Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Henry Mancini -- Composers' King

Cleveland Press 1965

He's tall and rather thin, looks younger than his 41 years. Henry Mancini resembles the guy next door -- casual, friendly, laughs easily, speaks seriously about his craft.

But the difference between the ex-Clevelander and the average guy next door is vast. He is easily king of the Hollywood composers.

To the movie producer a Mancini score means added attention to his film by way of the music. To RCA Victor, for whom he records, Mancini means more than 3,000,000 albums already sold. For Cleveland Orchestra officials he's as good as a gilt edged security. While pop concert audiences steadily decline, the concerts he conducts get more and more crowded. This weekend he drew about 16,000 people in two performances.

TO HIS MANY fans Mancini means music that is first of all melodious -- sweet and sentimental as in "Dear Heart", "Days of Wine and Roses," "Moon River," or music with a pervasive jazz beat as in the Peter Gunn music; or music that is just fun, as in "Pink Panther."

Mancini settled deep in an easy chair in his suite at the Hollenden House ("It's about time Cleveland got a new hotel'), crossed his loafer-clad feet, talked about movies, TV and concerts; relaxed between a rehearsal with the orchestra and a visit to WVIZ-TV. He had agreed to volunteer his services to the education station, taping an interview aimed at elementary school boys, telling them that you are not a sissy if you study music and practice your lessons.

"I'm not under contract to any movie studio," he explained. "They show me a script first but I don't commit myself until the film is finished."

He admitted to one exception. He will do any picture that Blake Edwards makes. Edwards is responsible for "Pink Panther," "Shot in the Dark." They worked together in Edward's TV days -- Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky.

"WITH EDWARDS there's no discussion between us. He doesn't ask me what I'm doing and I rarely tell him. There's a lot of latitude in his films. He's awfully visual and I like this about him."

"More TV? No. I don't have the time to stay with it. Most of the shows are an hour long now, and an hour of music every week is tough. I was younger back in the Peter Gunn days and those shows were more exciting; we were in the throes of discovery.

"Nobody is listening to the music on TV anymore. There's too much talk for music and there's a lot of introspective acting."

The Academy Award winner ("Moon River") conducts about 35 concerts a year -- "whatever the traffic will bear and never while I'm doing a movie."

HE WILL CONDUCT the Philadelphia Orchestra in September, in October will compose the score for "Arabesque," a Gregory Peck movie.

His newest score is for the Jack Lemmon -- Tony Curtis starred, "The Great Race," due here early this winter. He also has completed music for the mystery film "Moment to Moment" with Honor Blackman and Jean Seberg.

"Music has to say things that are not shown on the screen," he explained. "The opening scene in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' had Audrey Hepburn walking down a street in New York. The music behind her was 'Moon River' played on a harmonica. It wasn't city-type music and it told you a lot about her."

ANYTHING I write is an outgrowth of the entire score," he said in answer to a question about title songs. He said that he will not write a title song by itself.

"I do the whole thing. I wouldn't impose myself on another guy's score."

About some of his particular compositions --

"Days of Wine and Roses -- "Some people thought of the movie as a story about alcoholics. I saw it as a love story and wrote the song while they were shooting the film."

"Pink Panther" -- "When I wrote the title music, all I had was a sketch of that panther. To me it suggested the sound of a tenor sax."

Music for Westerns -- "I was at Universal pictures for six years when the western was king. Sure I've scored them.

Mancini was born in Cleveland, raised in Aliquippa, Pa., after his family moved there while he was a child. He started studying music at the age of eight. He is married to the former Ginny O'Connor, a singer he met while he was pianist-arranger for the Glenn Miller-Tex Beneke band. They were married in 1947 and home for the Mancinis and their three youngsters -- a son and twin daughters -- is Holmby Hills, Calif.