for Victor/Victoria, which won the “Best Music, Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Best Adaptation Score” award for 1983. All three of the films for which he won were directed by Blake Edwards. His score for Victor/Victoria was adapted for the 1995 Broadway musical of the same name.

Le Jazz Hot from the movie Victor/Victoria, performed by Julie Andrews

On April 13, 2004 the United States Postal Service honored Mancini with a 37 cent commemorative stamp. The stamp shows Mancini conducting with a list of some of his most famous movies and TV show themes in the background. The stamp is Scott catalog number 3839.

Quick Bio Facts:

Henry ManciniHenry Mancini AKA Enrico Nicola Mancini

Born: 16-Apr1924
Birthplace: Cleveland, OH
Died: 14-Jun1994
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Cancer – Pancreatic
Remains: Cremated

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Composer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Moon River

Military service: US Army (1942-45)

Father: Quinto Mancini
Mother: Anna Pece
Wife: Virginia O’Connor (“Ginny”, m. 13-Sep-1947, until his death)
Daughter: Monica Mancini (twin)
Daughter: Felice Mancini (twin)
Son: Christopher Mancini

High School: Aliquippa High School, Aliquippa, PA
University: Juilliard School of Music

Hollywood Walk of Fame 6821 Hollywood Blvd (recording)
Oscar for Best Music Original Song 1962 for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (shared)
Oscar for Best Music Original Song 1963 for Days of Wine and Roses (shared)
Oscar for Best Music Original Song 1983 for Victor/Victoria (shared)
Songwriters Hall of Fame
Italian Ancestry

Author of books:
Did They Mention the Music? (1989, autobiography)

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, nndb.com, imdb.com

Hit singles

Year Single Peak chart positions
US US
AC
US Country UK[1]
1960 “Mr. Lucky” 21
1961 “Theme from the Great Imposter” 90
“Moon River” 11 1 44
1962 “Theme from Hatari” 95
1963 “Days of Wine and Roses” 33 10
“Banzai Pipeline” 93
“Charade” 36 15
1964 “The Pink Panther Theme” 31 10
“A Shot In the Dark” 97
“Dear Heart” 77 14
“How Soon” 10
1965 “The Sweetheart Tree” 117 23
“Moment To Moment” 27
1966 “Hawaii (Main Theme)” 6
1967 “Two For the Road” 17
“Wait Until Dark” 4
1968 “Norma La De Guadalajara” 21
“A Man, a Horse and a Gun” 36
1969 “Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet” 1 1
“Moonlight Sonata” 87 15
“There Isn’t Enough To Go Around” 39
1970 “Theme from Z (Life Goes On)” 115 17
“Darling Lili” 26
1971 “Love Story” 13 2
“Theme from Cade’s County” 14 42
1972 “Theme from the Mancini Generation” 38
“All His Children”(with Charley Pride) 117 2
1973 “Oklahoma Crude” 38
1974 “Hangin’ Out”(with the Mouldy Seven) 21
1975 “Once Is Not Enough” 45
1976 “African Symphony” 40
“Slow Hot Wind” 38
1977 “Theme from Charlie’s Angels”” 45 22
1980 “Ravel’s Bolero” 101
1984 “The Thornbirds Theme” 23
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